During a visit to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño joins us to discuss his government’s involvement in two closely watched environmental legal battles. An Ecuadorean court has ordered the oil giant Chevron to pay $19 billion to indigenous and rural Ecuadoreans for the dumping of as much as 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the rainforest. But Chevron has refused, winning a partial victory last week when an international arbitration panel based in the Hague delivered an interim ruling questioning the validity of the original 2011 verdict. Patiño also addresses why Ecuador recently dropped a plan to preserve swaths of the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling by having wealthy countries pay them not to drill, an effort that the Ecuadorean government says failed to attract sufficient funding. Leading environmentalists, including Vandana Shiva, Naomi Klein and James Hansen, recently wrote an open letter to President Rafael Correa asking him not to forsake the initiative, saying: "Along with thousands of other world citizens, we look to the Yasuní-ITT initiative as a pioneering step in the international struggle for a post-fossil-fuel civilization. We have been inspired by the determination of the Ecuadorean public to rejuvenate the initiative following your government’s recent decision to abandon it."
In part two of our interview, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño discusses why President Rafael Correa is not attending this week’s United Nations General Assembly; the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent more than 450 days in the Ecuador’s London Embassy after being granted asylum last year; and Ecuador’s role this past summer in the drama surrounding National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and his attempt to secure political asylum. Patiño also addresses the health of former Cuban president Fidel Castro and the legacy of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
Five years ago this month, the firm TransCanada submitted a permit request to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project has sparked one of the nation’s most contentious environmental battles in decades. The Obama administration initially appeared ready to approve Keystone XL, but an unprecedented wave of activism from environmentalists and residents of the states along its path has forced several delays. Among those pressuring Obama for Keystone XL’s approval is the Canadian government, which recently offered a greater pledge of reduced carbon emissions if the pipeline is built. We’re joined by one of Canada’s leading environmental activists, Tzeporah Berman, who has campaigned for two decades around clean energy, and is the former co-director of Greenpeace International’s Climate Unit. She is now focused on stopping tar sands extraction as a member of the steering committee for the Tar Sands Solutions Network. Berman is also the co-founder of ForestEthics and is the author of the book "This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge." Berman discusses how the Canadian government is muzzling scientists speaking out on global warming, quickly changing environmental laws, and why she believes the push for tar sands extraction has created a "perfect storm" of grassroots activism bring together environmentalists, indigenous communities and rural landowners.