Under the United Nations Environment Programme, Ecuador is considered one of only 18 megadiverse countries in the world. Its plentiful supply of oil and trees presents it with a crucial economic opportunity at an alarming environmental cost. This is because all of the oil reserves are located in the Oriente, a vast area covering all of Ecuador's rainforest.
Like many developing countries rich in natural resources, Ecuador suffers from low economic growth and high rates of poverty and inequality. While 40% of the country's annual export earnings are gained from oil, providing a vital boost to government revenue, Ecuador has the highest deforestation rate in South America. According to Amazon Watch it is thought to have lost over 20% of its forest and woodland habitat in less than two decades.
This has led to an extraordinarily large piece of virgin rainforest, roughly the footprint of 36 football fields, which is being destroyed every minute. Thirty-six in every minute. The damage is enormous - and unfathomable for most people. And therein lays the danger. For most of us, the rainforest is a faraway land that does not affect or daily lives. But we need to know that cutting down trees is incredibly harmful for us. Thirty-six football fields worth of Amazonian rainforest is an outright attack on the lungs of the world. Our world, and ultimately, on our own lungs.