Journal (Part Two)
I have ordered the ravioli?
Writer, adventurer and three-time Guinness World
Record holder Dan Buettner recently spent some time studying the
ecologically challenged Galápagos Islands. Here, from
his journal, are some impressions.
I ate a bowl of tomato pasta at Las 4 Linternas Restaurant in the
Galápagos Islands, I helped destroy delicate ecosystems and
devastate the animal population. Forever.
So how does eating a bowl of pasta wreak so much havoc?
It didn't even have meatballs.
Well, imagine what it takes to get those noodles from
600 miles away on the coast of Ecuador ... to the Galápagos
Islands ... onto the island of Santa Cruz ... into the city of Puerto
Ayora ... over to Las 4 Linternas Restaruant ... and finally to
Just take the tail end of the trip.
The cook who made my dinner came to the islands from
Ecuador's mainland because the jobs pay 75 percent better here than
they do on the mainland. He came with his wife and four children.
His children all need to go to school, which requires teachers,
janitors and a principal. They also like ice cream on Sundays, which
means they need dentists, too.
The waiter who served my pasta, a good-looking Ecuadorian
boy wearing Tommy Hilfiger pants and a tight T-shirt, didn't move
from the mainland. He's a Galápagos native (Galapagueño).
But, his taste for hip clothes helped fuel the demand for a new
clothing store that opened on Main Street.
There, you can buy all the latest fashions
at prices well above what most people can afford. My waiter can
earn the money for his jeans by working longer hours. But his friend,
a fellow Galapagueño who catches fish for a living, has to
take more fish so he can pay for these fashions.
The waters around the Galápagos are already
over-fished. You can always make more jeans. The fish will run out.
his Web site.)
The restaurant owner, an older lady with jet-black
hair who peers at her clientele from behind bifocals, is earning
good money by serving tourists like me. She's made enough money
that she was just able to buy a new car, which was shipped in from
the mainland. For decades, she was content to walk from place to
place. Now, as many of her friends are getting cars, she is, too.
Puerto Ayoro, which used to be a quiet seaside town,
now roars with motors and bellowing horns. The smell of exhaust
is starting to overpower the delicate fragrance of the flame trees
that line the streets.
The tomato, onions and garlic in my pasta all had
to be imported from the mainland, too. Along with this produce came
some of the 60 introduced species that entered the Galápagos
These species, mostly insects but also seeds and small
reptiles, are slowly but surely beating out the species that have
lived in the Galápagos for hundreds of thousands of years.
Introduced blackberry plants are destroying rare native miconia
plants. Mainland fire ants are infesting tortoise nests and killing
No one even knows what the newly arrived frog will
do to the ecosystem.
I will pay for my pasta using Ecuadorian Sucres, which
I bought with U.S. dollars at the bank. The bank employs 63 people,
who, like everyone in the restaurant, hotel, taxi, shipping, grocery,
clothing and service industries will need shelter, electricity,
water, food and a place to dispose of their waste.
All of this adds up.
There are now 20,000 people living on this tiny, fragile
archipelago. It's the $100 million that 62,000 other foreign tourists
and I will spend this year in the Galápagos that allows these
people to make a living.
tourists like me didn't come to the Galápagos, chances are
most residents would move back to the mainland. This would make
it easier for the creatures that belong here to survive. As it is,
the human population is growing faster here than any place else
in Ecuador and the populations of many native plants and
animals are plummeting.
At this rate, the question is not whether or not the
Galápagos will lose its uniqueness. It's a question of when.
This all begs the question: Should we have even come
here at all? Or, perhaps a better question is: Should I have ordered
Read Dan's February
entry, and join us next month for another journal excerpt