SP Weather Station recently interviewed Katherine McLeod, SPWS weather interpreter for October 2013, about her recent experience in the Galapagos.
SPWS: How did you find yourself going to the Galapagos?
KM: The whole idea to go to the Galapagos came from an artist I met while on residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Christina Seely. She’s doing some amazing work on climate change, on how it alters natural rhythms in ecosystems. One of her projects involves comparing the arctic to the equator, and so was traveling to the Galapagos to finish it, and need help—that’s where I came in.
I went down there to try to learn about the community that has formed there. The Galapagos is such a mythic place, and all of the publicity that surrounds it hardly ever mentions the people. But since the 1970’s, a lot has been happening in the towns there. Before the 1970s other strange and interesting spurts of population existed, but most of those died out. Initially the main economy was fishing—people came over from mainland Ecuador in search of jobs—and more recently all of the industry is centered around tourism. Families are growing and now there are more and more native Galapagosians.
I went with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek idea to try and find a way to relate to this community that has formed on such a mythic place: to gather information for the ‘Galapagos Complaint Department’. I had in mind to talk to full-time residents of the Islands about what in their daily lives irks them, since life living on an environmental celebrity can’t be easy.
SPWS: Yes your idea of a Complaint Department does seem like a nice and funny way to engage people and find out what is going on.
KM: Yes, and in many was I fully expected it to be very different than whatever I envisioned for the place before I arrived. The system for finding formal complaints is not so easy to access, and government is organized very differently there. And, most inner workings such as that are decidedly separated from the tourist community. For example I spent a fair amount of time trying to find the municipal dump, to no avail—they keep it behind walls and were not comfortable with me being there.
SPWS: Ah yes—plans adapt when the real world intervenes!
KM: The project now has really become a meditation on change. These Islands have been made famous by their methods of change, and the most apparent thing to me upon arrival there was how fast and interestingly things were moving in the cultural world. There is a lot of construction going on…personal homes mainly, with very beautiful and creative architecture. The kids there have a lot of worldly outside influences (the Galapagos are a huge surfing destination, all the kids surf there). It just become clear that complaints were not the most interesting thing to focus on. One thing that became apparent was the lack of junk on the islands, no “junk” stores, no dusty shelves with anything old on them, or alley ways with useful trash.