Natural Resources by Numbers

The Promise of “El uno por mil” in Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Oil Operations

in Environment and Society

ABSTRACT

In 2013, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the end of the Yasuní-ITT initiative. The initiative had proposed to combat climate change by not exploiting oil reserves in one section of the Yasuní National Park. Anticipating outcry, Correa promised that operations would affect less than one thousandth of the park, or “menos del uno por mil.” This article examines the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Numbers do a particular kind of labor to rationalize the shift contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative that rhetoric alone does not. Metrics such as el uno por mil constitute and translate between diverse realms of value. Yet, contrary to the assumption that numbers are derived from strictly technical, expert processes, I show how such metrics are fundamental to translations between incalculable matters of nature, the future, and the “good” when deployed in contests over the effects of oil on life.

In 2013, President Rafael Correa announced his decision to end the much-heralded Yasuní-ITT initiative. The Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) initiative, which had been ongoing for six years, proposed to combat climate change by leaving 850 million barrels of heavy crude oil in Amazonian subsoil instead of drilling. Anticipating outcry against drilling in one of the most remote portions of Amazonian jungle, Correa assured the public that by using appropriate techniques, oil operations would affect less than one thousandth of the park, or “menos del uno por mil” (Telégrafo 2013). Insinuating that environmentalists were deceiving the public by suggesting that the Yasuní would suffer greatly from oil development, Correa mobilized the el uno por mil catchphrase to argue that today it was possible to have your proverbial environment and exploit it too.

In the past half century, the environment has become an object of global concern (Carson 2002; Leonard and Kedzior 2014),1 and the Amazon in particular is the emblematic “lungs of the earth” in which the preservation of its forest is often keyed to the survival of humanity. In the case of Ecuador, mounting environmental concern internationally occurred in the same period during which the state emerged as oil company, regulator of the industry, and proponent of the constitutionally enshrined rights of nature and proposals like the Yasuní-ITT. Amid tensions over the extent of damage that ensues from drilling in the Amazon and political debates over whether the revenue derived from the oil industry is necessary for Ecuadorian development, numbers are a central means by which underground resources in the Amazon are imagined, negotiated, and governed.

In this article, I examine the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Quantification processes and their results constitute some of our most basic understandings of society and the environment, such as the untapped value of the Amazon in ecological diversity or oil reserves. Numbers allow for potential barrels of oil, and by extension, speculations on future revenue, to be translated into promises of national sovereignty or “the end of poverty.” Numbers are also mobilized to signify the technical capacity of the state to manage the risky business of extracting oil, despite an extensive historical record that suggests the impossibility of such control. Yet, despite the many ongoing projects of calculative labor at work in environmental politics, Amazonia and oil both remain impervious to any final accounting of the forms of value that they contain.

Through the case study of el uno por mil, I trace some of the implications of quantifying environmental damage numerically in order to promote an extractive agenda. To do so, I draw from literature in the history of science, science and technology studies, and anthropological treatments of numbers in order to show that metrics such as el uno por mil both constitute and translate between diverse realms of value. Numbers do a particular kind of labor in rationalizing the shift contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative that rhetoric alone cannot accomplish. However, contrary to the commonplace assumption that numbers are derived from strictly technical, expert processes of assessment, I argue that such metrics are fundamental to translations between incalculable matters of nature, the future, and the “good” when deployed in contests over the effects of oil on life.

A Proposal to Keep Oil in the Ground

Fifty years after the advent of commercial oil development in the northeastern corner of Ecuador, both the industry and the future of the Amazon are more hotly contested than ever. Ongoing oil operations, African palm plantations, logging, colonization, and road building, in conjunction with a growing recognition of the ecological precarity of the region, have heightened concern over environmental contamination and deforestation.

In response to growing international concern over climate change and loss of biodiversity, in 2007 Correa introduced a proposal to protect the ITT. The initiative proposed leaving 850 million barrels of oil in the ground in exchange for international compensation. The plan sought 50 percent of the value of the unexploited reserves that was estimated from extraction over 10 years, totaling $3.6 billion. Proponents argued that by not exploiting the reserves, 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide would be prevented from entering the atmosphere (Larrea 2009). Correa described it as a means of prioritizing social and environmental values over profit. The initiative proposed to combat global warming by committing not to extract hydrocarbons located in areas of high biological value and cultural sensitivity, thereby protecting the indigenous peoples living within the park, and contributing to social development and environmental conservation by promoting sustainability. This was to be a model mechanism by which developed nations could assume responsibility for global warming, a form of distributive environmental justice that would address historic disparities between the North and the South in the contemporary global environmental crisis, and allow other megadiverse developing nations with fossil reserves—such as Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and India—to follow suit (Larrea and Warnars 2009).

In 1989, a 9,820 square kilometer area of forest was established as the Yasuní National Park, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) biosphere reserve on Ecuador’s eastern border with Peru. Located where the Amazon meets the Andes on the equator, the area is marked by extraordinary biological and cultural richness (Finer et al. 2009), making the Yasuní one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. The species richness in this area for amphibians, birds, mammals, and plants are highest for all of South America. The Yasuní is the only place where all four of these forms of life intersect at their highest levels of diversity, creating a “quadruple richness center” of megadiverse forest (Bass et al. 2010). The reserve is home to the Waorani and Kichwa, as well as the Tagaeri and the Taromenane, two indigenous groups who live in voluntary isolation. In addition, the park is located on top of an estimated 20 percent of Ecuador’s oil reserves, and parts of the park have been developed for oil drilling since the 1980s. Situated in the far eastern corner, the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini block—named after the three oil fields that comprise it—is the most remote, intact area of the Yasuní reserve.

The plan enjoyed widespread support in Ecuador. Over the course of six years, Correa, government officials, and members of civil society presented the plan as a unique means by which a country would elect to privilege cultural and ecological diversity over the market value of crude oil. Implicit in this was the idea that the multiplicity of natural, cultural, and national wealth held within this piece of the Amazon far outstripped that of its market value. Thus, even though one could not put a price tag on the Amazon or the ITT block in particular, supporters of the initiative argued fervently that the value of the place was far greater than the estimated dollar values oil would bring.

In August 2013, however, Correa announced that since only $13.3 million had been raised from donors such as Spain, Germany, and Italy, he was terminating the initiative. For Correa, the failure of the Yasuní-ITT proposal indexed the moral failing of the richer nations. “The world has failed us,” Correa announced on 15 August 2013. “It wasn’t charity that we asked for. It was co-responsibility in the struggle against climate change.” He went on to insist, “Let no one be deceived. The fundamental factor of the failure is that the world is hypocritical. And the logic that prevails is not one of justice, but the logic of power” (Presidencia de la República del Ecuador 2013).2 Noting that it was one of the most difficult decisions in his tenure as president, he opened the ITT for drilling that same year. The operations, Correa said, would generate an estimated $18 billion over 30 years that would allow for the sovereign development of Ecuador and to bring the nation out of poverty. The decision to open the block for drilling fit within Correa’s legacy of technocratic populism that promoted natural resource extraction as a form of rational development for the nation (de la Torre 2011).

