Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 263–274 | Cite as

Re-thinking oil: compensation for non-production in Yasuní National Park challenging sumak kawsay and degrowth

  • Lucía Gallardo FierroEmail author
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sustainability Transitions, Management, and Governance


The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was an innovative development proposal based on the non-production of oil in Yasuní National Park in Ecuador, in exchange for international compensation, eitherin the form of direct payment or payment for environmental services. My aim is to investigate how the different actors understand this compensation for non-production of oil in Ecuador, an oil dependent country. Using a chronological review of the Initiative and forty in-depth interviews with key players, I critically engage the ‘environmental narrative’ around the Initiative inspired by sumak kawsay -a philosophy of life based on non-mercantilist values, known as “well living” in English or “buen vivir” in Spanish- and degrowth. In this article I argue that understanding the Initiative as an environmental matter and not as a problem of oil rent dependency exemplifies the limits of sumak kawsay and degrowth as proposals for an alternative to development. Results from Yasuní show that the Initiative ended up reproducing the fictions of nature valuation instead of de-linking nature from the valuation process. By drawing on a critical political economic framework, this paper shows that categories such as “dependency” and “rent” are fundamental in understanding the challenges of moving away from extraction-based development in developing countries. In summary, failing to differentiate between payment for the non-production of oil and compensation from the environmental services, Yasuní was a ´lost ‘opportunity for a bottom-up debate on what to produce and what not.


Sumak kawsay Degrowth Yasuní Nature Rent Dependency non-production of oil 



I want to mention deep thanks to Louis Lemkow for his supervision and constructive comments. I wish to acknowledge Giorgos Kallis, Bob Thompson, Diego Andrucci, Fikret Adaman, Melissa García Lamarca, Panagiota Kotsila, Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos, Dídac Jordà Capdevila. My gratitude to David Chávez for his theoretical support in spite of his doubts about sumak kawsay and degrowth as emancipatory narratives. I appreciate the time and the ideas of people who were interviewed. Research for this paper was supported by the Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (SENECYT).


