According to the guidebooks, Ecuador has a bad rap for environmental issues. Hillsides are deforested, rainforest is exploited, and natural habitats for animals are destroyed by money-hungry corporations. My experience here, though, seems to show that somebody cares about the environment, which is a nice thing to see. Everywhere Ellen and I have been in Ecuador has been plastered with billboards and signs urging the population to protect the land. Unlike in Canada, where the government seems to encourage raping the land to make money, it’s refreshing to see that Ecuador’s politicians are at least paying lip service to environmental protection.

“Water is Life.” So say the signs through the mountains discouraging locals from pouring waste in the rivers and streams. In Colombia the waterways were common dumping grounds for garbage. People just chucked their trash wherever they happened to be at the time. Colombia still has guerrillas in the mountains, and the government is focused on fighting insurgents rather than caring for the land. Here in Ecuador, the government would like to remind you that life is safer now, and consequently the people should make the effort to care for their country a little, too.

"No to Indiscriminate Fishing" - A sign in a village near a river.

“No to Indiscriminate Fishing” – A sign in a village near a river.

“We are the Generation of the Revolution.” I saw this tagline everywhere, from the coast to the mountains and in all the towns and cities between. It featured on billboards throughout the country, letting Ecuadorians know how much better they have it than in the past, and what improvements they can make for their children. Quality education, safe roads, living with dignity, access to health care – all these things are new for Ecuador, and the government doesn’t want anyone to forget it.

It may all be propaganda, political posturing, and empty words, but it’s heartening to see the signs around the country that somebody cares enough to keep this place beautiful. Protect the water. Don’t overfish the rivers or seas. Save the old-growth trees. Use resources wisely. Give your children a country that’s cleaner and safer than the one your parents left you. These are messages I wish Canadian politicians would endorse and share with the country’s people. Maybe one day, these values will be so ingrained in global culture that the billboards will be quaint and unnecessary. I hope my children’s generation will roll their eyes at the signs and wonder why anybody would need to be reminded of the obvious. But for now, when I see the signs, I’ll smile.

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