304 pages, maps
The world perceives the Galapagos as a pristine natural environment, famed for its rare species of flora and fauna. This book takes a hard look at the real story: that, due to a number of modern-day issues, the islands are in jeopardy from poaching, overdevelopment (there are 30,000 residents living on the Galapagos, with the number expected to surpass 50,000 by 2020 - a huge problem, since only 3 percent of the land is private; the rest is national park), invasive species, increased visitation, federal regulations vs. the needs of local fishermen, etc.
The book is organised in chapters, each of which focuses on a specific person or people working in the field to either to exploit or protect the natural resources in the Galapagos: modern-day pirates who poach for endangered marine species; environmental activists who patrol the protected waters to catch these outlaws in the act; Galapagos National Park guides who are either university-trained nationalists - or creationists - as a new wave of biblical literalists descends upon the islands; biologists who study weird species such as the flightless cormorant, the blue-footed booby, and the marine iguana; fishermen who can earn more money taking tourists out in their skiffs than drift net fishing; and, tour operators who continue to launch illegal ventures into the Galapagos, such as skydiving in groups of a hundred jumpers in the name of ecotourism.
The story unveiled, then, is the clash in values between these sometimes quirky individuals and their activities. This mosaic of stories, told with wit, passion, and grace, serves as a microcosm of the Earth itself, a perfect example of how the natural world can be easily thrown off balance.
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