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 analyzes more of the arguments the locals had against Sea Shepherd operating in the Galapagos, and how the plan adjusted accordingly.
This next argument is also quite interesting. It’s similar to the first, but angers people in a different and important way.
Argument 2: Poverty
2: “You rich gringos come here and antagonize all the poor locals who are just trying to make a living!”
The perception is that Sea Shepherd is trying to shut down poor people from making any living. Of course, this is also fascinatingly far from the truth. When Sean O’Hearn made his busts, the people he targeted were the crime bosses. Chinese businessmen, military commanders, high ranking politicians. The Sea Shepherd organization has zero interest in shutting down poor people (that and I was pretty miserably poor compared to anyone I was trying to oppose). But, the PERCEPTION that we do is very important, because so many people WANT to believe it.
When O’Hearn was initially deported from Ecuador, it was because the President heard that O’Hearn was kicking down the doors of impoverished fishermen and stealing their fish so they couldn’t feed their families. Now, it may seem obvious that such a rumor – that the head of a major international NGO would be spending his time going around stealing from the poor – would require some fact checking. But the idea that this rich American was going around pushing his weight on penniless, helpless Ecuadorians was so attractive that the President didn’t bother to check up on it. When the truth came out that O’Hearn was a humble man married to an Ecuadorian woman and that the couple had a two-year old child together, the President lost face because of his impetuousness, further cooling relations between Sea Shepherd and Ecuador.
The point is, this is an extremely powerful perception. One that wasn’t going to be easily overcome. To address it, I had to spend time being taken on tours of the ghettos of the Galapagos. I didn’t even know what I wanted to accomplish there initially, but I had to at least see the poverty and examine it.