Amazon Watch

Last updated
Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch logo.jpg
Type Non-governmental organization
Focus Environmentalism
Indigenous rights
Area served
Amazon Basin
US$ 1,485,169 (2012)

Amazon Watch is a nonprofit organization [1] founded in 1996, and based in Oakland, California, it works to protect the rainforest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. It partners with indigenous and environmental organizations in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil in campaigns for human rights, corporate accountability and the preservation of the Amazon's ecological systems.

A nonprofit organization, also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view. In economic terms, it is an organization that uses its surplus of the revenues to further achieve its ultimate objective, rather than distributing its income to the organization's shareholders, leaders, or members. Nonprofits are tax exempt or charitable, meaning they do not pay income tax on the money that they receive for their organization. They can operate in religious, scientific, research, or educational settings.

California U.S. state in the United States

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents across a total area of about 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Amazon rainforest rainforest in South America

The Amazon rainforest, also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations.



In 1964, the Texaco Petroleum Company, in partnership with Gulf Oil, started exploring for oil in Northeast Ecuador. In 1974, the Government of the Republic of Ecuador, acting through the state-owned oil agency Petroecuador, obtained a 25% interest. Two years later, Petroecuador acquired Gulf Oil's interest and became a 62.5% owner of the Lago Agrio oil field. By 1993, Petroecuador had also acquired Texaco's interest. After Texaco completed environmental remediation, the Government of Ecuador inspected and certified the work and ”absolved, liberated and forever freed” Texaco Petroleum from “any claim or litigation by the Government of Ecuador.” [2] [3] Nevertheless, in November 1993, a group of Ecuadorians filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 30,000 inhabitants of the Oriente region, alleging that Texaco polluted the rain forests. After extensive litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed in Aguinda v. Texaco an earlier court's dismissal on the basis of "forum non conveniens." [2] Thus, legal proceedings were started in Ecuador in 2003. [4]


EP Petroecuador is the national oil company of Ecuador. Ecuador who is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and, although it is the smallest member, the country produced 526,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2012. The oil corporation is a significant part of the Ecuadorian economy. The petroleum industry has expanded to the production of refined commodities such as gasoline, liquefied petroleum, and jet fuel. The government of Ecuador is highly dependent on the revenues from the energy sector to support its budget and finance state projects.

Lago Agrio oil field Oilfield

The Lago Agrio oil field is an oil-rich area near the city of Nueva Loja in the province of Sucumbíos, Ecuador. It is located in the Western Oriente Basin. The site's hydrocarbon-bearing formations are the Cretaceous Napo and Hollin formations. Oil was discovered in the area in 1960s. The Lago Agrio field is known internationally for the serious ecological problems that oil development has created there, including water pollution, soil contamination, deforestation and cultural upheaval.

Forum non conveniens (FNC) is a mostly common law legal doctrine whereby a court "acknowledges that another forum or court is more appropriate and sends the case to such a forum. A change of venue, where another venue is more appropriate to adjudicate a matter, such as the jurisdiction within which an accident occurred and where all the witnesses reside."

Amazon Watch supports the Ecuadorian plaintiffs by publishing a press kit alleging that Chevron (corporate successor to Texaco) should be held accountable for the dumping of 18 billion US gallons (68,000,000 m3) of toxic waste water into a region of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest inhabited by more than 30,000 people – purported to be one of the largest oil related contaminations ever, far exceeding that of the Exxon Valdez disaster. [5] [6] A 2011 decision in Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion. Ecuador's Supreme Court in 2013 affirmed the trial court judgment in a 222-page decision that documented the extensive and life-threatening levels of oil pollution at dozens of former Chevron well sites in the jungle. In all, eight appellate judges in Ecuador reviewed the evidence against Chevron and affirmed the judgment as well as dismissing Chevron's allegation of fraud. When Chevron refused to comply with the $9.5 billion judgment against it for contamination in the Lago Agrio oil field, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Steven R. Donziger, attempted to collect the judgment in Brazil, Argentina, and Canada. [7] Chevron then filed suit in the United States, [8] and relying on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act), alleged that plaintiffs' attorneys in the Lago Agrio litigation had engaged in extortion and fraud by paying almost US$300,000 in bribes to obtain the 2011 court verdict in Ecuador. [9] On 4 Mar 2014, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan concluded that "the course of justice was perverted" and enjoined Donziger from instituting any enforcement proceedings in the United States. [10] [11] Donziger has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. [12] [13]

Chevron Corporation American multinational energy corporation

Chevron Corporation is an American multinational energy corporation. One of the successor companies of Standard Oil, it is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and active in more than 180 countries. Chevron is engaged in every aspect of the oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy industries, including hydrocarbon exploration and production; refining, marketing and transport; chemicals manufacturing and sales; and power generation. Chevron is one of the world's largest oil companies; as of 2019, it ranked eleventh in the Fortune 500 list of the top US closely held and public corporations and 28th on the Fortune Global 500 list of the top 500 corporations worldwide. It was also one of the Seven Sisters that dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the 1970s. Chevron is incorporated in California.

