The Butterfly Effect – Why should we care about Galapagos?

Our growing disconnect with the environment

We are increasingly isolated from the natural world and are spending more time indoors than ever. Many factors have contributed to this trend including the rise of technology, increased urbanisation and changing employment patterns. This is most shocking when you look at statistics surrounding children’s engagement with the environment. According to a recent survey, three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates.  

We are also less aware of the processes that result in the production of our food. Mass marketing has given us a false view of how food is produced. Today, a larger quantity of food with a longer shelf life is prioritised over quality products, and consumer convenience drives many choices such as disposable packaging.

(C) Sharon Johnson

GCT works to engage local children and communities with nature in several ways, such as working with Ecology Project International’s ‘Mola Mola’ youth club, pictured here. © Sharon Johnson

As we become more isolated from nature, we also become more isolated from the knock-on effects of our actions on the environment. The most obvious example would be the consumption of plastic, which inevitably ends up in our rivers and seas. We are not spending as much time outdoors to witness these changes to the environment, and therefore we are in danger of letting it continue. Out of sight, out of mind.

How does this all relate to Galapagos and why should I care?

Despite the fact that the Galapagos Islands are over 6000km away, natural networks, such as global trade winds or ocean currents, link our actions in Europe to the climate and biodiversity of the whole planet. What is referred to as the ‘Butterfly Effect’ (the idea that small changes locally can have a global impact) has genuine scientific grounding.

Let’s look at the issue of plastic pollution as an example. Great ocean currents can drift plastic waste for thousands of kilometres. As plastic breaks down under the force of waves and solar light, it forms ‘microplastics’. These microplastics can be mistaken as food by fish and birds. Once microplastic is in the food chain, there really are no bounds to how far it can travel.

(C) JP Munoz

Example of microplastics washed up on a beach in Galapagos © GSC

Just as the concept of the Butterfly Effect has helped us understand drastic changes to our planet that have occurred in recent years (such as fossil fuels and climate change), it can also be the tool for influencing positive change. Galapagos Conservation Trust is currently undertaking a multi-year project to identify the sources of plastic pollution in Galapagos. We suspect it is largely entering the ecosystem locally, but cannot count any eventuality out, especially considering the influences of globalisation. Understanding where plastics are coming in from is essential to implementing a management strategy to help protect marine species throughout the Archipelago.

Why not help us fund research into this vital issue by donating to our Plastics Appeal today!