We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls lately from people who are concerned about traveling to the Galapagos or the Ecuadorian Amazon following the devastating April 16th earthquake on Ecuador’s coast.
Here are a few things we think families should know about Ecuador and why we think traveling there this summer is one of the best things people can do to help the country recover.
First of all, the Amazon, Andes, and Galapagos regions of Ecuador were unaffected by the quake. You’ll notice in the image above that damage from the quake was limited to the northwest coast. The beautiful Andes essentially run north-south down the center of the country and were not impacted by the quake. East of the Andes, in the Amazon region, and 500 miles away in the Galapagos Islands, there was also no impact.
To give you a better sense of this visually, we’ve overlaid this map against one of California’s Bay Area, rotating Ecuador to be more in line with California’s coast to approximate how a similar size earthquake would have affected California. This is obviously not an exercise that would stand up to any serious degree of scientific scrutiny, but California and Ecuador do have somewhat similar geography with a coastal range, a central plain, and then high mountains as one moves west to east approximately 200 miles from the Pacific.
So, imagine this same earthquake had struck the Bay Area. San Francisco and Silicon Valley would be in a very bad way. 90 minutes away in Sacramento, there would have been some rumbling, but only very minor, if any, damage. Up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, perhaps some small rumbling would have been felt, but I don’t think anyone would be canceling summer vacations to Lake Tahoe or Yosemite. Unfortunately, that is what has happened with people planning trips to Ecuador.
At Sustainable Summer, we’re very fortunate to have cool and level-headed families so none of our Amazon or Galapagos students have withdrawn from a program over concerns about the quake. But more broadly speaking the travel industry in Ecuador is taking a hit at a time when the country most needs the economic support.
As one travel expert mentions in this Los Angeles Times article, “If people start canceling their trips to unaffected areas, it will in a sense be kicking the country while it’s down.” Recovery costs are estimated to exceed one billion dollars. The travel and tourism industry in Ecuador employs over 300,000 people and contributes nearly two billion to GDP. It is an important sector of the economy.
So, we’re hoping to help spread the word that Ecuador’s travel industry is “open for business,” because every dollar spent there will help get the country back on its feet. It’s a really special destination in its own right, but now, more than ever, we want to encourage people to travel there – with us or by some other means.
If you are looking for a way to make a more direct impact, we are collecting tax-deductible donations that will support recovery efforts in Manabi province, one of the hardest hit areas. Our Seeds of Change group typically visits Manabi for one week of a three week program. Since the earthquake, we have been working with our local partners on safety and logistics given the circumstances are pleased to announce that we are going to be able to run the program without having to significantly alter the itinerary. We’ll be blending service into the curriculum in a more potent way than we have done in past summers since there are some important food production and environmental systems that will need rebuilding. This is a part of Ecuador that is home to the “eco-city” of Bahia and where signs everywhere remind people to “cuide el medio ambiente” (care for the environment). So, the short of it is that we are in a position to make an impact while also learning a lot about human-environment interactions, sustainable development, and food production.
This is an exciting opportunity for mature students. We understand that the circumstances likely pose some concerns for families and we’re happy to discuss our vetting process, partners, and risk management policies in detail. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 646.504.5046.