Ecuador prides itself on being pro-environment. Its constitution gives nature special rights. But Ecuador is a relatively poor country that could desperately use the money from the oil.
In 2007, Ecuador's president proposed a way around the dilemma: Ecuador would promise to leave the forest untouched if countries in the developed world would promise to give Ecuador half the value of the oil — $3.6 billion.
"He proposed that we want to keep the oil there," says Ivonne A-Baki, who works for Ecuador's government. "What we need in exchange is compensation." These days, A-Baki is traveling the world, asking for contributions. She chooses her words carefully....
"The joke we always used to always talk about was, you know, 'Give me the money or I'll shoot the trees,' " says Billy Pizer, a former deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy under President Obama.