Whenever I share photos or talk about the experiences I’ve had in the Galapagos, I typically try to be as positive as possible, but sometimes this can cause me to overlook some of the less glamorous aspects. This is not to say that my time there wasn’t amazing and I wasn't constantly surrounded by unparalleled beauty, but in reality some of the less glamorous aspects came with the most important lessons. The Galapagos Islands are not immune to the many problems we continue to struggle with in today’s world such as climate change, overpopulation and polution. During my time here I have learned a lot about marine plastics, and sadly the impacts of this global issue can be observed even in the most remote parts of the archipelago. This issue is something that has started to receive much needed attention, such as being featured on the front page of National Geographic Magazine, but we are still far from resolving this global epidemic.
Being a marine science major, the issue of marine plastics is not news to me, but having the knowledge of the problem does not prepare one for the experience of seeing its impacts first hand. Even being as a place as pristine and internationally treasured as the Galapagos islands, it was not uncommon to find pieces of plastic on beaches or in the water and on more than one occasion, myself and/or other students observed animals that were entangled in trash. The photo below (taken by Laura Heritage), pictures a sea turtle that was found entangled off the coast of San Cristobal Island. Thankfully in this case national park employees were present and able to free the turtle from the debris, and hope that it was able to recover. Laura (another IES Abroad student) had the opportunity to participate in an ocean cleanup cruise where she joined other volunteers in collecting plastics from some of the most remote places in the Galapagos Islands. Even though humans rarely visit these islands, many of them were found completely covered with trash. “You’d think places that are protected from humans would be pristine, but it’s just the opposite. These islands were covered in bottles, shoes, nets – we even found a refrigerator at one point.” (Laura Heritage). While this is a very sad and frightening reality to face, this ocean cleanup campaign is one of many initiatives that are working to rid the oceans of plastics. All of these initiatives will be for not however, if we don't all do our part to decrease our usage of plastics.
The Galapagos Islands themselves are in the process of going plastic free, but the plastics found in the Galapagos and all over the ocean are from all over the world. My experience abroad has inspired me to become more conscientious of my plastic usage, and encourage others to do the same. It made me realize that something as simple as a straw at a restaurant could have a very real impact on the creatures and places I love so dearly. Thankfully there are many easy and simple ways to cut plastics out of daily life like using reusable bags at the grocery store, refusing straws and utilizing reusable food and drink containers. There is also lots of useful information online to help with the transition to a plastic-free lifestyle. Below I have listed a few sources I am using as inspiration to start using less plastic, in hopes that they might do the same for you. The ocean will surely appreciate your help.
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<p>My name is Peyton, and I could not be more excited to study abroad. I love all things adventure, including hiking, surfing and skiing whenever I get the chance. I have had the travel bug ever since I spent a summer in Spain when I was in high school. I fell in love with the people, places and culture I encountered, and have not stopped chasing that feeling ever since.</p>