<i>Exxon Valdez</i> oil spill 1989 oil spill in Alaska

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989, when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Shipping Company, bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef, 1.5 mi (2.4 km) west of Tatitlek, Alaska, at 12:04 a.m. local time and spilled 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl) of crude oil over the next few days. It is considered to be one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters. The Valdez spill is the second largest in US waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of volume released. Prince William Sound's remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane, or boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing response plans. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, eventually affected 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, of which 200 miles (320 km) were heavily or moderately oiled.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act U.S. law

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering and allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually commit the crime personally.

Amazon Watch's web page describes its activities in Ecuador as going "beyond supporting indigenous efforts to keep their territories intact and win greater rights guarantees, Amazon Watch is also promoting visionary alternatives that could protect the Amazonian environment and local communities. The Yasuni ITT initiative is one such initiative for which we have actively campaigned. The proposal seeks to keep some 900 million barrels of heavy crude that lies underneath Yasuni National Park permanently in the ground in exchange for half of the forgone oil revenues. If done right, the proposal is an important first step towards keeping oil reserves in fragile and culturally sensitive ecosystems in Ecuador and beyond." [14]

Amazon Watch is a plaintiff in a case against the US oil company Occidental for its damage to the Peruvian rainforest. [15] The District Court initially granted Occidental's motion to dismiss without ruling on whether Amazon Watch had standing to sue. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court overturned the dismissal [16] and the Supreme Court declined review. [17] Amazon Watch also supported the Achuar indigenous people in opposing oil exploration on their lands by the Canadian oil company Talisman and the Argentinian company Pluspetrol. [18] Amazon Watch also supports a school that trains indigenous leaders how to defend their rights against oil and mining companies.

A plaintiff is the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy; if this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate court order. "Plaintiff" is the term used in civil cases in most English-speaking jurisdictions, the notable exception being England and Wales, where a plaintiff has, since the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules in 1999, been known as a "claimant", but that term also has other meanings. In criminal cases, the prosecutor brings the case against the defendant, but the key complaining party is often called the "complainant".

Occidental Petroleum

Occidental Petroleum Corporation is an American company engaged in hydrocarbon exploration in the United States, the Middle East, and Colombia as well as petrochemical manufacturing in the United States, Canada, and Chile. It is organized in Delaware and headquartered in Houston. The company is ranked 722nd on the Forbes Global 2000 and 220th on the Fortune 500.


The Achuar are an Amazonian community of some 18,500 individuals along either side of the border in between Ecuador and Peru. As of the early 1970s, the Achuar were one of the last of the Jivaroan groups still generally unaffected by outside contact.

In Brazil, The Brazilian government is building the world's third largest hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River, one of the Amazon's major tributaries. The Belo Monte dam complex would divert 80 percent of the Xingu River's flow, devastating an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of rainforest and result in the forced displacement of up to 40,000 people. Together with the people of the Xingu and a network of Brazilian and international NGOs, Amazon Watch is working to document and publicize the dam's devastating impacts on local and indigenous populations.

Amazon Watch reports that the current rate of deforestation threatens to push the Amazon past a tipping point from which it cannot recover. It says that in the last 30 years, 20 percent of the Amazon has been deforested and another 20 percent degraded – all fueled by clearing land for agriculture and large-scale industrial projects such as oil and gas pipelines, dams and roads.

Deforestation Conversion of forest to non-forest for human use

Deforestation, clearance, clearcutting or clearing is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is then converted to a non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests. About 31% of Earth's land surface is covered by forests.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

In September 2016 Amazon Watch released a report which concludes that imports of crude oil by the US are driving rainforest destruction in the Amazon and releasing significant greenhouse gases. [19] [20]

Related Research Articles

Rainforest Action Network non-profit organisation in the USA

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is an environmental organization based in San Francisco, California, United States. The organization was founded by Randy "Hurricane" Hayes and Mike Roselle in 1985, and first gained national prominence with a grassroots organizing campaign that in 1987 succeeded in convincing Burger King to cancel $31 million worth of destructive Central American rainforest beef contracts. Protecting forests and challenging corporate power has remained a key focus of RAN’s campaigns since, and has led RAN into campaigns that have led to transformative policy changes across home building, wood purchasing and supplying, automobile, fashion, paper and banking industries.

