The Last Guardians is a soon-to-be-released documentary film whose main focus is the plight of indigenous Amazonian Ecuadorians fighting against the pollution of their land from oil extraction. We have come a long way since that pollution happened: last month at COP23, the United Nations climate change conference, indigenous people were formally recognized for the leadership role they can and do play in environmental protection.
A few years ago Ecuador became the first country ever to legally recognize that nature itself has rights. A different United Nations conference — Housing and Sustainable Urban Development — took place in its capital, Quito, about a year ago. Before the next such conference, Habitat IV, there may be human climate refugees on Mars. Although it went almost unreported, there was another conference across town in Quito during Habitat III. Acción Ecológica was celebrating its 30th anniversary. Some of the delegates were from Ecuador's indigenous communities. They were being recognized for their struggle to protect their own habitats.
The fence and the armed guard in this month's photo leave no doubt that this installation is well protected. But from what? It has long been standard practice on large engineering projects to perform formal risk analysis. The field of risk analysis is complex. Effectively, though, a risk is mitigated (in this case guarded against) if the likelihood multiplied by the consequences is high enough. Certainly an attack on this installation would have dire environmental consequences. It would also have consequences for monetary revenue. Which of these is being guarded against in this photo is for you to decide.
Recently the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions launched a challenge. A year from now it aims to identify a thousand clean energy solutions that are profitable and present them at COP24. The genie is out of the bottle. We will soon see whether we intend to protect the environment better than we protect the news about protecting it.