In his speech announcing the plan’s failure, Correa assured the public that by using appropriate techniques, oil drilling would have a minimal impact, affecting less than 1 percent of the national park. Just minutes later, Correa corrected his statement, saying that he had misspoken (Telégrafo 2013). As the president tweeted on his @MashiRafael Twitter account, “I made a mistake: I should have said that it will affect less than ONE THOUSANDTH (not 1%) of our Yasuní. I promise you all!” (Cometí un error: debí decir que se afectará menos del UNO POR MIL (no 1%) de nuestro Yasuní. ¡Se los prometo!) (Correa 2013). This phrase referred to the estimated 10 square kilometers (1,000 hectares) of the park that would be directly affected by the drilling. Correa did not state how this number was calculated.

In 2007, while promoting the proposal, Correa proclaimed, “Like friendship, happiness, and security, the environment is priceless … To conserve nature for future generations can be an end in itself. We need nature to live” (quoted in Rival 2010: 358). When the decision to open the Yasuní to drilling was made six years later, a shift had been made such that the same set of oil reserves was now argued to be absolutely necessary for the development of the nation, and the impact posed by drilling now presented only minimal threat. If, as Laura Rival asked in her discussion of the ITT initiative in 2010, “what calculations, new thinking and moral imagination have produced the idea that ‘oil has monetary value when it is not produced and the forest is preserved untouched’?” (359), one could now ask in the wake of the plan’s failure: “What enabled the argument that ‘nature is essential for the preservation of life in Ecuador’ to be smoothly translated into a fraction (1/1,000) by which extraction would now not affect the integrity of the forest?” To paraphrase Diane Nelson (2015), “what counts”—as well as what is being counted (whether hectares of forest felled or declines in bird populations as a result of drilling)—is fundamentally at stake in the determination of value.

While many have written on the ecological benefits of not exploiting oil, the innovative nature of the Yasuní-ITT initiative as a mechanism of environmental justice (Bass et al. 2010; Finer et al. 2008, 2009; Larrea and Warnars 2009), and the political implications of the plan for Ecuador (Rival 2010; Vallejo et al. 2015), none have specifically explored the rationale by which Correa ended the six-year initiative. The uno por mil metric raises a range of concerns regarding the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources, not least of which is the ability to authoritatively delimit potential environmental effects in the form of a fraction. As environmental activists alleged in protests in Quito following Correa’s pronouncement, likening drilling in the ITT to only a fractional impact was the same as suggesting that a gunshot wound to the body would not compromise its integrity. In el uno por mil, the various, undetermined impacts of future oil development are presented as both marginal and circumscribed, as though all future spills, industrial accidents, and unanticipatable changes are already under control. The value of nature—as megadiverse, national patrimony—previously promoted as so precious as to be beyond price was now used to justify the “minimal” effects of drilling.

More than simply rhetoric or number alone, el uno por mil is generative. Within the metric, movements are made: the immediate, intimate concerns of harm to the environment and human health and sites of contested Amazonian territory are drawn into relation with notions of the public good in the making of a neo-extractive nation-state, and to the speculative value of oil barrels pegged to a volatile international market. At the same time, the metric works to diminish the scalar effects of extraction by asserting that oil operations will only be a fractional intrusion into the Amazon, without affecting larger ecosystems that extend beyond oil block boundaries. In what follows, I explore the scholarship that has looked at the work of numbers in order to open conversation around the effects of quantification in extractive governance, particularly regarding the persistent incalculability of objects such as the Amazon and oil. I take el uno por mil seriously as an intervention into life and extraction in Ecuador that is not simply rhetorically descriptive (as though one thousandth were a reflection of a given reality in numerical form), but rather as productive of the contested worlds in which we live.

The Worldly Effects of Enumeration

Numbers and their effects are a critical juncture from which to begin conversations about nature and value. The growth of enumeration techniques used to measure and understand everyday life is a marked feature of modernity. Tracing the emergence of statistics to the practices of double-entry bookkeeping in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, Mary Poovey (1998) argues that the separation of interpretation from description was an important historical development in the formation of the “modern fact.” The modern fact emerged as a unit that could both describe discrete particulars and contribute to broader knowledge claims, forming one of the most fundamental ways in which Westerners know the world today. Understood to be the foundation of knowledge claims,3 numbers epitomize the “modern fact” because they appear to simply describe phenomena in a way that is objective and free of interpretation (Merry 2011: S89).

Following the arguments of Michel Foucault, statistical knowledge and a rise in techniques of enumeration have been linked to the birth of the modern nation-state (Burchell et al. 1991). Post-Renaissance, European states began to mobilize categorization and calculation as tools of institutional surveillance. In what Ian Hacking has called the “avalanche of numbers,” in the nineteenth century states increasingly started leveraging counting practices as an important means of assessing resources, levying taxes, and monitoring the state of their populations (Hacking 1990; Poovey 1998; Porter 1996). In early to mid-nineteenth-century France, for example, statistics were understood to produce the public knowledge required for a democracy (Merry 2011: S85) and to counter the undue influence of biased local interests in the building of public infrastructure (Porter 1996).

Forms of enumeration proliferated in the following centuries as numbers increasingly came to be seen as truer or purer forms of knowledge. Numerical indicators are central to political governance today (Merry 2011). Following the work of Nikolas Rose and Peter Miller, calculative practices create the very arenas within which governance can be enacted:

Figures transform the domain to which government is applied. In enabling events to be aggregated across space and time, they reveal and construct norms and processes to which evaluations can be attached and upon which interventions can be targeted. The figures themselves are mechanisms that enable relations to be established between different phenomena, rendering ‘the population’, ‘the economy’, ‘public opinion’, ‘the divorce rate’ into thought as calculable entities with a solidity and a density that appears all their own.

(2010: 283–284)
Numbers are of course not only central to the fields of governance, economics, or political science alone, but have been taken up widely across environmental, health, and humanitarian spheres, among others. Scholarship in this vein has traced the role of numbers in the creation of standards that are commonplace today, such as mortality rates in life insurance (Lengwiler 2009; Porter 2000), or in prognosis and projections in cancer trials and treatment (Jain 2007, 2010).

Quantification and formal representation are indispensable for the making of a rationalized process, such as that of environmental control. Following Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, reality is inscribed through the production of information about places and populations in “immutable mobiles,” such as figures, graphs, maps, and statistics that can be subsequently combined and deployed in new ways to tackle problems that would have previously been impossible (Latour and Woolgar 1986; Latour 1988, 1990). The accumulation of knowledge via such immutable mobiles allows for action at a distance (Robson 1992; Schaffer 2007), transforming the domain to which government is applied (Rose and Miller 2010). The efficacy of numbers in translating between distinct, and even seemingly incommensurate, fields can be attributed in part to their presumed mobile, stable, and combinable nature. One of the central contributions of this work has been that numbers are not simply transparent representations of the world but also instruments of its production (Lampland 2010b).

