Michael D'Orso | Author

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Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands
(HarperCollins, 2002)
Selected by the Christian Science Monitor for its “Noteworthy Nonfiction” book list of 2003;

From Publishers Weekly: When Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galapagos Islands in 1835, he was captivated by an Eden untouched by man. But when D'Orso arrived on the scene in 1999, it was a different species all together that had brought him and that he found worthy of Darwin-like study: man. D'Orso explains that 3% of the Galapagos Islands are occupied by an exponentially growing population of people whose migration to the islands began in the early 20th century with a few eccentric Norwegian settlers. The islands now have more than 20,000 inhabitants, a motley crew of nationalities ranging from German to Ecuadorean, who call the Galapagos both a refuge and a home. Predictably, these inhabitants bring inevitable dangers to the idyllic nature of the region-poaching, pollution, overfishing, crowding, ecotourism and the political warfare that will define the islands' future. With rich, witty prose as colorful as the characters he describes, D'Orso reveals the human side of the Galapagos, including the owner of the Galapagos Hotel, Jack Nelson, an American who has lived there since 1967; Christy Gallardo, an American who visited the island as a tourist and fell in love with and married an Ecuadorean man; and Mary Rodriguez, the wife of a Galapagan farmer who in 1992 opened the first and only "gentlemen's club," called Quatro y Media. This is a stellar study of the alchemy of man and nature.

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