The Sápara, also known as Zápara or Záparo, are an indigenous people native to the Amazon rainforest along the border of Ecuador and Peru. They once occupied some 12,000 mi² between the Napo River and the Pastaza. Early in the 20th century, there were some 200,000 Zapara. From the year 2009 on the Ecuadorian Zápara call themselves Sápara. The official name is Nación Sápara del Ecuador (NASE). It means Sápara Nation of Ecuador. The president of this nation is Klever Ruiz. The Sápara Nation was officially registered by CONDENPE – the Council of Development of the nationalities and peoples of Ecuador – on September 16, 2009. The current name of the organisation is the result of a unification process of upriver and downriver communities. There was a conflict between these different groups about their authentic ethnic identity in the last years of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. With this unification this conflict seems to be solved. CONDENPE confirms as well officially the legal status of autonomy or self-government of the Sápara Nation of Ecuador N.A.S.E. and confirms their territory between the rivers Pindoyacu, Conambo and Alto Corrientes in the province of Pastaza. It is confirmed as well that the head office of NASE is the city of Shell, Pastaza.

Nueva Loja City in Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Nueva Loja, also known as Lago Agrio, is the capital of the province of Sucumbíos in Ecuador. It was founded in the 1960s as a base camp of Texaco. The official population as of the 2010 census is 57,727.

Yasuni National Park national park in Amazonian Ecuador

Yasuni National Park is in Ecuador with an area of 9,823 km2 between the Napo and Curaray Rivers in Napo and Pastaza Provinces in Amazonian Ecuador. The national park lies within the Napo moist forests ecoregion and is primarily rain forest. The park is about 250 km from Quito and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989. It is within the claimed ancestral territory of the Huaorani indigenous people. Yasuni is also home to two uncontacted indigenous tribes, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane. Many indigenous people use the riverways within the park as a main mode of travel. Several waterways in the area are tributaries that lead into the Amazon River, including blackwater rivers high in tannins boasting vastly different floral composition than the main riverways. The spine-covered palm, Bactrisriparia, and aquatic plant Montrichardia linifera typically line the edges of these slow moving rivers, often referred to as Igapós.

The Cofan people are an indigenous people native to Sucumbíos Province northeast Ecuador and to southern Colombia, between the Guamués River and the Aguaricó River. Their population is now only about 1,500 to 2,100 people, down from approximately 15,000 in the mid-16th century, when the Spanish crushed their ancient civilization, of which there are still some archeological remains. They speak the Cofán language or A'ingae. The ancestral land, community health and social cohesion of Cofan communities in Ecuador has been severely damaged by several decades of oil drilling. However, reorganization, campaigning for land rights, and direct action against encroaching oil installations have provided a modicum of stability. Major settlements include Sinangué, Dovuno, Dureno and Zábalo, the latter of which has retained a much more extensive land base.

Rainforest Foundation Fund charitable foundation

The Rainforest Foundation Fund is a charitable foundation dedicated to the preservation of the rainforest by defending the rights of the indigenous peoples living there.

The Taromenane are an uncontacted people living in Yasuni National Park, at the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin.

Bowoto v. Chevron Corp. was a lawsuit against Chevron Nigeria Ltd., a subsidiary of Chevron USA, which went to trial in 2008 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs, Nigerian citizens who had been injured during or who had survived human rights violations perpetrated by Nigerian military personnel, alleged that the Chevron subsidiary backed the military action and that the parent company thus should bear liability in US courts for the resultant fallout. The suit was decided on December 1, 2008, when nine jurors unanimously agreed Chevron was not liable for any of the numerous allegations. Judgment was entered the next day, officially exonerating Chevron.

Pablo Fajardo Cofán environmental activist and lawyer from Ecuador

Pablo Fajardo Mendoza is an Ecuadorian lawyer and activist. He is the lawyer that has been leading the historical process against Chevron Corporation related to the environmental disaster he alleged was caused by the oil operations of Texaco in the Lago Agrio oil field between 1964 and 1990. In such process, Fajardo represented the over 30, 000 local inhabitants affected by the spill of crude oil and toxic waste. In courtrooms and arbitration held outside of Ecuador, it was repeatedly determined that the allegations against Chevron were based on fraud and deceit.

