Of nature’s many awesome powers, perhaps it’s 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!

On this edition of Saturdays Around the World, we’re heading 1500 miles off the coast of South America to the remote island of South Georgia. It’s the site of one of the planet’s worst wildlife massacres 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 decimated seal, whale, and bird populations, bringing many species to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, though this story starts off dark, it is uplifting. It’s a story of how we can turn things around and there is hope for other places in the world deeply impacted by humans on this planet.

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 it’s 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 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 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 all know that plastic waste is a huge problem, but what are we supposed to do about it? Turns out there's a lot we can do with just a few little changes!

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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!

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Saving the Rainforest with Old Cell Phones

How can we police large swaths of endangered rainforest with something we all have at home? The incredible startup Rainforest Connection is taking our old cell phones and giving them a second life as protectors of some of the most at-risk habitat on the planet!

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In the end though, the more we have 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 its 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!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. Landau, Denise. “Whaling.” Friends of South Georgia, Oct. 2015, www.fosgi.org/about-south-georgia/history/whaling/. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV