For anyone involved in nature conservation it is all too easy to focus on negative stories. Endangered species are facing an increasing number and intensity of threats, and funds for conservation work are becoming increasingly scarce. The public is now bombarded with so many messages and asks that it is becoming harder to get their attention, and to persuade them that your cause is worth supporting or that they need to take action. While the temptation is to turn to shock and ‘doom and gloom’ messages, these don’t seem to be working any more. There will always be a place for them, but it’s time to start being more optimistic.
Last week GCT’s Jen Jones and Clare Simm attended the Conservation Optimism Summit which brought together a group of like-minded people to share ideas as to how we can stop focussing on the negatives, and start celebrating the successes. Thankfully for us, the Islands have produced a myriad of examples. While there are many threats facing the fragile ecosystems of Galapagos, there is also a whole host of amazing people working hard to prevent those threats from having devastating effects.
GCT support a wide range of projects in the Islands focussing on science and conservation, but also education and sustainability. One message that resonated throughout the Conservation Optimism Summit was the fact that we refer to young people as the leaders of the future but, in fact, they can be the leaders of today.
We take this message seriously and alongside traditional conservation education both in the UK and in Galapagos, we support projects where young people have an impact. For example, students are now contributing to the Galapagos giant tortoise tracking research that we support (which was featured in the final episode of the recent BBC Galapagos series). As part of the outreach activities associated with the project, students collect tortoise dung from the field and then identify the seeds found in it, including native and invasive seeds. This data then feeds into the research of the scientists who, amongst other things, are looking at the role that tortoises play in the environment.
Another project that will be supporting budding conservationists is in its early days but will be part of GCT’s new plastics programme to address the damaging effects of disposable plastics in Galapagos. A ‘Plastic Responsible’ campaign is being set up on San Cristobal island with the aim to change consumer and vendor attitudes towards disposable plastic use, and will be managed by local community group GECO but a dedicated youth group will design and drive the project forward, including educating younger children. The youth group will test a range of practical campaign methods in the Galapagos Islands whilst aiming to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags on San Cristobal island. Methods will include setting up plastic reduction school brigades to promote family plastic reduction pledges and taking part in scientific beach surveys and clean ups.
Local young people are needed to continue the wave of good news stories coming out of Galapagos, such as the fact that the population of the mangrove finch, a critically endangered species, has increased by a third in the last three years or that a gecko thought to be extinct was found on Rabida after invasive rats were eradicated from the island. By involving young Galapagueños and Ecuadorians, these projects not only allow them to help conserve the Islands today, but give them the skills, knowledge and inspiration to preserve Galapagos for the future.
Please help us to continue to inspire young people on the Islands by supporting our work!