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September 02, 2009

Trudie Styler on Ecuador's Rain Forest

by Dinda Elliott

What do Trudie Styler, Ecuador's Amazon, its tribal people, and Chevron have in common? Documentary films!

Ecuador is one of those great unsung countries: As Ondine Cohane writes in the August issue of Condé Nast Traveler, it has some of the world's highest volcanoes and a fascinating mix of Spanish and Incan cultures. It is also the locus of the world's largest oil-related environmental lawsuit, worth $27 billion and involving 30,000 Ecuadoreans who charge that Chevron is responsible for pollution of the Amazon dating back to the 1970s.

In the form of secretly taped videos recorded by pens and watches implanted with bugging devices, Chevron is presenting new evidence that may show an Ecuadorean operative trying to solicit bribes for environmental clean-up contracts. Those video clips will be competing with Crude, a documentary directed by Joe Berlinger that comes out September 9, produced with the help of Trudie Styler, the environmental activist and wife of Sting. The film details the devastation of the area where the oil wells operated, from water that smells like gas to tribal children dying of cancer. "I hope this film will have a profound impact on people," Styler says. "You can't help but be moved when you see a 38-year-old mother with uterine cancer and her 18-year-old daughter with liver cancer. You just want to jump in and help."

Styler, who founded the Rainforest Foundation with Sting 20 years ago to fight for indigenous people living in endangered rain forests, has also been working as UNICEF ambassador in Ecuador, building 60 schools and bringing in huge rainwater tanks. "For $400, you can buy a tank that will last for 15 years," Styler says. "You can make a difference." To learn more, go to rainforestfoundation.org.

Further reading:
* Ondine Cohane says Ecuador is one of Latin America's best kept secrets (CNT, August 2009)
* Dinda's Dispatches from Hong Kong (it's partying and turning red) and Shanghai ("At Home in Shanghai" and the city's World Expo transformation)
* The 2009 World Savers Awards: Honoring the travel industry

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