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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 83-95

Social Dimensions of 'Nature at Risk' in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

1 Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
2 Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
3 Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Correspondence Address:
Flora Lu
Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.110945

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The Galápagos National Park is an iconic site of environmental conservation; hundreds of thousands of tourists, students, and scientists have visited the islands since the national park was founded in 1959. What a casual visitor to the region might fail to see, however, is the history of conflict that has accompanied the formation and maintenance of the park. In 2007, the tension on the Galápagos Islands became so great that UNESCO put it on their list of World Natural Heritage Sites 'In Danger', arguing that the Galápagos Islands residents had to resolve a set of problems before the effects of increasing population numbers and poor management overran the unique natural environment. We draw on the literature within political ecology and argue that while there was broad agreement on the 'facts' of the crisis, people on the islands interpreted those facts very differently; individual assumptions, beliefs, and experiences imbued the facts with different and often confrontational meanings that, in turn, shaped the possibility of managing the crisis. Based on in-depth qualitative research conducted between 2007 and 2011, we illustrate the differences in the way people 'see'-or understand and experience-the problems on the islands, and show how these differences continue to complicate the search for resolution.

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