  1. Acosta A (2007) Agenda Energética 2007–2011. Hacia un sistema energético sustentable, Ministerio de Energía y MinasGoogle Scholar
  2. Acosta A (2008) El buen vivir, una oportunidad por construir (Tema Central)Google Scholar
  3. Acosta A (2009) La maldición de la abundancia. Comité Ecuménico de ProyectosGoogle Scholar
  4. Acosta A (2013) Extractivism and neoextractivism: two sides of the same curse. In: Beyond Development, pp 62–86Google Scholar
  5. AGENCIA AFP (2010) Ecuador anuncia gestión ante Alemania para conseguir apoyo al ITT (Ecuador announces negotiations with Germany for support for ITT), Monday 20th September, 2010. Diario El UniversoGoogle Scholar
  6. AGENCIA AFP (2013) Alemania formalizó aporte de 34,5 millones de euros para el Yasuní (Germany formalized contribution of 34.5 million euros for Yasuní) Monday 21th February, 2013. Diario El UniversoGoogle Scholar
  7. Albó X (2008) To live well = to coexist well. CIPCA Notas 217Google Scholar
  8. Amin S (1997) Los desafíos de la mundialización. Siglo XXIGoogle Scholar
  9. Amin S (1998) El capitalismo en la era de la globalizaciónGoogle Scholar
  10. Amin S (2011) La ley del valor mundializado. El Viejo TopoGoogle Scholar
  11. Anguelovski I (2014) Environmental justice. In: Degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era, pp 33–36Google Scholar
  12. Annual Report (2011) Report of the Ecuador Yasuní ITT Trust Fund. Period 1 January–31 December 2011, 31 May 2012Google Scholar
  13. Annual Report (2012) Report of the Ecuador Yasuní ITT Trust Fund, 31 May 2013Google Scholar
  14. Arsel M (2012) Between ‘Marx and markets’? The state, the ‘left turn’and nature in Ecuador. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 103(2): 150–163Google Scholar
  15. Castre N (2005) The epistemology of particulars: human geography, case studies and ‘context’. Geoforum 36(5):541–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chancosa B (2010) Sumak Kawsay desde la visión de la mujer. En Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (2014) Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay, pp 221–228Google Scholar
  17. Cholango H (2010) Sumak Kawsay y mundo indígena. En Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (2014) Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay, pp 237–244Google Scholar
  18. Christian M, Finer M, Ross C (2008) Last chance to save one of world’s most species—rich regions. Nature 455(7215):861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chuji M (2009) Sumak Kawsay vs Desarrollo. En Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (2014) Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay, pp 229–236Google Scholar
  20. Correa R (2007a) Speech of President Rafael Correa, ‘United Nations high level dialogue about climate change’, New York, September 24Google Scholar
  21. Correa R (2007b) Speech of President Rafael Correa, ‘III OPEP Summit’, Riad del Novembre 18Google Scholar
  22. Correa R (2007c) Speech of President Rafael Correa, Official Presentation of the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, June 5Google Scholar
  23. Correa R (2012a) Speech of President Rafael Correa, ‘III ASPA Summit’, October 2Google Scholar
  24. Correa R (2012b) Speech of President Rafael Correa, ‘Rio +20 Summit’, MéxicoGoogle Scholar
  25. Correa R (2013) Press conference ‘The announcement of the cancelation of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative’ given by President Correa on the 14th August 2013Google Scholar
  26. Correa R (2014a) Lecture given by President Correa in Yale, New Haven, April 10Google Scholar
  27. Correa R (2014b) Lecture given by President Correa “Development as Political Process: the Ecuadorian Dream” on the Institute of Politics on Harvard University, United States, AprilGoogle Scholar
  28. Correa R (2014c) Speech of President Correa, Universidad de Barcelona on April 23Google Scholar
  29. D’Alisa G, Demaria F, Kallis G (2014) Degrowth: a vocabulary for a new era. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Dávalos P (2008) El ‘Sumak Kawsay’(‘Buen vivir’) y las cesuras del desarrollo. Revista América Latina en MovimientoGoogle Scholar
  31. Demaria F, Schneider F, Sekulova F, Martinez-Alier J (2013) What is degrowth? From an activist slogan to a social movement. Environ Values 22(2):191–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Deutscher Bundestag Declaration (2008) Drucksache 16/9758 16. Wahlperide, 25 Jun 2008Google Scholar
  33. Dussel E (1985) La producción teórica de Marx. Siglo Veintiuno editores, 2da ediciónGoogle Scholar
  34. Echeverría B (1994) Circulación capitalista y reproducción de la riqueza social. Apunte crítico sobre los esqueGoogle Scholar
  35. Echeverría B (1998) Valor de uso y utopía. Siglo XXIGoogle Scholar
  36. Echeverría B (2010) Modernidad y blanquitud. Ediciones EraGoogle Scholar
  37. Echeverría B (2012) Interview of Bolívar Echeverría by Fernando Rojas. (Videoteca Contracorriente del ICAIC), 28 Dec 2012. Publicado en:
  38. Ecuadorian Government (2007) Leaving Ecuador’s oil in the ground: avoiding carbon emissions and saving the Yasuní rainforest (Yasuní-ITT proposal), SeptemberGoogle Scholar
  39. ECUADORINMEDIATO (2011) Germany will not finance the Yasuní plan because it feels it would be considered to be a “precedent”. Thursday 9th June 2011Google Scholar
