Ecuadorean Columnist on Chevron, Money and Nature

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Columnist Milagros Aguirre writes for Quito's ElComercio.com that the decision in the 18-year case against the Chevron Corporation marked the end of what she calls "the trial of the century." An appeals court in Ecuador upheld an $18 billion ruling against Chevron last week for Texaco's oil pollution in the Amazon rainforest some 20 years ago. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.

But Aguirre writes that the idea of selling a rainforest in the first place -- putting a price on something that is priceless -- is a troublesome notion. "The day they put a price on a national park, there was no more romance, no more romantic scenery, no more pure love of nature," she writes.

The dispute over who wins and who loses, she adds, now seems to matter more than the forest itself. She adds that the money will surely lead to divisions and jealousy.

But the trial has also put a few cards on the table, Aguirre writes. The trial led to changes in Ecuador's environmental laws. "Thanks to the trial, no company would dare to do what they did in the '70s and '80s (or would they?)," she wonders. The trial has also uncovered corruption. "The trial of the century uncovered the worst of each side," she writes.

Now that the decision has been made, she concludes, the fight will begin over the money and power. It wouldn't be a bad idea, she writes, to take the money that will be paid for past environmental injustices, and use it to buy up the rest of the park, to guarantee the rights of the earth and the water. That, she writes, would be a happy ending to the trial of the century.