Reimagining the Galapagos Islands Through a Socio-Ecological Lens: A Historical Analysis and Modern Contextualization of the “Pristine Nature” Myth

Research Paper
Author:Brooks, Virginia, Arts & Sciences UndergraduateUniversity of Virginia

This paper was completed to satisfy the requirements of the Global Environments and Sustainability Capstone research paper for the University of Virginia. The paper was completed under the advisement of Program Director and Professor Phoebe Crisman.

The Galapagos Islands are represented as an oasis for biodiversity unbothered by human threats. Advertisements of the islands depict spotless beaches, otherworldly terrain, and unique species coexisting all devoid of human settlement. The reality is far from this representation. This paper focuses on rethinking the socio-ecological relationships at play in the Galapagos. Here, I analyze the ways in which the Ecuadorian populations are affected by the modern secular cosmologies surrounding the Galapagos; when looking at species threats of endangerment or extinction, who is blamed? What is the impact of the blame on the communities? Furthermore, I explore the relationship between foreign actors and local actors regarding species protection and preservation. These questions introduce complex challenges that require a socio-ecological lens. After analyzing the history of human-nature engagement in the Galapagos and addressing the ways in which the same dynamics manifest today in the first and second section, I propose alternative worldviews and present arguments for their benefits.

GSVS, GSVSCapstone, GSVS2020, Galapagos, Darwin, "Pristine Nature", San Cristobal, Socio-ecological, Islands, "Living Laboratory"
University of Virginia
Published Date:
May 12, 2020