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Cultural Traces Around the World

Ecuador: Protector of Nature's Rights

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Ecuador is situated on the west side of the South American continent along the equator. It is bordered by Colombia to the north and Peru to the south, and backed by the Andes Mountains, home of Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. Extending along the Pacific coastlands, across the Andean mountains and through the Amazon rainforest, the geological diversity of this country has nurtured a cultural diversity that is inclusive to various indigenous groups and those with Spanish descent or mixed ancestry.

Located 1,000 km off Ecuador’s coast, lies the Galápagos Island archipelago. These unique islands are home to a multitude of life forms, both on land and in the sea. With a humid subtropical climate and rich soil from volcanic activity, impressive varieties of plants, bird-people species, reptile-people, and amphibian-people can be found in abundance. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galápagos Islands are composed of 19 islands situated at the confluence of three strong ocean currents: the Humboldt Current, the Panama Flow, and the Cromwell Current, creating one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world.

Conserving and respecting nature and all its inhabitants is engrained in the minds of Ecuadorians. In 2008, a new constitution was voted to recognize the legal rights of nature. It reads, “Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycle, structure, functions and its process in evolution. Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognition of rights for nature before the public bodies.” It’s the first constitution of its kind in the world.

Today, Ecuador’s indigenous people are the forerunners in the fight against environmental destruction. In August 2022, the indigenous communities, NGOs, and local governments in the Pastaza region signed agreements to work together and implement the United Nations’ “REDD+ Plan” to protect Ecuador’s rainforest. The successes of the indigenous people in Ecuador have paved the way for those in neighboring countries. They have become the leaders in this long and hard fight for the survival of indigenous peoples as well as the survival of the Amazon rainforest and planet Earth.

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