Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saving Galápagos

Last week I watched a PBS show on Galápagos Islands, which reveals how the booming tourism is threatening the endemic species. Tonight ABC News took a similar look at the issue -

Today, the Galapagos face a different kind of threat: tourism. While the Galapagos hosted 10,000 visitors 30 years ago, last year there were 161,000 visitors. They brought in approximately $350 million, a vast sum for this struggling country.

To support tourism, the local population has grown from a modest 5,000 to 30,000.

Unbeknownst to many tourists, the island does not have a sewage system. Sewage is left to seep into the ground and the sea. With the spike in tourism, the Galapagos' pristine landscape is in danger of being transformed.

These facts are really frightening. If tourism and development continue to grow, this "living laboratory of evolution" would eventually be destroyed. My Ecuadorian friend Cristina, a scientist, has been to the islands twice. She told me how amazing the wildlifes were, but at the same time lamented on the negative impacts of tourism. I definitely want to go there to see the species, but I can't accept the fact that my presence will do any harm to the islands.

Fortunately, Ecuador has started exploring clean energy to deal with the air pollution. For instance, wind turbines were installed earlier this year. The government proposed to declare the islands fossil fuel free by 2015. They also made regulations to limit the number of tourists. Hopefully this exotic place on earth will return to a more peaceful time.

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