How Charles Darwin’s ‘Struggle for Survival’ theory produced a sick-minded, hell-bent humanity which has failed to notice that… the scum also rises. Jetting into the Galapagos Islands is like taking a slow-motion swan dive into the infinity rock-pool of the cosmos.
You rise out of the hell that is Guayaquil – with its horrendous infestation of glittery malls – rinse the sweaty sock taste of ‘progress’ from your tongue with a gulp of Inca Cola, and behold! – the wet boudoir of the enchanted isles!
Twinkling, teasing in their silky blue negligees and hot lava panties, the Galapagos, from 39,000 feet, appear untouched, innocent, and yet… tantalisingly prone to spontaneous acts of passion. These are lovely thoughts to nurture on the plane, because as soon as you get off all such fantasies will be ruthlessly murdered.
In my three months here I mourn over the sad realities of the islands, and discover that a paradise spoiled is a paradise still.
Galapagos is on her knees, but even battered and exploited, she offers that call expressed in nature everywhere – her longing for harmony with the human animal.
To really see Galapagos is to be slain and inspired by how desperately we all need to change our way of thinking, being and doing.
On the enchanted isles I will learn to talk turtle, find a father for my never-born son… and learn to cry underwater.
Largely untouched by human hands, conserved forever in the remotest Pacific as an intact wilderness, teeming with protected wonders, and proof of man’s ability to keep his oil-stained mitts off just one pristine ecosystem, the Galapagos National Park is the one peace covenant in the galaxy between mankind and nature – or is it?
Swan diving into the Galapagos ends with a nasty head-on collision with the bottom of the pool. Just like when you dive into any illusion.
Galapagos is unwell, according to all indicators, and needs rest without visitors. There’s fat chance of that though, with over US$418 million moving through her skirts a year.
Scientists are sending out word that one of the planet’s most treasured oases is sustaining an, err… unsustainable invasion by a dangerous new species bringing hell down on just about every living thing there – except weeds and ants.
The Guardian reports a Galapagos Conservation Crisis, while Sea Shepherd, WWF and other observers warn that yet another paradise is choking on a bone. Humans – as usual – are trashing the place. As the BBC describes.
Tourism will wreck the wonders of the Galapagos, the paper reports. And I roll my eyes and sigh, because, well… it’s not just when they’re dressed up in their wrinkle-resistant, snap-dry adventure wear that Homo sapiens tend to wreck wonders.
Apparently Darwin’s most highly evolved, fit for survival, first place winner for the tippety-top of the pyramid of life’s wunderkind is entirely hostile to the nature that evolved it. How… weird!
It’s a situation which could easily set one to wondering… if evolution really does select for the fittest members of species to become most succesful at survival in a process creating better and better life forms – then how come humanity is even still here, given the mess we’ve made of it.
And does this selection process, which Darwin said was driven by “constant action in combating the environment and human rivals,” really produce a human animal that reflects the best of our species?
For most of us it’s a shock to discover that even the Galapagos is up shit-creek. And a surprise to discover that people actually live there.
Of all the species used as mascots for Darwin’s paradise on earth – the human inhabitants are discreetly kept out of the brochures.
As you jet down into nature’s most cloistered little boudoir, it’s thusly a bit disappointing to discover the bed sheets are well-stained with a heavy traffic of human soles.
It’s because of them, and the Boeing-load I’m arriving with, that various wildlife species are teetering on extinction, being ploughed under taxis, roads and housing estates, or fished out, drowned and chopped up by boat propellers – while Galapagos’ human population hits 40,000 and keeps booming.
The islands have one of the fastest-growing economies in all South America, the highest per capita income and a serious, seeping, seething human underbelly wracked by poverty, contaminated ground water, leaking sewers, decrepit housing, isolation and pollution.
According to research back in 2010, when the population was half as big, 52% of the well-hidden human species in Galapagos was in poverty. Back then two out of five didn’t have access to fresh water or waste systems, and dengue, depression, alcoholism and stress were causing all manner of very big trouble in paradise. Today it is exponentially worse, with the population increasing at about 100% every five years!
Oh dear. This does not bode well for my mission at all. I’ve set off for Galapagos at the fag-end of a rather fruitless search so far, for signs that evolution is working for Earth.
It’s almost my last hope. I’m looking for ways to shake off that strange sense of dread and home-sickness that stalks the human soul, and any evidence at all that humanity can play nicely with any other sort of Life on the planet.
