Mention the Galápagos Islands to almost anyone, and the first things that spring to mind are iguanas, tortoises, volcanic beaches, and, of course, Charles Darwin. But there are people living there, too -- nearly 20,000 of them. A wild stew of nomads and grifters, dreamers and hermits, wealthy tour operators and desperately poor South American refugees, these inhabitants have brought crime, crowding, poaching, and pollution to the once-idyllic islands. In Plundering Paradise, Michael D'Orso explores the conflicts on land and at sea that now threaten to destroy this fabled "Eden of Evolution."
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Michael D’Orso is the author of the New York Times bestseller Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood and has collaborated on many notable titles, including Walking with the Wind, with Senator John Lewis. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia.From Booklist:
The isolated Galapagos Islands, home to a unique ecosystem, are, thanks to Charles Darwin, the epicenter of evolutionary biology, and numerous scientists have chronicled the lives of the islands' giant tortoises, iguanas, and diverse bird species in his wake, but journalist D'Orso, author of Like Judgment Day (1996), is no nature freak. Instead, he spent three years researching and exploring the islands to learn about their overlooked human inhabitants. Captivating in both his lucidity and precision, D'Orso seamlessly blends island history, political reportage, ecological analysis, and vivid portraits of islanders as he traces the radical changes that are turning this once pristine natural paradise into a besieged and endangered ecological battleground where poachers, scientists, and ecotourists come into sometimes violent conflict, invasive species threaten native plants and wildlife, and corrupt Ecuadorian officials siphon off millions of tourist dollars, condemning islanders to abject poverty. By telling the stories of those who have dwelled precariously, often lawlessly, on the inhospitable Galapagos, from whalers and buccaneers to refugees, mavericks, Ecuadorians fleeing the collapsed mainland economy, and valiant Park Service officers, D'Orso brings into focus the entire spectrum of Galapagos life, a very different world from that shown in romanticized documentaries or glossy tourist brochures. Donna Seaman
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