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A Journey to Achieving Sustainability: Lessons from the Galapagos Islands

  • Arturo Izurieta Valery

The global boom in tourism has overwhelmed popular destinations, leading to increased reference to “overtourism” and “being loved to death.” These fears are especially stark for places with unique and fragile environments like the Great Barrier Reef or the Inca Trail. Some popular sites have taken drastic steps to control the amount of visitors, including capping the number of tourists, raising entrance fees to popular sites, and even banning some forms of travel such as cruise ships.

In this video lecture, Dr. Arturo Izurieta Valery explores these trends as they relate to the Galapagos Islands, one of the most unique and undisturbed ecosystems in the world and one of the first locations to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dr. Izurieta Valery explains how the boom in tourism to the Galapagos has led to a corresponding increase in the local resident population and placed intense pressure on the local habitat and basic local services such as potable water, solid waste management, health services, transport, and fuel consumption. He discusses the results of a study modeling how to ensure that tourism to the Galapagos is sustainable and ends with his recommendations for how to balance the economic, social, and environmental health of these unique islands. 

A free classroom-friendly discussion guide for this video is available for download below. The discussion guide contains a complete transcript of the video and is appropriate for advanced secondary students and university students. This discussion guide complements and expands upon Dr. Izurieta Valery’s video lecture. After viewing the video, students engage in a full-class debate on whether the only way to ensure that the Galapagos develops sustainability is to limit the amount of tourists to the islands. Students then research what other popular natural tourist sites have done to promote sustainable tourism and share their conclusions with their classmates in small groups. 

This video lecture and guide were made possible through the support of U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center funding (to Stanford’s Center for Latin American Studies) under the auspices of Title VI, Section 602(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965.