The assumption that there are realms of preinterpretative knowledge about the natural world is often used to discount knowledge that is perceived to rely on interpretation or bodily perception. Yet, as scholars of environmental disasters, human rights, global health, and corporate governance have shown (Nelson 2009; Petryna 2002), numbers encode crucial assumptions about who and what should be counted, creating particular forms of knowledge of the world through quantification. As a representational modality, calculative practices reflect available means of organizing reality and shape the possibilities of knowledge. Thus, much of the scholarship in the social sciences on enumeration has pushed toward not how one might find a more perfect numerical, statistical, or computational measure that is free of all human traces, but rather asking how the measuring, tallying, and quantification of our bodies, places, and experiences are in and of themselves political engagements.

One important feature of the growth of enumerative practices is how numbers have become central to understanding the modern self. Today, calculative practices are not only an important feature of state power and a routine way of describing the health and wealth of the nation, but they have also become one of the primary means through which individuals understand themselves and their relationship to society. In her work on the use of statistics in the construction of Basque identity and resource demands on the state, Jacqueline Urla argued that enumerative practices like statistics are “technologies of truth production” used to make claims to reality, action, and politics (1993: 819, 834). Increasingly, numerical measures have become a way in which individuals represent and structure experiences in relation to larger groups (McLoughlin 2010) and apprehend the world (Stafford 2010). Work on enumeration techniques points to how numbers and their mobilization are indeed constructive of new identities, spaces, and relations. Such scholarship has invited new approaches to studying the work of numbers in the social sciences. As Jane Guyer and colleagues write, “Once number moves out of technical life and into domains of culture and power, quantitative anthropology becomes no longer about how we should quantify the world, but about how people inhabit worlds that they already apprehend numerically” (2010: 37; emphasis in original).

While earlier anthropological scholarship on enumeration largely treated numbers as symbols (Crump 1992; Mimica 1988), subsequent work has shown that numbers are both material and semiotic. For instance, Helen Verran (2010) moves beyond the commonsense notion that we use numbers as cognitive tools to navigate the world to propose that numbers are also materialized relations. Examining the application of numerical assessments of the state of Australia’s creeks and rivers, she argues that numbers express and embody material relations in the process constituting the water market. At stake here are the very relations between sameness and difference; once again we are shown that numbers are far more than reflections of the worlds in which we live.

Other scholars have demonstrated the potential for numbers to transform and mediate between distinct domains of value. Following the transformation of measures of value across legal domains of water prices in Costa Rica, Andrea Ballestero (2014: 29) argues that percentages function as targets to galvanize and measure public commitments to the provision of water as a human right. By mobilizing legal and political commitments, percentages are able to translate otherwise concise definitions of human rights into complex webs of meaning in their implementation, including responsibility and economic redistribution. What we see through ethnographic attention to quantification is that numbers shape and participate in hierarchies of knowledge production: “As quantification tools and privileged semiotic resources of modernity, [numbers] constitute a specific genre of communication with distinct capabilities and politics” (37).

Numbers are crucial for the labor of translation in the fields of human rights, environmental regulations, energy policy, and more. In her work, Ballestero calls for greater attention to the differences between types of numbers and the specific work that each does—such as that of an integer versus a percentage. While earlier work in science and technology studies such as that of Michel Callon (1984) and Latour has focused on how translation can enroll allies for a given project, what Ballestero’s work illustrates is that numbers are essential for traversing incommensurate forms of value in many contemporary problems. Here, “the human right to water” is reinvented and transformed through the work of the percentage in order to signify political commitments.

An important effect of calculation and enumeration is the consolidation of expert knowledge. Perhaps because numbers are assumed to be less based in human bias, they are granted a particular authority that other forms of knowledge are not. As Fabiana Li shows in her work on the use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for approving mining concessions in Peru, “information acquired through mapping, measuring, and classifying elements of the landscape contributes to the sense of technical vigor that the EIA is intended to convey, allowing it to circulate as an ‘objective’ source of scientific knowledge” (2009: 222–223). When numerical measures are taken as forms of synthesized rational knowledge rather than contingent outcomes of a methodological practice conducted by experts, the inherently political decisions embedded in what should be measured and what should not are eclipsed. Technologies of quantification predispose the representation of reality toward certain kinds of knowledge, lending official measures of environmental damage a degree of authority that resident, farmer, or activist accounts do not possess. Following Timothy Mitchell, “the deployment of expertise requires, and encourages, the making of worlds that it can master” (2009: 416), raising important concerns over the perfunctory use of numbers when evaluating corporate and state accountability for environmental damage.

In natural resource management, risk prediction and reduction, or global issues such as climate change, numbers are used to produce models from which regulatory measures are negotiated. Looking at the role of quantitative models in science, Naomi Oreskes (2003: 385–386) shows how ecosystem modeling is both iterative and requires simplification of complex phenomena. The problem, she argues, is when models—as idealized representations of physical or social processes—are taken as portrayals of life rather than as tools to think with. Likewise, while observing a conference on environmental change some years ago, Anna Tsing writes of the troubled process of moving between the specific to the general in global climate change models, in which forms of global nature are delineated and scaled up and down, and preexisting interests and identities are negated (2004: 101–106). The movement from conditional numbers used in models in scientific practice to their political application is often problematic; numbers that were provisional or contingent on a set of specific conditions then come to stand in for reality when taken up in political discourse or applied to specific problems in the world.

Of course, such concerns are clearly not limited to scientific or environmental concerns. In her analysis of the expanding use of indicators to evaluate global human rights issues, Sally Merry points to the need for careful attention to how problems are defined given the relative power of those involved. Numerical measures allow for the creation of a world that appears knowable and comparable, regardless of the contextual specifics of history, place, or difference. In the process of enumeration, complex concerns can be represented as ostensibly objective units: “An indicator provides a transition from ambiguity to certainty; from theory to fact; and from complex variation and context to truthful, comparable numbers. In other words, the political process of judging and evaluating is transformed into a technical issue of measurement and counting by the diligent work of experts” (Merry 2011: S88).

While enumeration and the consolidation of expert knowledge can have the effect of erasing particular phenomena from political view, numbers also make “the invisible visible” (Devlin 2000). The categories we use to enumerate, divide, and compare elements of our lives are neither neutral nor inevitable. New categories are made, others are rendered invisible, and things become “real” when counted, coming to matter in new ways. Numbers are used to assess performance or to claim and demonstrate compliance with regulation. Extensive scholarship on technologies such as the audit has demonstrated that new means of performing accountability can both enable and obstruct good practice (Power 1999; Riles 2006; Strathern 2000). The practice of assessment and performance evaluation relies on numerical indicators that can shape social realities. While appearing to be a transparent practice, such technologies produce what is “knowable” about the world and what is not (Merry and Coutin 2014).

