Eye on the Amazon

¡Yasuní Depende de Ti!

Celebrities rise in solidarity with Ecuadorians to defend the Amazon

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"The future is in your hands," said Oscar award winning actor Jared Leto, urging Ecuadorian voters to sign for an oil-free Yasuní.

"Yasuní is home to Ecuador's last indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation," actress Michelle Monaghan chimes in, stopping to film the urgent plea during a recent visit to San Francisco. "Their survival is worth more than a few days' oil."

Amazon Watch and Yasunidos – a campaign comprised of a collective of Ecuadorian and international environmental organizations and advocates – released a new PSA featuring celebrity supporters rising in solidarity with Ecuadorians to defend the controversial Yasuní National Park from oil drilling. The public service announcement, which debuts online today and will appear on Ecuadorian media stations, features stars from some of the hottest entertainment properties including recent Oscar award winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, band member of 30 Seconds to Mars), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Avatar), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective, The Bourne Supremacy) Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order, Traffic), Daryl Hannah (Steel Magnolias, Kill Bill) and an impressive lineup of other actors, musicians and celebrity activists.

Since Ecuador's President Correa announced the opening of Yasuni-ITT – deemed one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet – to oil drilling last August, a coalition of environmental and human rights organizations, academics, opinion leaders and celebrities have joined together in a national campaign to defend Yasuní under the banner of "Yasunidos" or "United for Yasuni." In Ecuador, Yasunidos is urging Ecuadorians to sign for a national referendum that asks the public to vote on the question: "Are you in favor of leaving oil in the ground in Block 43/Yasuni-ITT indefinitely?"

Yasuní National Park is an area of extremely high biodiversity located in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989 and contains what are thought to be the greatest number of plant and animal species anywhere on the planet including one of the biggest populations of Jaguars. It is also home to numerous indigenous peoples including two nomadic Waorani clans, the Tagaeri and Taromenane, who shun contact with the outside world.

Last August Ecuador's President Correa officially terminated the Yasuni-ITT initiative, a revolutionary proposal that proposed to keep nearly a billion barrels of Yasuni's oil in the ground and was aimed at creating a win-win scenario to conserve biodiversity, protect indigenous rights and address climate change while helping Ecuador, an OPEC country dependent on oil exports for 35-50 percent of its national budget, begin economic transition beyond oil. The government announced that PetroAmazonas, the state-run oil company, would initiate plans to exploit the ITT oil fields that lie beneath the eastern part of Yasuní National Park.

The National Election Commission of Ecuador provisionally accepted the referendum question and Yasunidos is now focused on gathering a minimum of 600,0000 signatures required to qualify for a special election to take place in July 2014. In order to collect the needed signatures by April 11, several hundred Yasunidos volunteers are gathering signatures in the streets of Quito and Guayaquil and from the Andes to the Amazon. It seems the Ecuadorian government has been running its own misleading campaign to promote a competing referendum that allows for oil drilling in the Park, including copying the Yasunidos ballot measure graphics in attempt to confuse the public.

Join the conversation online! #YasuniDependeDeTi

Yasunidos is a broad-based coalition including Acción Ecologica, Fundación Pachamama and CONAIE (national indigenous organization backed by prominent opinion leaders including former Energy Minister, former Mayor of Quito and a dozen other groups) and supported globally.

The video was made in collaboration with Los Angeles-based Environmental Media Association, Appeal to Reason Films and Spectral Q. Talent featured in the campaign includes Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, band 30 Seconds to Mars), Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Avatar), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective, The Bourne Supremacy) Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order, Traffic), Daryl Hannah (Steel Magnolias, Kill Bill), Leonor Varela (Dallas, Blade II), Dawn Olivieri (American Hustle, House of Lies), Raphael Sbarge (Star Trek: Voyager, Once Upon a Time), Frances Fisher (Unforgiven, Titanic), Francesca Eastwood (Mrs. Eastwood & Company, "Miss Golden Globe 2013"), Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere, Batman Forever) and Debi Nova ("One Rhythm," Dancing with the Stars).

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