Jon Bowermaster has written a very thoughtful post today entitled “What Would Darwin Think?” that takes a hard look at the impact of man on the Galapagos Islands, a place that is forever linked to the naturalist who developed the Theory of Evolution.
As Jon notes, last week was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin, and many around the globe took time to acknowledge the day, myself included. Lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding Darwin Day however, is that the Galapagos, a place that he made famous, now finds its environment in danger because of the encroachment of man on that place. According to Jon, in the past ten years the population of the island has risen from about 1500 people to a permanent settlement of more than 25,000 on Santa Cruz, the largest of the islands. All of those people, in a place that can’t naturally sustain them, is taking its toll in more ways than one and Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador, is taking steps to limit access to the islands in order to protect the place that has become known as Darwin’s Laboratory.
The Galapagos Archipelago is located about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, and consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller ones, and dozens of islets. The place became famous when Darwin wrote his book The Origin of Species, in which he talked about the diversity of life in the Galapagos, when noting how the same species evolved in unique ways on the different islands. That legacy has led to it becoming a popular place for adventure travelers, looking to experience that diversity of life for themselves.
So? What would Darwin think today? Would he be horrified by our impact on these remote places? Would he be fascinated to see how the creatures on the Galapagos would react to man? It’s hard to know for sure, but an upcoming film that Jon is working on will attempt to look at that very question. It certainly is an interesting question to speculate on.
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