The original version of this article was published on December 15, 2018. It remains one of our favorite pieces, and so we’ve brought it back for you to enjoy anew!
Of nature’s many awesome powers, perhaps its most extraordinary is the ability to heal itself if given the chance. Just knowing that this is possible can give us a refreshing sense of hope! Head out with us, 1500 miles off the coast of South America, to the remote island of South Georgia. It’s the site of one of history’s greatest wildlife decimations at the hands of humans, and now it stands as a testament to nature’s ability to bounce back from the brink of extinction.
The Island of South Georgia was first claimed in 1775 by the famed British explorer Captain Cook. Word of the Island’s enormous fur seal populations led to South Georgia’s first wave of exploitative hunting. Later, in 1904, the first whaling station was established and over the course of 61 years, 175,000 whales were killed off the island’s coasts. 1 Human habitation and exploitation nearly wiped out seal, whale, and bird populations, bringing many species to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, though this story starts off dark, it has turned around! South Georgia is now a shining example of how we can–with the right intervention and protection–reverse this man-made destruction and apply these lessons to other places around the globe that have been deeply impacted by humans.
“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”—Bill Gates
To highlight the extraordinary story of South Georgia and its wildlife, National Geographic created the beautiful series Wildlife: Resurrection Island, hosted by the ever-energetic and charismatic Bertie Gregory. Let’s begin by getting acquainted with the island.
Meet the Wandering Albatross of South Georgia
Of the many remarkable species that call South Georgia home, the wandering albatross has to be one of the most extraordinary.
The wandering albatross is one of the largest birds in the world and an inhabitant of South Georgia. These quirky and magnificent birds mate for life, fly some of the furthest distances on our planet, and despite great efforts being made to protect them on the island, still need our help.
Here’s episode three of Wildlife: Resurrection Island with more.
There is hope that we can do better. As an international community, we must do better. Species hardly ever abide by our human borders, and the albatross sets an important example of why we have to see conservation as a global effort. Saving one ecosystem is important, but every single one is interconnected in its own unique ways.
A Population Bouncing Back
So, what can we do if we put conservation first? In an uplifting tale, the fur seals of South Georgia have made a spectacular comeback. Once, these beaches of millions were killed off to a population of 400. But now, their populations are back to over 3 million! Here’s the story.
What can we do?
It can be daunting to think about all the places in the world that could use a helping hand. It can also be easy to see problems as “unfixable”. Maybe you think to yourself “somebody else can do that.” And, while these are easy mentalities to fall into—I, myself am guilty of them—there are small steps we can take.
Making better consumer choices, like buying fish that is caught safely or supporting companies that have a positive impact on the environment are minor changes we can make!
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We can also demand better from our governments and those in charge of protecting wildlife. Your call or message to those in power and your encouragement of others could be a stepping stone for major change!
We’ve Halted a Major Climate Crisis Before. Here’s How We Can Do It Again
What if more people knew the success stories when it comes to solving the world’s big problems? In 1987, all 198 UN Member States adopted a protocol that’s still in effect today, and is estimated to repair the planet’s damaged ozone layer by 2065. Here’s the proof you’ve been looking for that the world came together to halt a major climate crisis before, and it is possible for us to do it again.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
In the end though, there is still hope that there can be change, like in South Georgia. Change in the right direction can give us a reason to continue working! My tip: start with one thing, whether it’s the food you eat, the products you buy, or who you contact, and start there. Who knows where the ripples of your actions could go!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
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- Landau, Denise. “Whaling.” Friends of South Georgia, Oct. 2015, www.fosgi.org/about-south-georgia/history/whaling/. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018. ↩
- “How Wildlife Overcame South Georgia’s Haunting Past – Ep. 5 | Wildlife: Resurrection Island.” YouTube, National Geographic, 1 Nov. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0izaApF_B1I. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018. ↩
- “Albatrosses’ Life-Long Bond Begins With Elaborate Courtship – Ep. 3 | Wildlife: Resurrection Island.” YouTube, National Geographic, 18 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=LwwVnUekpeE. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018. ↩
- “Fur Seals Overcome Extinction On ‘Resurrection Island’ – Ep. 1 | Wildlife: Resurrection Island.” YouTube, National Geographic, 4 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTf-t81D0_E. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018. ↩