While numerical indicators can facilitate comparisons through their ability to make visible inequalities and contrasts that are not otherwise obvious, or to demonstrate compliance with international standards or human rights norms, the enumerative practices from which they are derived are often opaque (Merry 2011: S84). As Merry and Susan Coutin (2014) have shown, assumptions about evidence, categorization, and measurement can privilege certain forms of suffering while omitting other forms that cannot be categorized. Thus, projects of enumeration are always fraught with the problem of bounding particular phenomena in ways that require privileging binaries and definition over ambiguity and equivocation. There is no uninterested knowledge of the world; the production of facts is deeply embedded in historically contingent relationships of interest, knowledge, and position. Drawing on this literature, I would now like to reflect on the work of metrics such as el uno por mil. As the scholars reviewed here have shown, the point is not to find a perfectly objective measure for a given phenomena but rather to trace the worldly effects of enumeration. What work does el uno por mil do in justifying decisions over extraction and conservation in natural spaces such as the Yasuní-ITT? How are persistent tensions between calculability and incalculability—of Amazonia, oil, or the “good life”—obscured within numeric arguments like el uno por mil? My intention is not only to point to the contingency of any metric to represent the multiple, cumulative, even unknowable impacts brought by oil drilling, but moreover to attend to the movements made possible through such numeric claims.

Measuring Amazonian Abundance

A place of wonder, Amazonia has been imagined for centuries as holding the origins of humanity, the secrets of life, and the salvation of the future in its depths. Often imagined by outsiders as the locus of planetary biodiversity for its “excessive nature,” the Amazon lends itself easily to imaginative myths of unbounded potential, rousing both desire and fear (Raffles 2002). The region has been the muse of scientists and explorers, artists and traders, royalty and writers, for hundreds of years. Centuries later, the “black gold” found under Amazonian soils was seen as heralding an era of unmarked prosperity for the nation in the 1960s, which Ecuadorian politicians imagined as a means to facilitate colonization of unconquered border territory and to transform the region into the next breadbasket of the nation (Fontaine 2007; Wasserstrom and Southgate 2013).

At the same moment, the Amazon basin emerged as a global object of salvation in environmental movements. The widespread support for the plaintiffs in the internationally known 18-year lawsuit Aguinda v. Texaco (see also Barrett 2014; Berlinger 2009; Kimerling 2006; Langewiesche 2007; Zambrano Lozada 2011) has been keyed to the particular outrage that such a natural treasure had been contaminated by industry. Harm resulting from extractive industries continues to be understood as particularly consequential because of the Edenic ideal of the place in which it occurred. The value of the Amazon’s subground resources and its aboveground beauty are linked in important ways by their portrayal as holding transformative potential for humanity. As Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn wrote nearly two decades ago of the potent outrage that has surrounded the destruction of Amazonian forests, “what imbues the case of the Amazon with such passion is the symbolic content of the dream it ignites” (2010: 1).

Perhaps in part because of its immenseness, numbers have been essential in constituting and communicating the value of Amazonian nature, even while simultaneously indicating the impossibility of completely cataloging or understanding the vast ecological wealth of the region.4 Since the 1990s, governments, the United Nations (UN), and private companies have increasingly promoted quantification as a mechanism to enhance natural resource governance (NRC CGER 1994). In Ecuador, as elsewhere, social groups and indigenous nationalities are pursuing projects in which ecosystem services and forest resources are quantified in order to position themselves as custodians of conservation. Numbers are at the core of such efforts.

Often described as the “lungs of the world,” the region is frequently noted in journalistic, activist, and scientific scholarship as critical for the production of the world’s oxygen. The diversity and density of species that make their home in Amazonian forests and rivers have also sparked intense tabulations: taxonomists from the Field Museum in Chicago liken the estimated number of trees in the Amazon, belonging to some 16,000 species, as “close to the number of stars in the Milky Way,” or approximately half a trillion (Field Museum 2013). As the most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world, Amazonia is estimated to contain around 40,000 plant species, 3,200 fish species, and more than 1,700 bird species, with the Yasuní region ranking among the richest of Amazonian sites for species diversity (Bass et al. 2010). Other places pale in comparison. For instance, scientists estimate that a single hectare of forest in the Yasuní is home to at least 100,000 insect species. To find a similar quantity of bug, beetle, and ant assemblages elsewhere, one would have to expand the scope to cover the entire continent of North America (Bass et al. 2010: 7). Amazonian abundance (as well as the number of projects invested in counting the inhabitants of the forest) does not disappoint.

For all of the precision sought in the tabulation of the Amazon’s contents, a major part of the region’s allure remains in its uncountable mysteries. One activist website describes the region as “a DNA bank holding the secrets to many new discoveries” (“Amazon Rainforest Importance” 2013), while others declare that there is still relatively little scientific knowledge about the potential uses of the vast majority of Amazonian plants. As one website proclaims, “Imagine the possibilities if we could experiment with the other 99%!” (Rainforest Concern 2016). Described by an ecologist as “dark biodiversity” for the thousands of rare, undiscovered topical species in its limits, the Amazon has been a “black box” for scientists. It remains “a forest whose overwhelming scale and diversity hamper efforts to describe its contents” (Field Museum 2013).

Measurement of Amazonia has not been limited to the biological and ecological sciences but has been increasingly adopted in the arena of environmental economics. The Yasuní-ITT initiative is located within a broader landscape of political initiatives that seek to promote the conservation of natural resources through monetary evaluation and/or commodification. In Latin America and beyond, the past several decades have been marked by the growing involvement of private companies and nongovernmental organizations in the management and certification of natural resources, the introduction of market-based trading mechanisms, incentives, and regulatory measures, as well as discussion of “ecological/environmental services” and “non-timber forest products” (Bakker 2014; Jones et al. 2017; Wunder 2015). Following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, increasing attention has been paid to the naming and pricing of ecosystem services. Whether provisioning services (food, water, timber), regulating services (affecting floods, disease, waste), supporting services (soil formation, nutrient cycling), or cultural services (aesthetic, spiritual, traditional, recreational), the evaluation of natural places within ecosystem assessment is almost always imagined in relation to human well-being (Alcamo et al. 2003; Reid et al. 2005).

In Ecuador, such processes have taken the form of incentive-based conservation through global governance mechanisms, such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, and in national plans such as Programa Socio Bosque (PSB). Socio Bosque, for instance, offers financial compensation to individual and collective landowners who agree to conserve native ecosystems for a minimum of 20 years (Collen et al. 2016; Mohebalian and Aguilar 2016). Programs such as these have been met with varying degrees of success and contestation. Proponents argue that market-based approaches are best suited to address current environmental crises and enable landholders to be stewards of biodiversity. Others, however, have cited the deepening of socioeconomic marginalization and exclusion of indigenous nationalities from decision-making processes, the very same groups who rely most directly on the resources enclosed through conservation (Agrawal 2010; Thompson et al. 2011). The Yasuní-ITT initiative was launched within this landscape of debate surrounding quantification-enabled resource governance as a means to address concerns over the health and future of large forested areas in the Amazon, much of which is already under development by industries such as oil and African palm.

