On the Backs of Tortoises

On the Backs of Tortoises coverOn the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galapagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden
Elizabeth Hennessy
Yale University Press (October 29, 2019), 336 pages
Kindle edition $16.99, Amazon hardcover $22.99

We often think of the Galápagos Islands as something pure and pristine that were undiscovered until Charles Darwin showed up on the Beagle. This book will disabuse you of that notion.

As it happens the islands were discovered very early on, and were a way station for ships making their way up and down the west coast of the Americas. While the Galápagos are today a national park in the country of Ecuador, there has never been an uncontested belief that the ecology should be preserved in its natural state. Some islands in the group have been used as penal colonies and some as military bases. One island was host to a failed utopian society experiment. In the present day we learn that some locals appreciate eco-tourism and others do not.

The author provides a balanced history of the region, dispelling many myths. Towards the end of the book she candidly relates her own experiences in the islands as a researcher.

Nothing is simple. Nothing is black and white. This book makes that clear.

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