Episode 6, Series 1: OIL or LIFE with Miles Rudgley

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In episode 6 of the EarthRights Podcast, we talk with Miles Rudgley about his research into Ecuador, oil extractivism and the rights of nature. Miles is currently working as a research associate at Fidelio Partners, which focuses on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in the UK and abroad. 

At the end of his year abroad working in Peru, Miles took a boat down the River Napo, which is in the East Ecuadorian part of the Amazon in the midst of indigenous lands, and saw a billboard saying ‘OIL OR LIFE’.

This contradictory slogan, Oil or Life, formed the basis of Miles’ research into the Buen Vivir (Good Living) plan in Ecuador introduced by Raffael Correa – Ecuador’s former president. 

Starting with the indigenous teachings and ontologies upon which Buen Vivir is based, Miles talks about sunaq kawsay, pachamama (mother earth) and other ancient indigenous belief systems which were, for the first time, incorporated into the Ecuadorian Constitution 2008. 

‘Rights of Nature’ were also included in this Constitution. Rights of Nature consider nature as a living being, rather than be regarded as the property of humans, which is how nature is seen by Western nations. 

Whilst “Ecuador is a trailblazer for incorporating the Rights of Nature,” the episode reveals how the country is at the mercy of a boom and bust economy, typical of South American nations. This creates reliance on oil extractivism to fund the generous social welfare programmes promised by the Ecuadorian government, but destroys indigenous lands and their way of life.

The boom and bust cycle renders Ecuador trapped: “We have to respect that for many countries, oil is the foundation of their economies – what is going to replace oil as a revenue earner and funder of social welfare programmes in countries less fortunate than ours?”