Giant otters versus oil

Written by Jo Carroll.

I'm in Ecuador. I know - lucky me.  Believe me, I do know what a privilege it is to be able to visit somewhere like this.  I've been in the rainforest, and had a close encounter with endangered giant otters.  And next week I'm off to the Galapagos where I'll see the endangered giant turtles.

Such precious species - and in such endangered habitats.  For beneath the rainforest there is oil - the rivers are protected at the moment, but even one dirt road driven through this forest would unsettle the environment and risk the extinction of the otters.

And the turtles?  I will have to use special soap and shampoo while I'm there to make sure no risky chemicals slip into their Pacific waters.

So, in an argument between the otters and the oil companies - well, that's easy.  But it really is an either-or.

Most of the time we take less dramatic choices, or more complicated choices, between, say, building a small supermarket that provides cheap food for people who are struggling versus the protection of agricultural land.  Then it's not so straightforward.

That's a hypothetical choice.  But the pace of change means that our lives are full of difficult choices, from the new housing in Salisbury Road to cuts to bus routes.  And the easiest thing is to oppose everything - of course we want green fields and buses.  But we also want families to have enough to live on without using food banks, and we want safe places for our homeless people to live.

All over the world, people are making difficult choices.  Right now I'm in a small town that has decided to extend the paved Malecon (like a promenade), so that vehicles are less likely to churn up the sand after heavy rain.

They have had to dig up a precious stretch of coastline to do so.  The crabs and sea birds have been displaced.  They have had to weigh up the cost of rescuing vehicles stuck in the muddy sand against the costs to the wildlife.  A raised road would be impractical.  And the far end of the beach has (for now) been left unmolested.

Change happens, whether we like it or not.  Sometimes it is more constructive to face the truly unpalatable and then think laterally to find a different solution to the problem, than it is to simply oppose change.

Having said all that, I'm still on the side of the otters.


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