At the heart of el uno por mil lies a deep contradiction between the precision sought and the enigma of capturing the worth of the Amazon in a metric. While numbers are routinely used to describe the immensity of Amazonian nature or the value of the services to humans that ecological functions have, such figures are also profoundly insufficient. The quantity of stars in the Milky Way is a number beyond quotidian comprehension. The range of capacities contained in a place like Amazonia (to produce soil, to provide sustenance, to delight!) exceeds formal categorization in any ecosystem service assessment. In a place of mythical natural excess, precise enumeration is impossible; numbers of insect species or the monetary worth of undiscovered pharmaceuticals can only be gestured at through approximations. The unknown possibility held in Amazonian forests and waterways is in part what makes the region’s personal, social, and ecological worth so difficult to pin down and so fiercely contested. Thus, while numbers are routinely used in Western understandings to provide a sense of the Amazon region’s vastness, the unknown remains as present in these calculations as the known.

Translating between the Countable and the Uncountable

If Amazonia has proven impervious to easy attempts at quantification, so too has oil. While a seemingly simple question (how much oil remains below ground?), converting subsoil geological resources into fixed numbers has proven as slippery as quantifying the aboveground ecological value of the forest. As global demand for petroleum climbs and debate continues over “peak oil,” the limits of production are pressed to deeper, remoter horizons of extraction—from polar to synthetic oil frontiers. Estimations of existing oil reserves are contested probabilities based on expert appraisals of technological imaginations, government policies, and market swings in years to come (Graefe 2009). As crude oil is a signifier of national wealth, the quantification and extractability of a country’s oil reserves has been notoriously subject to manipulation (Critchlow 2015; Mitchell 2013). Measured in both barrels and petrodollars, high and low estimates of oil often vary by several hundred million barrels, as was the case with the ITT (Rival 2010: 361). Yet, the value of that oil—whether calculated in “proved” or “probable” reserves—depends intimately on the vagaries of the market. As painfully illustrated in the 2015 economic crash in Ecuador, the price of oil per barrel fell from trading more than $100 in August 2014 to less than $30 one year later (Gill and Blas 2015; Trinkunas 2016).5 The ever-changing market for oil reminds us that, for all of our attachment to numbers, their relationship to value is—like the future of oil—inherently uncertain.

Certain aspects of life defy enumeration. At the heart of the Yasuní-ITT initiative has been an enduring tension between the countable and the uncountable.6 The premise of the project was to move away from an extractive logic by which natural resources are only valued for their market value, an alternative form of development that was widely taken up by environmentalists and supporters of the project. In a play on allusions to oil as “black gold,” the Yasuní was frequently referred to in promotional and activist materials as “green gold” (oro verde). Such depictions speak to efforts to transform the very reason for which the Amazonian forest in the ITT was prized. In his presentation of the proposal to the United Nations Assembly in 2007, President Correa articulated the Yasuní-ITT initiative as not simply a conservation project, but as a means to transform Ecuadorian society by giving visibility to a new form of national patrimony and opening possibilities for redefining social consciousness and collective identity:

Ecuador seeks to transform old notions of economics and the concept of value. In the market system, the only possible value is the exchange value, the price. The Yasuní-ITT Project is based on the recognition of use and service of non-chrematistic values of environmental security and maintenance of world biodiversity. The project ushers in a new economic logic for the 21st century, one in which what is compensated for is not just the production of commodities, but the generation of value.

(quoted in Rival 2010: 358)
The Yasuní was valued for its biodiversity and the protection of rare and endemic species, the mitigation of climate change through carbon sequestration, and the preservation of the ancestral home of indigenous tribes. Preserving rather than exploiting it was part of a “well-being approach to the economy” in which value is generated, preserved, and compensated for in payments for keeping oil in the ground. In this conception, the value of the environment was found not in a set of natural resources but in nature’s life-promoting capacities (Correa, quoted in Rival 2010: 358) with reference to the practice of buen vivir7 and movements to ground socioeconomic development in the basis of social well-being (Ruttenberg 2013). In such a paradigm, the richness of the park was so great as to defy any simple numerical assertion of value.

Yet, not extracting the oil in the park did, in fact, have a price: $3.6 billion was sought in exchange for leaving the oil in the ground. This amount reflected 50 percent of the value of the unexploited reserves that were estimated for extraction over the course of 10 years. But when 2013 arrived, new calculations had been made. Correa argued that by proceeding with operations, an estimated $18 billion over the course of 30 years would be generated—some $11 billion more than what was originally estimated. This would, he claimed, allow for the sovereign development of Ecuador. Citing the 50 percent of the Amazonian population that continues to live without adequate sanitary services (including access to potable drinking water, sewer treatment systems, and landfills), Correa argued that it was necessary to proceed with drilling in the ITT in order to put an end to the “pathologies of poverty” such as dengue, cholera, and gastroenteritis. In his speech announcing the decision to open the ITT to drilling, he denounced the environmental community for creating a dichotomy between the preservation of the Yasuní and the extraction of oil, arguing that there was no contradiction in his decision to end the initiative: “They have deceived us with a false dilemma—all or nothing. The exploitation of the Yasuní or the survival of the Yasuní. This false dilemma is part of an even bigger false dilemma: nature or extractivism.” The real problem, he went on to argue, is “100 percent of the Yasuní and no resources to satisfy the urgent needs of our people, or 99 percent of the Yasuní intact and around $18 billion to overcome poverty—especially in the Amazon, paradoxically the region with the highest incidence of poverty” (Presidencia de la República del Ecuador 2013).

The response to the termination of the proposal by student and activist groups in Ecuador was one of outrage and sadness. Following the announcement, protesters filled the Plaza Grande of Quito, calling for a moment of silence for the loss of the Yasuní. Longtime environmental groups that had been behind the initiative—including Acción Ecológica, Pachamama, and a student-led group called the Yasunidos (combining the Spanish words for “Yasuní” and “united”)—began to organize a signature campaign calling for a national referendum on exploiting the ITT. Critics suggested that the government had always planned to extract the oil in the Yasuní-ITT in what was described as “Plan B” (to proceed with exploitation should “Plan A,” conservation, fail). The sincerity of Correa’s initial support for the project was roundly questioned.

Throughout the course of the campaign for the Yasuní-ITT, supporters argued that the proposal offered a vital opportunity to redefine possibilities for a new, possibly post-oil, future for Ecuador. Preserving the park was equated with the protection of life itself in protest banners, blogs, and cartoons. Following the announcement of the end of the initiative, protesters held signs that read “The Amazon is life” (La Amazonía es vida), “No to the oil of ITT, yes to life” (No al petróleo del ITT, sí a la vida), or “Exploiting the Yasuní puts an end to life, not misery” (Explotar el Yasuní acaba con la vida, no con la miseria) (author field observations, 2013).

