Galapaganean locals paint canvas shopping bags at an anti-plastic bag campaign we helped out at
From September to December 2008, the vegan conservation group Sea Shepherd waged a fight to protect the ecosystem and all the animals of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. This blog recounts what happened in that time, serving for the group.
The post below describes one of the biggest arguments the locals had against Sea Shepherd’s involvement in Galapagos.
My goal was to make sure no more animals would have to share the fate of my poor Nikki Wolf. We’re currently working with locals to try to find a sensible way to raise funding for the building of a proper permanent clinic/hospital.
There was just one more major obstacle in the way of massive public support for the things we were trying to do.
Argument 4: Other Social Problems
This argument came up every time the issue of trying to promote animal welfare came up to an educated audience with means.
4: “Save the ecosystem?! How dare you try to help animals and the environment before solving all the human issues like education!”
Ironically, the people making this argument actually never seemed to work to help any human social issues themselves. Regardless, the perception was that we shouldn’t attempt to help the animals or creatures of the ecosystem before all the social problems of the humans are solved first. The truth, of course, is that protecting the ecosystem protects the Galapaganeans, because these islands are only worth anything to people and business if the ecosystem stays healthy. If tourists see cats and dogs decimating the ecosystem (which they’re starting to do more and more each day), or if the poachers kill the last of the sharks and dolphins, then there’s no reasons for people or businesses to come here, and the residents would have no income.
But, to take these concerns seriously, Sea Shepherd had to prove itself.
Solution 4: Education
SSCS has been planning a conservation-oriented education package, working with Galapaganean residents and local teachers to formulate it. It’s not something Sea Shepherd would ever be expected to do anywhere else in the world, but the locals must be onboard if conservation is to work here.
Much of the time, children of the Galapagos only have people’s examples to go by, when it comes to conservation. And people for the past decade here have been working on building their fortunes, bringing larger and larger ships and often letting the ecosystem take a backseat to trying to feed their families, which is understandable. The good news is that the new generation of kids growing up now are absolutely open to hearing about how their success is tied to a healthy environment.
As an example of this, one of the campaigns I volunteered on was by a local group called Ambiente Independiente, a group which does a lot of local environmental work. During one of their anti-plastics campaigns, they had volunteers coming from everywhere including the CDF, SSCS, WildAid, and concerned citizens. Ambiente Independiente gave a presentation on plastics and families and children all came and stayed to watch the whole thing. Teenage boys even started vying for control over paints they wanted to use to paint canvas shopping bags, so that they wouldn’t have to use plastic shopping bags anymore.
Ambiente Independiente produced a presentation and campaign against plastics that are destroying the Galapapagos.
People of all different backgrounds got together and organized among themselves to help teach their fellow Galapaganeans how to protect the islands against human interference.
Children, adolescents, and adults got into the spirit of learning and working to reduce the ecological impact of human industry.
The work of Ambiente Independiente is an example of how local concerned individuals can change a lot of important minds.
Likewise, locals are essential in getting the animal hospital/clinic off the ground. For construction logistics, methodology and policy planning, and all other aspects of getting a clinic off the ground, locals are the ones who are making the project possible.
Next week’s post will cover some of the anti-poaching effort of SSCS in this time.