Make Charles Darwin proud; save the Galapagos from your living room
The Galapagos Islands, off the west coast of Ecuador, are among the most important natural strongholds on our planet. The diversity of life here – hammerhead sharks, Galapagos penguins, and blue-footed boobies among them – prompted Charles Darwin 150 years ago to develop his theory about the origin and evolution of species. It has changed the way we look at nature forever.
Today, we are at another crossroads of nature, indeed of all mankind. Biodiversity continues to collapse at an alarming rate.
The COVID-19 pandemic had underlined that we do not live in a world disconnected from nature. On the contrary, our world is a unique ecosystem, increasingly closely connected. The destruction of forests and other natural life forms, coupled with the extensive trade in wildlife, has brought the risk of regular pandemics to our doorstep.
The same pandemic has frozen much of the world’s funding for natural spaces, many of which depend heavily on income from tourism. The Galapagos Islands are among the most affected by the near-global lockdown. It is an economy heavily dependent on tourism, receiving 250,000 visitors per year, a business that has provided jobs for 80% of its population. In 2020, revenues have fallen to around US $ 50 million, less than half of what they would be in a typical year.
Alice Barlett and her family, like many of the other 33,000 inhabitants of the islands, depend heavily on tourism not only to earn money, but also to raise awareness about the protection and preservation of marine life. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on his work. âSince March, we have had many cancellations and refunds. When the marine reserve reopened in July we wanted to start working with the few tourists there were, but all the dive boats and snorkelers struggled to get insurance to renew our patents in the national park until ‘in September. Since then, we have been working with very few visitors, âshe said.
But there is hope. UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative is working with the government of the archipelago and the University of San Francisco in Quito on a crowdfunding campaign to support local communities.
Anyone can send a donation to help conservationists continue their work during the pandemic, which is sure to continue until 2021.
âActing now to protect the Galapagos and develop the tools necessary to regain balance with nature is a necessity, not a wish but an obligation. The campaign designs a strategy to support the Galapagos and calls on the citizens of the world to support them, âsaid former president of WWF and IUCN, and former Ecuadorian environment minister Yolanda Kakabadse.
A long-term vision
The campaign will also focus on longer-term transformation, greening local businesses to have less negative impact on nature and the climate, and become less dependent on tourism. In this way, anyone in the world can help save these amazing islands, not just from current and future threats. The Galapagos Islands must also counter the negative effects of climate change and introduced invasive species such as rats and goats.
It may be part of a new shift in thinking about nature, that our economy, GDP, and major economic sectors are not part of a man-made world separate from nature. They are actually part of our global ecosystem, and if we damage our nature, we also damage our economy. The World Economic Forum has highlighted biodiversity loss as a significant economic risk in the next five to ten years. Our economic paradigms must be based on sound ecological principles. Darwin would surely have approved!
âThe only way to support conservation is to support the people who are the first line of defense of natural heritage. It is a call for collective action that generates will and support for all in Ecuador and around the world who love and support the Galapagos, âsaid Galapagos Board Chairman Norman Wray.
But islanders cannot do it alone and need support to overcome this pandemic and transform their businesses into sustainable ones.
âThe COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for humanity. We are at the tipping point which requires not only action in environmental terms, but also social safety nets for the most vulnerable people. We need cohesive, collective and immediate action and the ‘Save the Galapagos, Empower Its People’ crowdfunding campaign is an example of what we can do as a global community, âsaid UNDP Resident Representative in Ecuador, Matilde Mordt.
It’s time to show our support for these communities by sharing this campaign or making a personal donation. Even from inside your own home, you can make a positive contribution!