In the months following Correa’s announcement, much of the public discourse responded directly to the president’s numeric rationale in ending the initiative; the metric was a fulcrum on which the debates over what should be done with precious natural resources pivoted. As Rosa María Torres del Castillo (2014) suggested in her blog piece “The Tale of ‘99% of the Yasuní or the Yasuní Intact,’” each person, including Correa, seemed to use the magical number as they pleased. While no one could be certain how el uno por mil had been calculated, or what “responsible extraction” might mean in a place like the Yasuní, the looseness by which numbers were being used to represent oil drilling as a minimal impact—Torres del Castillo goes on to list the various figures that circulated following the president’s announcement: “‘99%,’ ‘99.9%,’ ‘1x100,’ ‘0.01,’ ‘0.05,’ etc., (of what we don’t really know)”—did serve to “nourish the humor of Ecuadorians.” Images and caricatures in response to the metric abounded, both as a means to critique the end of the initiative and to undermine the government’s numeric representation of drilling and its impacts. In one cartoon by Pancho Cajas, the grim reaper harvests barrels of oil from the jungle with his scythe, cackling, “Relax, it’s only 1%” (Tranquilos, solo es el 1%). In an image by the cartoonist Xavier Bonil, a couple dances, bodies pressed together. The caption over the woman’s sweating, alarmed face reads, “Hey! Is it just my idea? Or is he touching me el uno por mil?” (¡Oiga! ¿Es idea mía? ¿O me está tocando el uno por mil?). Other variations directly challenged the rationale implied by the number, asking, “What’s the minimal footprint? A gunshot is less than 1/1000 of your body. It can be deadly” (Cuál es la minima huella? Un disparo es menos de 1x1000 en tu cuerpo. Puede ser mortal). Alongside the text, the chalked outline of a human body in a crime scene bleeds red, rivulets of blood that conjure an image of the Amazon basin watershed. Such pictures pointed to the indeterminacy of numbers when speaking of natural bodies: in one claim, one thousandth affects nothing (we drill and the park remains intact!) and in another the outcome is fatal (the body succumbs to even the “fractional” impact of a bullet). To capitalize on this point, in a widely circulated twist on the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism’s promotional phrase “Ecuador loves life” (Ecuador ama la vida), protesters in the streets of Quito held signs with the famous rainbow swirl of plurinationalism now dripping with crude. The sardonic title beneath read, “Ecuador NO ama la vida.”

For all of the emphasis that was placed on the metric in his public speeches justifying the end of the Yasuní-ITT, Correa never stated how el uno por mil was calculated. Some suggested that it was derived from an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the state-run PetroAmazonas operations in the adjacent oil Block 31, or from estimates by the Ministry of Non-Renewable Natural Resources (MRNNR) that drilling the ITT fields would directly impact about 200 hectares, or 0.02 percent, of the park (Hill 2013). Although difficult to confirm, it seems likely that el uno por mil emerges out of the calculative rationalities that are at work in environmental regulation in Ecuador. EIAs are the primary means by which the oil industry is regulated. An EIA is both a set of scientific practices and a document that characterizes and evaluates the potential impacts of a proposed project to the local environment and community, analyzes risks, and proposes means of preventing and managing potential negative impacts. Ecuadorian law requires EIAS for every phase of oil extraction. Teams of experts turn terrains into a set of facts that can take many forms—numbers, lists, charts, statistical evaluations, and narratives are all compiled within a several-hundred-page document—which render one particular place comparable with others. Such categorization and measurement solidify certain impacts as important, and others as irrelevant (Fiske 2017). In this sense, it is most probable that el uno por mil was not “invented” but rather emerged from expert practices of calculation.

Opening the Yasuní-ITT to drilling is a project that scales up oil extraction led by the Ecuadorian state, yet the framing of impact in the terms of el uno por mil suggests that no such project is underway. El uno por mil articulates a limited, proximal effect in a highly circumscribed time and space. The calculation does the work of at once diminishing and containing the negative effects of drilling to an immediately local space of platforms and roads—the implication being that drilling will not affect the integrity or vitality of the Yasuní-ITT reserve as a whole—while at the same time extending the benefits of oil to a political and geographical space of the nation at large. The grand reach of promises and the supposedly limited, local impact are in obvious tension with one another.

When extracted from the specific practices from which they emerge, numbers can speak to concerns that are far broader than those from which they were derived. Beyond portending to calculate potential impacts, el uno por mil is also mobilized to signify the technical capacity of the state to control and respond to the highly risky business of extracting oil. As Correa argued in his speech, when oil operations are realized with high technical standards, their impact is minimal. Within such a logic, impacts can be circumscribed to a mere fraction of the Yasuní because of the superior techniques of extraction that will be employed. Yet, as visitors to the Amazon can observe, oil operations never occur in isolation—they are accompanied by a flurry of other processes that affect immediate and long-term social and environmental changes, including logging, colonization, the building of roads and their effects on forest canopy makeup (McCracken and Forstner 2014) and increased habitat fragmentation more broadly (Finer et al. 2008), health effects (San Sebastián and Córdoba 1999), psychosocial changes in communities (Beristain et al. 2009), and more. Part of the work of el uno por mil is to circumscribe potential environmental impacts despite an extensive historical record that suggests the impossibility of such technical control.

Scientists and economists were also quick to critique the uno por mil calculation, pointing to how risks from operations are difficult to anticipate or constrain. Some argued that the calculation was meaningless in a place of tremendous planetary diversity. Such an estimate only accounts for direct impacts such as well platform areas, and not the indirect effects of spills, noise, settlement, and more. In glossing the potential environmental impact as el uno por mil, one hectare in the Amazon is made equivalent to one hectare anywhere else. The calculation undermined the particular value of the ITT—as both a place and an ideal—that initially inspired the initiative.

Beyond indicating the state’s technical capacity to manage oil extraction responsibly, large numbers are routinely invoked to suggest oil’s promise and thus allude to its monetary value through estimates of barrels underground (which range from 700 to 950 million barrels in the ITT reserve) or through the petrodollars with which the government promises to fund education, build bridges and schools, and “end poverty” (Rival 2010). While an estimate of 950 million barrels of oil is based on various (un)certain predictions of what lies beneath Amazonian soils, it is rendered fact when mobilized in political debates and presidential speeches and is translated to other realms of value. Easy jumps are made between unknown quantities of unproduced underground oil to the fulfillment of political promise in the concrete forms of infrastructure and jobs or abstract statements about progress and future good.

