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A Wild Idea cover image

A Wild Idea 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by The Video Project, PO Box 411376, San Francisco, CA 94141-1376; 800-475-2638
Produced by Veronica Moscoso
Directed by Veronica Moscoso
DVD , color, 26 min.

General Adult
Deforestation, Environment, Rainforest, United Nations, Climate Change, Biodiversity, Global Politics

Date Entered: 06/17/2013

Reviewed by Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach

This short but compelling documentary explores a truly wild idea called the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. Ecuador has proposed that the world pay to fight global warming by leaving a potentially lucrative oil preserve alone in exchange for global compensation. It is an enlightened form of black mail, endorsed by Ecuador’s left leaning president Rafael Correa and first proposed in 2007: we’ll leave the forest untouched, along with the indigenous peoples who inhabit it, if you pay us for half of what we would lose in oil revenue, roughly $3.6 billion. Ecuador would use the money for reforestation and alternative energy initiatives.

The proposal rejects the seemingly inexorable logic of the doctrine of progress whereby people believe that forward movement toward a better future can only commence at the expense of environmental protection – in this case the Yasuni rainforest of the Amazon basin, home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. If the rich Europeans and Americans want to preserve rain forests and indigenous peoples, then they should pay the poor states where those resources are located for the economic development that will be lost.

The Yasuni-ITT fund was launched in August 2010 and received pledges of only $200 million by mid-2012, mostly from European governments. Public figures such as Leonardo DeCaprio have come out in support of the initiative, along with the General Secretary of the United Nations, but that has not been enough to come even close to the hoped for figure of $3.6 billion. Correa, the Ecuadorean President, has warned that he will begin development of the oil reserves should the international community fail to put the required money into the fund – and that seems increasingly like the most probable outcome of the initiative. So it remains to be seen whether the rich of the world will be willing to put real money behind their proclamations of support for biodiversity and environmental protection.

This documentary could be put to productive use in a variety of classroom settings. Its brevity, and the audacity and boldness of the proposal, provide an ideal way for instructors to begin discussions about the environmental challenges and tradeoffs involved in global economic development.