Upon this quest, seeking evidence that ‘progress’ and ‘natural selection’ have indeed led to the success of a superior animal, I have mostly followed the advertising and been thusly mauled and battered by various storms in the chipped tea cups of lifestyle cults turning a trade on the current existential crisis in middle classes everywhere.
I’ve tried and failed to become more evolved, which is the latest thing in fending off human suffering – by becoming better than everybody else – just as Darwin and his ism have encouraged.
I set out suffering from boredom in the burbs, dread of not getting richer than my neighbours in Sydney, disgust at the ploughing down of wilderness around me and that sense that everything just seems to be going to shit.
It was a hopeful misadventure via Bali’s yoga circus, the David Wolfe’s superfood con, a hijacked American plant medicine ride, and the shamelessly hypocritical gringo shaman scene for almost a decade… all of which reckon they’re higher lifestyles that just fretting away in the burbs, watching The News, but are actually… Not.
I narrowly escaped the psychedelic cactus cult, meditation mafia and the violent malice of hordes of expatriating Americans all over the planet. And washed up on the Galapagos Islands – which is somehow perfectly fitting.
I am here to kick the tyres on Darwin’s wonky pyramid. Test the supporting beams on this ‘reality’ of survival of the fittest we’re building our lives around.
And to ask some questions like, “How come, when people become successful, powerful, wealthy or dominant, they tend to immediately, and by exponential degrees, turn into hostile assholes who make life hell for every thing and every body else?”
Could it be possible that Darwin’s nasty little idea that Life is a “Struggle for Survival” in which “the strongest party always carries off the prize,” in a system designed by nature to serve and support the best possible expression of life is just horseshit?
In between wondering about all this, I’ll just stare at finches, penguins, clouds, stars etc to see if they might whisper me an insight about Life that will either release me from my unevolved uselessness, or at the very least, provide a suitable cliché for a book deal.
I’ve come because I’m having doubts about Darwin, but want to snuggle in his arms as well. I’d like to just let myself go, in a lovely safe place, where somebody with a beard is confident they have a grip on reality.
I’ve been advised by my conspiracy theory mates to keep an eye out at Darwin’s iconic HQ for hidden vaults, codes, Masonic isymbols and bloodstains. There are many who claim the so-called naturalist was nothing but an Illuminati stooge with connections to all sorts of Bad Guys. Bad Guys in high places, with the specific agenda of misleading humanity into the idea that life is supposed to be a rat race of competition, fear of failure and dog-eat-dog survival.
Human elites did this in order to plant insecurity and fear into the masses, keep them at hard labour, and profit from their misery. They did it to perpetuate a system which guaranteed them privilege, arguing that only the best and most competent emerge on top (by which they meant themselves) and to justify abandoning the poor, the sick, the gentle, the negro, women, children etc to the lesser lives they deserved, due to being less violent contenders in the battle of life, and therefore lesser beings.
It’s a mind-fuck we’ve all bought in to. I’m afraid. Because everything from kindergarten to TV, sports, beauty pageants, economies and our ideas about success, power and identity are designed to entrain us to Darwin’s central curse: that life is a struggle.
Evidence of this dastardly plot stretches from Ladakh to London, and has a file here too, because while Galapagos’ human predators thrive, everything else on the islands is bracing for a grand mal seizure.
“Predictable,” say both scientists and skeptics.
Darwinism, the brand that still sells Galapagos, was a trick of the intellectual light, they say, that ripped a hole in the history of human thinking. The islands are nothing more than a living theme park – the lies about which reflect a grand human lie about everything, really.
Nothing will be left untouched by a humanity out of grace with the cosmos, they warn. Progress will be the end of us, because it’s just, basically, wrong!
Touted as the world’s first ‘Green’ airport, Baltra, is hotter than a tin roof in the Nevernever and resembles a sort of glorified car park cum Pet World contraption. This hideous testimony to the green revolution sports a few feng-shui-inspired living things, like trees – which wilt about its flanks, and sparrows, which slip off its glossy exposed steel beams.
Shimmering amid a halo of heatsnakes at about a squillion degrees in the scrub, it issues a sort of Auschwitzy glow as it elbows the little wood and coconut palm-fringed previous airport behind it into the non-renewable past.
It’s a strange use of US$24 million, when you consider that just down the road the sewers are over-flowing, the water is polluted and the little sea lion babies, penguins and boobys that support this limping community are dying all over the place from causes not exactly linked to natural selection.
The new airport is the prefect icon, actually, for what we’re doing to our Galapagos – indeed, to our planet, as humanity oxymoronically bulldozes its life-giving wilderness for what the brochure calls sustainable development.
