Have you ever heard the phrase, “every little bit helps?” It is a shame there are things we want to accomplish but we get discouraged because some of these goals may seem insurmountable. We may not realize that some of the things we already do may help reach that goal. For instance, I got back from a trip to Galapagos Islands a few months ago. And as I was thinking about the trip, it occurred to me that the Galapagos Islands are like a naturalist paradise. As we make commitments to address climate change (big or small), we are moving closer to the goal of reaching a naturalist paradise of our own.
It’s always a good idea to break a goal down to various phases or parts and work toward intermediate steps of success. Even if establishing a naturalist paradise, or solving climate change if you will, seems to be unrealistic, the various steps one can take to help reach that goal are not.
One good example of this in the transportation world is the “Vision Zero” campaign. I remember when it was called “Toward Zero Death” way back when. The idea is to set a goal of achieving no traffic fatalities or serious injuries from car crashes over a certain number of years. One’s first reaction is that it is an unattainable goal. OK, but then can you tell me if there is a group of people whose lives we can accept losing on the highway or local streets, since this goal is so “unattainable?” Could that be your wife/husband or significant other, child, parent, sibling, good friend, or a casual acquaintance? The answer is no. So we set about working with key partners and stakeholders to redesign dangerous intersections, install traffic calming devices such as roundabouts, install pedestrian road crossings, implement retroreflective signage, etc. We may not reach the ultimate goal but we will may see success along the way, in reducing the number of traffic fatalities.
My trip to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador in South America, was in the early part of May, 2019. We visited the islands of North Seymour, Bartolome, Rabida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and Santa Crua. I was excited to see many species of plants and animals and had various opportunities to see them both on land and in the water. Some of the islands had very little transportation infrastructure, if any at all. In other words, I didn’t experience any rush hour unless you count the group of Orcas we saw one morning as we crossed the equator on the fourth day.
I went on this trip with my sisters Virginia and Karen and my brother-in-law Stephen. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with the sights and the activities of this trip, and will always remember it. We were able to witness nature, whether from a shoreline tour on a zodiac boat, snorkeling along some of the inlets, doing a short hike along some of the natural trails and beaches or kayaking along the shores. One thing I like about traveling is being able to share my experiences with friends and colleagues. And boy did I take many pictures!
I won’t kid you, Galapagos has had its own issues in the past in which humans have introduced invasive species that have threatened the islands. But many foresighted naturalists and scientists have been able to mitigate some of those impacts, preserve the Islands and closely manage human interaction through limited tours. The wildlife is so used to visitors they don’t view humans as a threat and rarely scatter when you approach them. Nothing like being up-close and personal with a Blue Footed Boobie or a Frigatebird.
In fact, when we arrived at the hotel in Guayaquill, Ecuador and as we were about to take the trip from Ecuador to the islands, we were issued a transit control card. This card was given to all of us and was issued by the Government Council for Galapagos as a measure towards “sustainable human development and conservation of the Galapagos Islands.” The card was a way to limit the number of people on the tour so we could enjoy this natural paradise while at the same time maintaining its integrity and natural beauty.
What can this trip teach us about the importance of climate change? Whether you believe in the impacts of human behavior on climate or not, any action you take or day-to-day practice you follow that helps reduce the carbon footprint, is a good thing. It surely doesn’t hurt.
I am not pushing major policies, such as Cap and Trade, that are being hotly debated right now. It is clear to me we will have to make critical decisions in the future in regards to climate and we need to understand the ramifications of action and inaction in addressing climate change.For the sake of this blog, I just want to point out that you yourself may already be doing your part in addressing climate change. Whether you choose carpooling to work over driving alone, or compost food scraps instead of throwing it out into a landfill, recycle cans and bottles or walk to the store instead of driving; we are all doing our share to maintain natural integrity of our own environment as best we can. Can we reach the ultimate goal of a Galapagos Islands in your neighborhood? Of course not, but in these actions, we are doing our small part in making the world a little more sustainable and a little more pleasant place in which to live. We are helping to preserve our environment for future generations.
Again, the Galapagos Islands are a place where humans and animals live mostly in perfect harmony in the natural environment. If that is the ultimate goal of completely addressing the impacts of climate change, any steps toward doing that are well worth it.
By the way, my favorite part of the trip was the last day when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station, located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, to see the giant tortoises.
We went to the center not only for the big turtles, but to see how the station raises young giant tortoises and then releases them into the wild. We saw some of the small turtles in their pens. This program is run in conjunction with the Galapagos Park Service. Since 1970, more than 2,000 tortoises have been hatched, raised and released. Later we went to a national park in the highlands of Santa Cruz and were able to see the large turtles in their natural habitat. Again, we were able to be with the turtles, up-close and personal.
James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.