  40. Escobar A (1996) Construction nature: elements for a post-structuralist political ecology. Futures 28(4):325–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Escobar A (1998) Whose knowledge, whose nature? Biodiversity, conservation, and the political ecology of social movements. J Political Ecol 5(1):53–82Google Scholar
  42. Escobar A (2011) Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  43. Escobar A (2012) Post-extractivismo y pluriverso. América Latina en Movimiento, 473.Fatheuer: Buen Vivir a brief introduction to Latin America’s new concepts for the good life and the rights of nature. Heinrich Böll Foundation, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  44. Farley J (2014) Steady-state economics. Degrowth: a vocabulary for a New Era. 49Google Scholar
  45. Frank AG (1978) Dependent accumulation and underdevelopment. Macmillan, LondresCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Frank AG (1981) Crisis in the third world. Holmes & Meier, Nueva YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. García-Linera Á (2007) Indianismo and Marxism: the mismatch of two revolutionary rationales, International Journal of Socialist Review, Translated and introduced by Richard Fidler, La Paz 2005 & MexicoGoogle Scholar
  48. García-Linera Á (2010) El socialismo comunitario. Revista de Análisis 3(5)Google Scholar
  49. García-Linera Á (2011) Las tensiones creativas de la revolución: La quinta fase del proceso de cambio. Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional, Presidencia de la Asamblea Legislativa PlurinacionalGoogle Scholar
  50. Gudynas E (2011a) Alcances y contenidos de las transiciones al post-extractivismo. Ecuador Debate 82(4):60–79Google Scholar
  51. Gudynas E (2011b) Buen Vivir: today’s tomorrow. Development 54(4):441–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Gudynas E, Acosta A (2011) El Buen Vivir más allá del desarrollo. Revista Qué Hacer 181:70–81Google Scholar
  53. Henrichmann J (2013) Protección del Parque Nacional Yasuní: ¿bendición o maldición? (Protection of Yasuni National Park: blessing or curse?), 22 Jan 2013. Publicado en:ón-del-parque-nacional-yasun%C3%AD-bendición-o-maldición/a-16541216
  54. Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (2014) Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay, pp 159–168Google Scholar
  55. Hornborg A (1998) Towards an ecological theory of unequal exchange: articulating world system theory and ecological economics. Ecol Econ 25(1):127–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kallis G (2011) In defence of degrowth. Ecol Econom 70(5):873–880CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kowii A (2009) El Sumak Kawsay. En Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (eds)(2014). Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay pp 159–168Google Scholar
  58. Lander E (2010) Estamos viviendo una profunda crisis civilizatoria. AMERICA LATINA en movimiento 452:1–3Google Scholar
  59. Lander E (2011) The discourse of civil society and current decolonisation struggles in South America. In: Heine J, Thakur RC (eds) The dark side of globalization. United Nations University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  60. Larrea C (2010) Yasuní-ITT: Una Iniciativa para cambiar la historia. ISO 690. Accessed 08 Feb 2016
  61. Larrea C, Greene N, Rival L, Sevilla E, Warnars L (2009) Yasuni–ITT Initiative: a big idea from a small country. Quito, Ecuador: Ministerio del Ambiente de Ecuador, UNDP Ecuador, MdGsGoogle Scholar
  62. Latouche S (2012) La sociedad de la abundancia frugal. Barcelona, IcariaGoogle Scholar
  63. Le Quang M (2013) La iniciativa Yasuní-ITT en los debates europeos. Letras Verdes. Revista Latinoamericana de Estudios Socioambientales (9):89–96Google Scholar
  64. Le Quang M, Vercoutère T (2013) Ecosocialismo y buen vivir. Diálogo entre dos alternativas al capitalismo. pp 28–30Google Scholar
  65. Leff E (2014) Ecología y capital: racionalidad ambiental, democracia participativa y desarrollo sustentable. Siglo XXIGoogle Scholar
  66. Luxemburgo A (1968) The Accumulation of Capital, Nueva York y LondresGoogle Scholar
  67. Macas L (2010) El Sumak Kawsay/Buen Vivir/Vivir Bien. En Hidalgo Capitán AL, Arias A, Ávila J, Tibán L, Tutillo S, Pacari N (eds) (2014). Antología del pensamiento indigenista ecuatoriano sobre Sumak Kawsay. Sumak Kawsay Yuyay, pp 177–192Google Scholar
  68. Martin PL (2011a) Global governance from the Amazon: leaving oil underground in Yasuní National Park Ecuador. Glob Environ Politics 11(4):22–42Google Scholar
  69. Martin PL (2011b) Oil in the ground: the politics of paying to preserve the Amazon. Rowman & Littlefield, USAGoogle Scholar
  70. Martínez E (2009) Yasuní El tortuoso camino de Kioto a Quito. Ediciones Abya-YalaGoogle Scholar
  71. Martínez E, Acosta A (2010) (copiladores) ITT-Yasuní Entre el petróleo y la vida. Ediciones Abya-YalaGoogle Scholar
  72. Martínez-Alier J (2011) Hacia una Economía Sostenible: Dilemas del ecologismo actual. Revista de Economía Crítica 11:186–204Google Scholar
  73. Martínez-Alier J (2012) Environmental justice and economic degrowth: an alliance between two movements. Capital Nat Soc 23(1):2012Google Scholar
