National Geographic : 2017 May
Climate change—the topic of my report- ing trip to Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands— never seemed so far away as in Puerto Villamil. In this backpacker’s heaven at the ocean’s edge, a stretch of marine rope laid across the road counts as a speed bump to slow cars at an iguana crossing. One morning an expat American named James Hinkle poured me a local- bean coffee and told me how the ocean came over the low dunes a few years ago and swamped the main road. Hinkle’s flowered surfer trunks exposed the tan legs of the semiretired. He and his wife, Marlene, own an eatery called Cafeteria Booby Trap. It and their home are on the same property, which sits just behind the WHAT SEA RISE? By Christopher Solomon PHOTO: THOMAS P. PESCHAK A GLIMPSE OF WHAT’S NEW AND NEXT FURTHER Snorkelers swim near a Galápagos sea lion. Such attractions draw some 200,000 tour- ists a year, which places heavy demands on water and other resources. Look FURTHER into the islands’ future with Christopher Solomon’s story in the June issue. dunes and nearly as low as the beach. If climate change makes the ocean level here rise by 22 to 30 inches (55 to 76 cm) by 2100, as scientists predict, the Hinkles’ risk of floods will rise too. Do they worry about that? “I asked the guy who built the place to raise it higher than he did,” Hinkle replied. “He said, ‘Aah,’” with a dismissive wave that apparently meant, Don’t waste my time. “ When we came back later, it was built like this,” said Hinkle, with his own re- signed wave: What are you gonna do? I followed the din of a concrete saw, in- congruous in paradise. New guesthouses were rising yards from the waterline. Even the navy seemed unready for the future: Down the beach the Armada del Ecuador compound sat a few licks above the high-tide mark, separated from the patient sea by only a chain-link fence.