Luis Yanza is an environmental activist from Ecuador, of Cofán descent. He serves as president of the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, an NGO representing the interests of the campesinos and indigenous peoples in Ecuador.

Lou Dematteis is an American photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on documenting social, environmental and political conflict and their consequences in the United States and around the world.

<i>Crude</i> (2009 film) 2009 film by Joe Berlinger

Crude is a 2009 American documentary film directed and produced by Joe Berlinger. It follows a two-year portion of an ongoing class action lawsuit against the Chevron Corporation in Ecuador.

The Amazon Defense Coalition is an Ecuadorian non-governmental organization created on May 16, 1994 and approved by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Social Welfare on June 4, 1998 under ministerial reference #535.

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative was a failed project that attempted to keep over a billion barrels of oil in the ground under the Yasuni National Park, a biosphere reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The initiative was launched in 2007 by president Rafael Correa which offered a perpetual suspension of oil extraction in part of the Yasuni National Park called Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) in return for payments of $3.6 billion from the international community. It envisioned the transition to a sustainable economy, using the funds to create jobs in such sectors as renewable energy while respecting the region's biodiversity and social equality. However by 2012 only $200 million had been pledged and by 2013 the plan had abandoned and drilling started in 2016.

China–Ecuador relations Diplomatic relations between the Peoples Republic of China and the Republic of Ecuador

Although China's economic influence is growing rapidly throughout Latin America, it is perhaps most evident in Ecuador where it enjoys a near-monopoly of crude exports. Critics of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa say that the Chinese influence has gone too far and threatens national sovereignty while indigenous peoples' rights and biodiversity could be severely harmed because of Ecuador's oil commitments to China.

Alicia Cawiya is the Vice-President of the Huaorani Nation of Ecuador and one of the leaders of the movement against oil exploitation in her region. In 2013 she made a speech in Ecuador's parliament to protect the Amazon basin from oil companies.

Zoë Tryon

The Honourable Zoë Tryon is the eldest child and daughter of the 3rd Baron Tryon and Dale Tryon, Baroness Tryon, most notable for her work as an 'eco-aristocratic' ambassador for Amazon Watch, the Achuar and the other indigenous peoples of Ecuadorian Amazon, particularly fundraising, she has also promoted and arranged 'big name' tours for celebrities, journalists, and others to support the cause of locally indigenous peoples, needing to clean up, or resist the toxic waste being left and ecological damage being done by 'big oil' companies drilling and seeking to continue to drill the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador.


  2. 1 2 "Aguinda v. Texaco, Inc., Docket Nos. 01-7756L, 01-7758C, decided August 16, 2002". Findlaw. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  3. "Judge Kaplan On Chevron: American Tort Law Is Not 'Robin Hood Justice'". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  4. "Texaco/Chevron lawsuits (re Ecuador) | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  5. and
  6. "Amazon Watch - Press Kit for Landmark Legal Case, Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco; "Detailed Background", page 3". Amazon Watch. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  7. Woodin, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP-Cheryl M.; Chen, Jonathan. "Yaiguaje v. Chevron Corporation: enforcing an Ecuadorian judgment against a U.S. company in Ontario | Lexology" . Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  8. Snyder, Paul Hastings LLP-Rachel. "Chevron v. Donziger: an enforcement action drama | Lexology" . Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  9. "US judge annuls Ecuador oil ruling against Chevron - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  10. Kaplan, Lewis (2014-03-04). "Chevron Corporation v. Donziger et al". Justicia. U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  11. Jones, Ashby (2014-03-04). "Highlights from the Chevron/Donziger Opinion". WSJ Blogs - Law Blog. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  12. "Court Hears Appeal In $9 Billion Chevron Ecuador Debacle". U.S. Second Circuit. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  13. "Chevron V. Donziger: The Epic Battle For The Rule Of Law Hits The Second Circuit". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  14. "Amazon Watch - Ecuador". Amazon Watch. Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-03-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. Cicero, Rita Ann (2013-04-30). "Peruvian Indians can pursue Amazon pollution suit in U.S. court". Thompson Reuters. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  17. "Occidental Petroleum Corporation v. Carijano". SCOTUSblog. Retrieved 2016-01-19.
  19. Milman, Oliver (28 September 2016). "US drives rainforest destruction by importing Amazon oil, study finds". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  20. Zuckerman, Adam; Koenig, Kevin (September 2016). From well to wheel: the social, environmental, and climate costs of Amazon crude (PDF). Oakland, CA, USA: Amazon Watch. Retrieved 2016-09-28.

Further reading