  74. Martínez-Alier J, Pascual U, Vivien FD, Zaccai E (2010) Sustainable de-growth: mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm. Ecol Econ 69(9):1741–1747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Marx K (1975) El capital. Crítica de la economía política. Libro primero. El proceso de producción del capital (vols. 1–3). (P. Scaron, Trad.) Siglo XXI, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  76. McAfee K (1999) Selling nature to save it? Biodiversity and green developmentalism. Environ Plan D Soc Space 17(2):133–154Google Scholar
  77. McAfee K (2012) Nature in the Market-World: Ecosystem services and inequality. Development 55(1):25–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Migñolo W (2010) The communal and the decolonial. Rethink Intellect Latin Am, 245–261Google Scholar
  79. Migñolo W (2014) Las ciencias sociales en América Latina: un análisis desde el enfoque de. Sociológica 29(81):283–292Google Scholar
  80. Ministry of External Affairs (2007) Change of model for climate change. Conceptual document. Written by Lucía GallardoGoogle Scholar
  81. Ministry of External Affairs (2008) Daly Correa Tax. Written by Lucía Gallardo, Kevin Koenig, Max Christian, Joan Martínez AlierGoogle Scholar
  82. Niebel (2010) The pronuncement of Niebel (The pronuncement of Niebel), Publicado en: Accessed 08 Feb 2016
  83. Pellegrini L, Arsel M, Falconí F, Muradian R (2014) The demise of a new conservation and development policy. Exploring the tensions of the Yasuní ITT initiative. Extr Ind Soc 1(2):284–291Google Scholar
  84. Plan de Gobierno de Alianza País (2007–2011). Propuesta en construcción colectiva 12/05/2006. Publicado en: Accessed 10 Aug 2016
  85. Polanyi k (2007) La Gran Transformación: los orígenes políticos y económicos de nuestro tiempo. con prólogo de Joseph E. Stiglitz. Ed. 1ª ed. Buenos Aires, Fondo de Cultura Económica. Traducido por Eduardo Suárez. Páginas 118–127Google Scholar
  86. Quijano A (2011) Bien Vivir: entre el desarrollo y la des/colonialidad del poder. Ecuad Debate. 84Google Scholar
  87. Ramírez R (2010) Socialismo del sumak kawsay o biosocialismo republicano. SENPLADESGoogle Scholar
  88. Ramírez R (2012) La vida (buena) como riqueza de los pueblos. Hacia una socioecología política del tiempo, Línea de investigación en Economía y Sociedad, No.1 QuitoGoogle Scholar
  89. Ramírez R (2014) Restablecer el sentido de lo público en la Educación Superior. Entrevista a René Ramírez, en Contretemps, 08 de Enero de 2014Google Scholar
  90. Ranger TO, Hobsbawm EJ (eds) (1983) The invention of tradition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p 211Google Scholar
  91. Recasens Andreu Viola (2014) Discursos “pachamamistas” versus políticas desarrollistas: el debate sobre el sumak kawsay en los Andes. Íconos-Revista de Ciencias Sociales 48:55–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Rival L (2011) Anthropological encounters with economic development and biodiversity conservation (No. qehwps186). Queen Elizabeth House, University of OxfordGoogle Scholar
  93. Sánchez-Parga J (2012) Discursos retrovolucionarios: Sumak Kausay, derechos de la naturaleza y otros pachamamismos (Tema Central)Google Scholar
  94. Schneider F, Kallis G, Martínez-Alier J (2010) Crisis u oportunidad? El decrecimiento económico para la equidad social y la sostenibilidad ecológica. Introducción a esta edición especial. Diario de Producción más Limpia 18(6):511–518Google Scholar
  95. SENPLADES S (2009) Plan Nacional para el Buen Vivir 2009–2013Google Scholar
  96. SENPLADES S (2013) Plan Nacional de Desarrollo/Plan Nacional para el Buen Vivir 2013–2017Google Scholar
  97. Sevilla R (2010) en ITT-Yasuní Entre el petróleo y la vida. Editorial Abya-Yala, Martínez E, Acosta A (compiladores)Google Scholar
  98. Silvestrum (2009) Análisis de la Iniciativa ITT–Yasuní frente a los Mercados de Carbono. Cliente: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Con aportes de Profafor SA, Ecuador; y Climate Focus, Países Bajos, junioGoogle Scholar
  99. Temper L, Fonseca S, Coelho R (2012) A new EJOLT report: towards a post-oil civilization. Yasunization and other initiatives to leave fossil fuels in the ground. With comments by Susana Fonseca and Ricardo Coelho. e-cadernos ces (17)Google Scholar
  100. Thomson B (2011) Pachakuti: indigenous perspectives, buen vivir, sumaq kawsay and degrowth. Development 54(4):448–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Toledo V (2008) Metabolismos rurales: hacia una teoría económico-ecológica de la apropiación de la naturaleza. Revista Iberoamericana de Economía Ecológica 7:1–26Google Scholar
  102. Vallejo MC, Larrea C, Burbano R, Falconí F (2011) Análisis de la Iniciativa multicriterio Yasuní- ITT. De Consultoría, Informe Final, diciembre 2011, ISBN: 978-9978-9939-9-6Google Scholar
  103. Vogel JH (2010) The economics of the Yasuní Initiative: climate change as if thermodynamics mattered. Anthem Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  104. Warnars L (2010) The Yasuni-ITT initiative: a new model to implement human rights and biological diversity conventions and frameworks? Policy Matters 17:2010Google Scholar
  105. Yin (2003) Case study, research design and methods, 3rd edn. Applied social research methods series, 5Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Ciència i Tecnología Ambientals (ICTA)BellaterraSpain

Personalised recommendations