Throughout the life of the initiative, numbers have been central to the constitution of the Yasuní. In the promotion of the initiative, numbers were used to gesture at Amazonian nature’s immenseness, to suggest that the area is home to forms of value that are beyond calculation. In the ending of the initiative, numbers were once again invoked, but now to suggest that the natural abundance of the ITT was so great that drilling would only represent a fractional intrusion, leaving, in Correa’s words, “99 percent of the park intact” (which, as noted earlier, he subsequently corrected). Here, by quantifying the effects of oil drilling (such as the kilometers of roads built, hectares of forest cut for platforms, number of wells drilled, tons of carbon dioxide generated, barrels of produced water that must be disposed of), oil’s impact seems to pale when contrasted to the vast—even uncountable—bounty of the Amazon. The magic of el uno por mil is that it appears to make easy translations between questions of national patrimony, poverty elimination, and visions of the future, shifting values that have previously been described as incommensurate. When rendered as a fraction, maybe drilling doesn’t seem to be such a big deal: it’s only one thousandth of the park, right? When oil development took the form of el uno por mil, it became possible to have your environment and exploit it too.

Conclusion

Quantification and formal representation are essential for the production of rationalized processes of environmental control that are an increasingly central feature of neo-extractive environmental assemblages in Ecuador and beyond (Lampland 2010: 379). One concern I hope to raise through this discussion is that numbers are mobilized as a means to foreclose, rather than to open conversation. My intent is not to argue that calculations such as el uno por mil are necessarily false in a normative sense, but rather to point to their contingency, to their emergence from specific expert practices that make assumptions about harm, the future, and value that are fundamentally undetermined.

I have placed this example in relation to the work of Ballestero, Merry, Verran, and others in order to show that numbers do a particular kind of labor in rationalizing a shift like that contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative. Numbers do work here that rhetoric alone cannot. El uno por mil is less about a numerical representation of the impacts of industry on the ground than it is about translating between different domains of value, values that are fundamentally contingent on the incalculable and contested notions of “natural” wealth, the possibilities of the future, and what a good life might be. El uno por mil—a metric that at once encapsulates and minimizes the negative impacts of oil drilling—is not simply descriptive but is a significant means of intervening in life in the Amazon.

Numbers are potent political tools of persuasion (Poovey 1998). Intertwined with expert domains, quantification can give the illusion that individual judgment has been eclipsed in the standardization of specific techniques of calculation (Porter 1996). When calculations are extracted from complex technical processes and taken as uncomplicated natural objects, numbers become powerful tools to shape public debate and understanding about how oil acts on environments. Because the uno por mil calculation retains the persuasion of expert domains, it gives the sense of being simply a reflection of reality rather than a partial, contingent assessment of the effects of drilling in the ITT. The number seemingly addresses these concerns by suggesting that they are already under control (the impact can be bounded), and are so minimal as to not merit further investigation (the scale is of an immediate local limit). Crucial decisions over what counts as harm from oil, and the relationships between undetermined spaces of local impact and national benefit, are masked as the number is used to justify decisions to drill. El uno por mil provided a means of ostensibly translating between these different registers of value, making it possible to value the ITT block for both the money brought by extracting its oil and the preservation of its ecological rarity. This article is a call to be attentive to the worldly effects of numerical claims, especially when trading in conflicting domains of value in order to justify extractive futures.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am grateful to the editors of Environment and Society and the comments of three anonymous reviewers, as well as to Margaret Wiener, Peter Redfield, Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, Paolo Bocci, and Vincent Joos, for their help with this text. This research was generously supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the UNC Graduate School.

NOTES
1

Marked by a series of relevant events, movements, and international encounters, including, for example, US environmental protests in the 1960s, Earth Day in 1970, the UN Earth Summit in Rio di Janeiro in 1990, among others.

2

All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated.

3

Facts have not always been constituted in this manner. In Lorraine Daston’s (1991) reconstruction of knowledge production in the seventeenth century, she contends that the notion of facts as detached from theory emerged following the insistence of philosophers like Francis Bacon that theoretical universals did not emerge on their own but had to be constructed through careful observations of particulars (Poovey 1998: 8). In a similar vein, Peter Dear (2009) argues that it was through experimentation in the same period that particular events came to have new significance. A singular experience could not be evident, but it could provide evidence (Poovey 1998).

4

I refer here to Western conceptualizations of the Amazon, within which I include the uno por mil argument of Correa. Although beyond the scope of this discussion, non-Western understandings of Amazonian nature do not hinge on the same numerical understandings of value.

5

Production costs average $39 per barrel.

6

See also Shaylih Muehlmann’s (2012) description of the “enumerative malaise” felt by many Cucapá people of northern Mexico and the local identification of water, species, and language as three uncountable domains of experience.

7

Buen vivir formulates an alternative to conventional Western development models (predicated on economic growth, material accumulation, and the mercantilization of nature) in order to construct a more just society, including questions of equity and inclusion for social services, education, culture, housing, biodiversity, and natural resources (Acosta 2009; Gudynas 2011a, 2011b). In 2008, buen vivir was incorporated into the Ecuadorian Constitution as a development paradigm (“Constitución Del Ecuador” 2008, Art. 275–278).

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  • PooveyMary. 1998. A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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  • PorterTheodore. 1996. Trust in Numbers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • PorterTheodore. 2000. “Life Insurance, Medical Testing, and the Management of Mortality.” In Biographies of Scientific Objects ed. Lorraine Daston226246. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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    • Export Citation
  • PowerMichael. 1999. The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Presidencia de la República del Ecuador. 2013. Cadena Nacional sobre iniciativa Yasuní ITT.YouTube video 22:39. Speech given by President Rafael Correa on 15 August. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFc1topfPqM.

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  • RafflesHugh. 2002. In Amazonia: A Natural History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Rainforest Concern. 2016. “Why Are Rainforests Important?http://www.rainforestconcern.org/rainforest_facts/why_are_rainforests_important/ (accessed 13 July 2016).

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    • Export Citation
  • ReidWalterHarold MooneyAngela CropperDoris CapistranoStephen R. CarpenterKanchan ChopraPartha Dasgupta et al. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press. http://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.356.aspx.pdf.

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  • RilesAnnelise. 2006. Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  • RivalLaura. 2010. “Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative: The Old and New Values of Petroleum.” Ecological Economics 70 (2): 358365.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RobsonKeith. 1992. “Accounting Numbers as ‘Inscription’: Action at a Distance and the Development of Accounting.” Accounting Organizations and Society 17 (7): 685708.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RoseNikolas and Peter Miller. 2010. “Political Power beyond the State: Problematics of Government.” British Journal of Sociology 61 (s1): 271303.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RuttenbergTara. 2013. “Wellbeing Economics and Buen Vivir: Development Alternatives for Inclusive Human Security.” Praxis: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security 28: 6893.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • San SebastiánMiguel and Juan Antonio Córdoba. 2000. Yana Curi: The Impact of Oil Development on the Health of the People of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Instituto de Epidemiología y Salud Comunitaria “Manuel Amunárriz.” Coca: CICAME.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SchafferSimon. 2007. “‘On Seeing Me Write’: Inscription Devices in the South Seas.” Representations 97 (1): 90122.

