The Galapagos is an ecosystem and geological site that all biologists dream to visit, along with nearly everyone interested in experiencing its unique beauty and confounding endemism. I had the opportunity to visit during the semester for three weeks studying marine biology; one week a cruise around the majority of the islands and two weeks living with a family and studying at the San Francisco/GAIAS campus on San Cristobal. While I never had the passion to go into marine biology studies I’m sure you can imagine how wonderful this course was and how it sparked my interest and formed a love for the ocean and its processes. The ocean is such an endless and enormous ecosystem, we haven’t even scratched the surface of truly understanding all it has to offer, along with the creatures that call it home. I have an enormous respect for the people who dedicate their lives to exploring our oceans and more importantly are working on fighting for its freedom and security against the fishing, oil, and dumping industries. I believe in our lifetime the ocean will see drastic changes...we already are. With overfishing, pollution, and a lack of control it is the hardest area of biology to maintain. People seem to think that because it is so big and things just “disappear” into it that it doesn’t feel the effects of human consumption. Living in the Galapagos I learned the reality of living so closely with the sea, the necessity of its habitants to rely on healthy resources and stock, and how issues thousands of miles away can effect places in front of your door. To spend any time in the Galapagos is a treat that not many people get to experience, getting to go back a second time was something even I couldn’t imagine. I know I will return someday to the islands but in how much time I don’t know, regardless it will forever hold a special place in my heart and strong ties to my spirituality and memories during the semester and after with my parents.
After my parents left I stayed with my Galapaganian family for a week longer and got to experience the solitude of the islands. One of the most amazing experiences I had was camping alone at Puerto Chino, a tranquil beach 45 minutes across the highlands from the main Puerto Baquero Marinez. For at least 14 hours I had the secluded beach to myself. I couldn’t help but think how this was the definition of solitude. Tent camping, alone, on a secluded beach, on the Galapagos Islands. It felt raw and powerful. There is something so spiritual about living with the sun and moon. At one point with the sun in front of me and full moon behind me I swear I felt the equator pass straight through my body and physics and creation flow through my veins. It makes you appreciate life for everything that it is. All beings involved and all experiences, good and bad, that have shaped it. But then again, what other choice do we have than to accept what is in front of us and appreciate this life? People get so caught up thinking we have to seize every moment because life is “short.” But I think we should appreciate it for reasons other than time. Life isn’t short, although it can be for some individuals, it can also be quite long, and its getting longer. 80+ years is a lot of time to make something of yourself and experience everything fully. Rather I think life is unexpected, and it is for this reason we must take chances. Surprise ourselves.
I decided to make the Galapagos it’s own blog because it is such a special place. Each day that passes on the islands I find myself feeling torn between feeling more connected and more secluded from the world. The biologist in me cant help but connect everything I see towards the basis of scientific theory and evolution. The philosopher in me finds solitude and a peaceful bliss at slipping away from the outside world and falls easily into island life. So far from family and what I’ve built my life around but so close to the land and myself. I have been blessed to be able to have visited the islands twice in a short amount of time, and have thus learned a lot about the ecosystem, people, and uncertain future of the archipelago. Many people don’t realize the challenges that face these geological gems. Growing populations and tourism exploits the resources and land that is so susceptible to degradation. Increased fishing, development, and demands of tourism challenges the islands purity and makes outside reliance a necessity. For the Galapagos and for all sacred areas of this world I urge people as citizens of the world to be conscious of their impact. Conservation is not just an idea, it must be an action. Changing our thoughts about sustainability is the first step but living a minimal impact lifestyle is crucial to saving these ecosystems for the future. Take responsibility of your waste, resource usage, and consumption. We are all responsible for protecting the worlds beauty. As for the Galapagos, if you visit, make it a point to ask where the food and water is coming from, what happens to the garbage, how fuel gets to the islands, what energy source fuels the electricity, ect. Awareness makes this issue real and aids by putting pressure on the organizations that control those resources but also responsibility on other tourists to realize the impact of enjoyment. I wrote this next paragraph during my last few days during the first time I was on the islands studying marine biology.
A bittersweet goodbye...
The Galapagos will be one of the hardest places I've ever had to leave, sadly the possibility of never returning seems much more realistic than any other destination I've given farewell too. Many places go in and out in your life but usually always I feel some pull that either the time I had was the time I needed or my life will certainly cross paths with it again. The Galapagos are another experience entirely, the magic of these islands pulls you in wondering if I ever would feel like a certain amount of time is sufficient. The future is very uncertain for many of the islands, tourism, overfishing, global warming... time will tell whether we have the capability of loving the earth over money and sacrificing greed for appreciation. Nevertheless we mustn't forget the power of the natural world, and as if we had any other choice, Mother Nature always wins.
So whether you are a mathematician, theorist, history buff, philosopher, coffee aficionado, dreamer, literary genius, student, daughter, husband, friend, biologist, reader, listener, believer, whatever, we are all part of the same world and must all work together to preserve what we have. Each and every type of person uses the world in one way or another that has a greater influence than you imagine. Be one. Embrace people, culture, love. Acknowledge differences but connect yourself with positivity and the world. Whether you want to believe it or not you are a child of the same planet as everyone else and must work with your brothers and sisters to keep what we have.