Galapagos at the Crossroads: Pirates, Biologists, Tourists, and Creationists Battle for Darwin's Cradle of Evolution Hardcover – May 19 2009
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"A modern portrait of the islands... as tourists, fishermen, and immigrants exact their toll on the fragile ecosystem." —Conservation Magazine (Society for Conservation Biology)
"A fantastic tutorial for anyone curious about the natural and human health of the island state today." — Jon Bowermaster, filmmaker, photographer, and writer
"An outstanding saga of a threatened ecosystem...specific and revealing ... a 'must' for any library serious about science and ecological issues." — Midwest Book Review
"Portrays today's Galapagos caught in a deadly vortex of interests that may destroy one of the world's last Edens."
— Broadway Books
"Explores the changing landscape of one of the most interesting and biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth."
— Willamette Week
"If you are looking for an example of the battle between the natural environment and human encroachment, this book provides the perfect case."
— The Andersen Library Blog
"A vivid, lyrical account of natural wonders and growing threats...invasive species, illegal fishing, political corruption, lack of education, eco-tourism." — The Denver Post
"Bassett ... uses science, journalism and personal story to illuminate a species ... as a barometer for how the planet is faring." — The Register-Guard
"Absorbing and convincing..." — The News-Reporter
"...could have easily been called Galápagos in the Crosshairs. She makes a passionate case for the preservation of these islands." —American Scientist
"Takes a hard look at the real story: Due to a number of modern-day issues, the islands are in jeopardy." —Cosis.net
About the Author
Carol Ann Bassett is the author of A Gathering of Stones and Organ Pipe. She has contributed pieces to The New York Times, The Nation, Mother Jones, Science, The Los Angeles Times, and Conde Nast Traveler.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
She paints a convincing picture that the Galapagos stand at a crossroads of degradation, overdevelopment, and disneyfication versus some kind of use that will both sustain some people who live there, preserve its unique living environment, and make it available for both scientists studying it and outsiders who come to learn its special lessons. In whichever of these scenarios unfolds, the people now there to whom she introduces us will play a leading role.
One of the themes that the author repeats is that education is an important solution. If the recent Ecuadorian migrants---presumably poor people (many of whom are illegal)---, who come from the underdeveloped mainland for economic opportunity, only better understood the evolutionary nature of the islands, they would not so abuse the resources. Some are Evangelicos, converted Protestants, and employed by the Park as guides. These are ideologically opposed to the ideas of evolution. Others along with old-timers, who lived off the immense profits of now fished out sea cucumbers, feel entitled to harvest what may have once enriched them. They now have to keep fishing or harvesting endangered species in order to sustain their families, and anyone denies them access is the enemy. And corruption enters. A law meant to support locals is subverted. Fishermen riot to do as they wish and get away with it. Large tour operators have access to government higher ups and flout regulations. The park responding to pressure recruits improperly trained fishermen as guides. The park has insufficient resources to patrol for longline poachers and uses the Sea Shepard Society---eco pirates--to help until politics intervenes. The Ecuadorian navy itself poaches. If the older generation is resistant then their children may be educated to understand the uniqueness of where they live. They are a hope of the future.
What a mess. But there are heroes on the other side. Carol Ann gives us attractive sketches of biologists, knowledgeable guides, photographers dive masters, and old timers who really care about preserving the Galapagos. The pictures she draws are much more likeable than those of Edward Hoagland renown caricaturist of the New Yorker whose verbal images often had demeaning twists. She acknowledges her subjects' human foibles but brings their humanity and caring alive. While some of these heroes are pessimistic about the future of the Galapagos, others are not only hopeful but dedicated in the face of what might seem overwhelming odds of overpopulation, corruption, and economic pressure.
Carol Ann has done a service in writing this book. We can romanticize about the pristine nature of the Galapagos and visit them for our own pleasure and edification, but like her we now understand how tentative those privileges are. Lonesome George, the last of his kind, is a metaphor. May those who keep fighting for the Galapagos have offspring. Carol Ann's volume is one such. Thank you.
Charlie Fisher Emeritus Professor and author of Dismantling Discontent: Buddha's Way Through Darwin's World
I have to agree with the author that the most likely outcome in the Galapagos is that we end up with a Disneyfied "GalapagosLand" instead of a truly pristine preserve.
My main complaint is that it read more like a series of separately-published articles which means that there's some repetition.
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