  • StaffordCharles. 2010. “Some Qualitative Mathematics in China.” Anthropological Theory 10 (1–2): 8186.

  • StrathernMarilyn. 2000. Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability Ethics and the Academy. London: Routledge.

  • Telégrafo. 2013. “‘Se afectará menos del 1 por mil del Yasuní.’16 August. http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/Econom%C3%ADa/8/se-afectara-menos-del-1-por-mil-del-yasuni.

    • Export Citation
  • ThompsonMary C.Manali Baruah and Edward R. Carr. 2011. “Seeing REDD+ as a Project of Environmental Governance.” Environmental Science & Policy 14 (2): 100110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TorreCarlos de la. 2011. “Corporatism, Charisma, and Chaos: Ecuador’s Police Rebellion in Context.” NACLA Report on the Americas 44 (1): 2532.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Torres del CastilloRosa María. 2014. “El cuento del ‘99% del Yasuní o el Yasuní intacto.’OTRAƎDUCACIONMarch. http://otra-educacion.blogspot.de/2014/03/el-cuento-del-99-del-yasuni-o-el-yasuni.html.

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  • TrinkunasHarold. 2016. “Three Things to Know about the Impact of Low Oil Prices on Latin America.” Brookings Institution17 February. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/02/17/three-things-to-know-about-the-impact-of-low-oil-prices-on-latin-america/.

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  • TsingAnna Lowenhaupt. 2004. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • UrlaJacqueline. 1993. “Cultural Politics in an Age of Statistics: Numbers, Nations, and the Making of Basque Identity.” American Ethnologist 20 (4): 818843.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VallejoMaría CristinaRafael BurbanoFander Falconí and Carlos Larrea. 2015. “Leaving Oil Underground in Ecuador: The Yasuní-ITT Initiative from a Multi-Criteria Perspective.” Ecological Economics 109: 175185.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VerranHelen. 2010. “Number as an Inventive Frontier in Knowing and Working Australia’s Water Resources.” Anthropological Theory 10 (1–2): 171178.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WasserstromRobert and Douglas Southgate. 2013. “Deforestation, Agrarian Reform and Oil Development in Ecuador, 1964–1994.” Natural Resources 4 (1): 3144.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WunderSven. 2015. “Revisiting the Concept of Payments for Environmental Services.” Ecological Economics 117: 234243.

  • Zambrano LozadaNicolas. 2011. Aguinda et al. v. Chevron Corporation. Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbíos.

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Contributor Notes

AMELIA FISKE is a cultural anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Biomedical Ethics at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, Germany. She is currently investigating the social, ethical, and regulatory aspects of citizen science in biomedicine. Her doctoral research addresses contests over harm resulting from oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon, exploring questions of toxicity, uncertainty, and inequality in relation to extraction. E-mail: amfiske@gmail.com

Environment and Society

Advances in Research

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  • PorterTheodore. 1996. Trust in Numbers. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PowerMichael. 1999. The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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  • RafflesHugh. 2002. In Amazonia: A Natural History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Rainforest Concern. 2016. “Why Are Rainforests Important?http://www.rainforestconcern.org/rainforest_facts/why_are_rainforests_important/ (accessed 13 July 2016).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ReidWalterHarold MooneyAngela CropperDoris CapistranoStephen R. CarpenterKanchan ChopraPartha Dasgupta et al. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press. http://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.356.aspx.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RilesAnnelise. 2006. Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  • RivalLaura. 2010. “Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative: The Old and New Values of Petroleum.” Ecological Economics 70 (2): 358365.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RobsonKeith. 1992. “Accounting Numbers as ‘Inscription’: Action at a Distance and the Development of Accounting.” Accounting Organizations and Society 17 (7): 685708.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RoseNikolas and Peter Miller. 2010. “Political Power beyond the State: Problematics of Government.” British Journal of Sociology 61 (s1): 271303.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • RuttenbergTara. 2013. “Wellbeing Economics and Buen Vivir: Development Alternatives for Inclusive Human Security.” Praxis: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security 28: 6893.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • San SebastiánMiguel and Juan Antonio Córdoba. 2000. Yana Curi: The Impact of Oil Development on the Health of the People of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Instituto de Epidemiología y Salud Comunitaria “Manuel Amunárriz.” Coca: CICAME.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SchafferSimon. 2007. “‘On Seeing Me Write’: Inscription Devices in the South Seas.” Representations 97 (1): 90122.

  • StaffordCharles. 2010. “Some Qualitative Mathematics in China.” Anthropological Theory 10 (1–2): 8186.

  • StrathernMarilyn. 2000. Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability Ethics and the Academy. London: Routledge.

  • Telégrafo. 2013. “‘Se afectará menos del 1 por mil del Yasuní.’16 August. http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/Econom%C3%ADa/8/se-afectara-menos-del-1-por-mil-del-yasuni.

    • Export Citation
  • ThompsonMary C.Manali Baruah and Edward R. Carr. 2011. “Seeing REDD+ as a Project of Environmental Governance.” Environmental Science & Policy 14 (2): 100110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TorreCarlos de la. 2011. “Corporatism, Charisma, and Chaos: Ecuador’s Police Rebellion in Context.” NACLA Report on the Americas 44 (1): 2532.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Torres del CastilloRosa María. 2014. “El cuento del ‘99% del Yasuní o el Yasuní intacto.’OTRAƎDUCACIONMarch. http://otra-educacion.blogspot.de/2014/03/el-cuento-del-99-del-yasuni-o-el-yasuni.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TrinkunasHarold. 2016. “Three Things to Know about the Impact of Low Oil Prices on Latin America.” Brookings Institution17 February. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2016/02/17/three-things-to-know-about-the-impact-of-low-oil-prices-on-latin-america/.

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    • Export Citation
  • TsingAnna Lowenhaupt. 2004. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • UrlaJacqueline. 1993. “Cultural Politics in an Age of Statistics: Numbers, Nations, and the Making of Basque Identity.” American Ethnologist 20 (4): 818843.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VallejoMaría CristinaRafael BurbanoFander Falconí and Carlos Larrea. 2015. “Leaving Oil Underground in Ecuador: The Yasuní-ITT Initiative from a Multi-Criteria Perspective.” Ecological Economics 109: 175185.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • VerranHelen. 2010. “Number as an Inventive Frontier in Knowing and Working Australia’s Water Resources.” Anthropological Theory 10 (1–2): 171178.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WasserstromRobert and Douglas Southgate. 2013. “Deforestation, Agrarian Reform and Oil Development in Ecuador, 1964–1994.” Natural Resources 4 (1): 3144.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WunderSven. 2015. “Revisiting the Concept of Payments for Environmental Services.” Ecological Economics 117: 234243.

  • Zambrano LozadaNicolas. 2011. Aguinda et al. v. Chevron Corporation. Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbíos.