For the work we do, there are a few places always on my radar. I do not mean some search engine tool for getting all the news on such and such. I mean radar in the sense of, what really matters? Why? When and where did it start mattering for me? September, 1983 at JFK Airport is at the very top of the list, believe it or not, but I will save that story for another day. August, 1988 at Cornell University is near the top, as is February, 1995 in Costa Rica. The Galapagos Islands joined the list in July, 1998 when I had my first work assignment there. Ever since, I have had WWDD? buzzing in my thoughts, something like a bumper sticker in the back of my mind that cannot and will not go away.
This story from 2000 is a reminder of one my my subsequent visits.
I was there to facilitate a workshop with representatives of the tourism and fishing sectors. Moments before entering the town hall where I was to open the workshop, a local friend caught my attention and directed me to a new location (inside their residence). No explanation until the door was shut: the fishermen were angry, and looking for a scapegoat. I might be a target because all my previous work had been on behalf of sustainable tourism development in the Islands. So, better safe than sorry.
I did not conduct my workshop. Instead of my becoming a scapegoat that day, tortoises did. I left and it was a couple years before I would be back again doing the same work, and wrestling with the same particular issue: overfishing (a topic discussed here more than once already).
The image above is the cover page of a presentation I made the last time I was in the Islands. It is a reminder of the answer to the WWDD? question, which (for me) is: study, plan, implement. Of course, solutions do not always materialize. But sometimes they do. Speaking with Reyna recently, I have been gratified to learn that the issue has been mostly resolved. More on that in a subsequent post, hopefully from Reyna herself.
This post is in response to a takeaway from a student in Brown University’s Social Entrepreneurship course, wanting to hear of cases where conservation is perceived as being imposed from the outside from the local’s perspective. In this case (as described in the Guardian article), while the fishermen are “local” there is reasonable debate about what local means, since the islands have only been inhabited by humans for a few generations. I do not pretend to give an answer to a question, just a pointer to a case. And if we are so fortunate, some future updates from the field from Reyna (her giveaways).