Built to receive 3 million people a year (nearly eight times the present, devastating horde), the airport, let’s admit it, is an up-scaled syringe for siphoning cash-dollar out of a carefully planned stampede of Homo sapien across one of the most fragile environments on Earth.
Ecuador wears heavy lipstick on the international tourism and development scene. She has indulged in the flagrant seduction of foreign nationals to her bosom with easy residency and mass marketing since 2008. She touts herself as a world leader in social reform and brags about her constitutional protection of Mother Earth, while filleting her own womb for gold, oil, wood and anything else tradeable for cash. The present regime spouts a socialist rhetoric that is beginning to give the whole nation a migraine.
Galapagos is a microcosm of the macro economics of Ecuador, and the whole industrial world. Despite creating a climate of growth and wealth that will undoubtedly destroy the environment, the governing agencies – both governmental, and National Parks, say their chief priority in Galapagos is conservation of all the lovely flowers, bugs and myriad creatures that inhabit these faraway islands. They say they’re all about nature.
To which the locals sigh, “Yeah… right.” And the rest of us cheer, “Right on!” As we book our package tours.
On the Galapagos you can also experience what it is like to get very, very close to wild animals who aren’t so terrified of humans they shit themselves or pretend to be dead.
This experience is so profound for many people that they actually cry. Which is evidence, I think, that life is more than a bloody battlefield for survival driven by ruthless genetics and a hostile environment.
It is evidence of a bond between all species, and a native space in the human soul not utterly indifferent to other living things – both of which Darwin and his cronies have all but bludgeoned from our experience with sick thinking and violent politics.
Anyhow. What cannot be argued over is that as the middle classes everywhere crack up with depression and sickness, as loneliness cripples economies in the world’s richest nations, fear of war, contamination, climate crisis, politicians and a deep, bubbling un-nameable misery sweeps the human biomass, the promise of a lovely holiday in a pristine wilderness full of happy sea-lion babies is a bloody good business proposition.
Ecuador is well onto this. And so are its international partners. They have tailored the Galapagos experience to mine US$500 a day, on average, from your pocket. The intricacies of this extraction are understood to a degree more rarefied than anything scientists can say for sure about any other life cycle on the islands. Which is disappointing. When you think about it.
Tourists thrive on a diet of jpegs and polo shirts. For this bounty they make extra-ordinary pilgrimages from all across the Earth. Their quest, driven by a need to make sense of life and impress the Jonses, is for digital evidence of Intimacy with Nature and Moments of Happiness. There may be, too, a primal urge to stand on the stage where Charles Darwin coughed up the idea that ferocious competition in a pitch battle for survival on a hostile Earth are the facts of our reality.
On their adventures, tourists will unwittingly reduce at least 10,000 birds a year – to roadkill. The props of the boats they cruise on will frequently slash the bellies or sever the spines of dozens of the baby seals that have been frolicking with them on day trips.
As they sip sundowners on the decks of their cruising hotels, smugglers might be stowing illegal catch, trafficking wildlife or dumping waste overboard as the tourist fleets, oozing oil, plough their dogged routes. The slick that seeps from the Galapagos myth shimmers so voluptuously off Puerto Ayora at sunset, will thicken and ripen, causing the sea to shine a picturesque scarlet at dusk.
Humans will suffer their own casualties. Thousands will get very nasty sunburn indeed and be cranky unless air conditioned. Hundreds will decided to watch the stunning BBC series Galapagos instead of getting off their luxury boats to actually see the place – hot, ridden with mosquitoes and tricky to walk about on – and not get the most out of their adventure-wear. A few will somehow fall into the lava and suffer very nasty injuries indeed.
This is not to poke sticks at Galapagos. It is to show that there’s something kinda smelly about human behaviour, in general.
Is this really all we can hope for from the triumph of evolution?
Me, I am unlikely to be injured, even though I possess only a pair of flipflops, and no adventure-wear at all. But I am destined to be a Failure of chilling proportions during my Galapagos migration. I am not likely to buy an I Love Boobys T-shirt, have nothing like $500 to spend and lose all my photographs anyway.
I will spend three months poking about behind the set, seeing through the hologram, getting involved in the deaths of several sea lions that could have easily be saved, recording interview after interview with scientists, ecologists, politicians and guides who have given up, reluctantly, on Galapagos, on humanity, on the survival of anything much.
As these real-life stories constellate, I will hear echoes of the words of my hero and mentor, one Dr of Gonzo, H.S Thompson, who, after reporting on the American Dream, politics and human nature his entire career wrote, with a sigh composed of various opiates…
“The scum also rises.”