Studying environmental issues on the Canary Islands

Decompressing this trip and it’s many of layers will take time. It was physical as well as mental and emotional. I decided to break each post up into it’s own portion of the trip.

Part I: The purpose of the trip:

The Canary Islands, and particularly Tenerife, the island explored on this trip, provide a microcosm of environmental issues. Where the U.S. or other western European countries suffer from a plethora of environmental problems, many of our issues are spread apart. For instance, waste management issues on the population dense Eastern Coast of the United States are thousands of miles away from the energy issues of the Western Rocky Mountains. On Tenerife these environmental issues stack on top of each other in an area the size of the state of Rhode Island.

In 8 days our small group from the University of Wyoming studied a variety of these issues, thinking about the cause of each issue, the influence, and the reach. All of this lead to understanding how the EU policies can shape and determine solutions to these problems.

The following is an abbreviated list of our trip and the issues.

1. Agriculture-Banana plantations, steppe farming, and goat farms.

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Getting a tour and explanation of the banana plantation and operation.

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The organic soup compost they mix themselves at the planation using old banana waste and waste from the goats.

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Eggplants boxed at the cooperation.

Cutting and hanging the plants at the coop. Getting ready to box and ship them.

Cutting and hanging the plants at the coop. Getting ready to box and ship them.

Despite the vast amount of agriculture on the island, the majority of food grown here is exported and an even greater imported to provide food for the high population. The three largest foods grown on the island are tomatos, bananas, and potatoes.

2. Ecology: The Anaga Protected Area, The Pine Forest, Volcanic National Parks, and Deserts/beaches

A foggy morning over looking La Laguna, the second largest city after Santa Cruz.

A foggy morning over looking La Laguna, the second largest city after Santa Cruz.

The view from Anaga Rural Preserve.

The view from Anaga Rural Preserve.

Steppe farming is popular in the rural protected areas. High on the hillside over Tagana, farmers work the land.

Steppe farming is popular in the rural protected areas. High on the hillside over Tagana, farmers work the land.

El Tiede National Park. The third park in the world to become a national park. Also, this volcano is the highest point in Spain.

El Tiede National Park. The third park in the world to become a national park. Also, this volcano is the highest point in Spain.

Hanging out with a much needed beer on the black sands beach located on the NW coast of the island.

Hanging out with a much needed beer on the black sands beach located on the NW coast of the island. Incredible to think that none of the marine life that surround this island are protect. There are only talks of marine sanctuaries, but no official areas.

The Eucalyptus tree in the pine forest was brought the island as a source of easy, dry firewood. Nowadays, this invasive has taken over particular areas of the pine forest and smothered native species.

The Eucalyptus tree in the pine forest was brought the island as a source of easy, dry firewood. Nowadays, this invasive has taken over particular areas of the pine forest and smothered native species.

This trip allowed me to gain an enormous appreciation and respect for the ecological biodiversity of the island. In a small space, the topography, geology and fauna changed starkly. Many of these areas formed naturally such as the volcanic national park, however others, like the pine forest, suffer from a multitude of invasive species issues.

3. Population Density: Water issues, zoning, and the economic crises of Spain

Inside the water mine. Instead of drilling wells vertically into the ground, they drill them horizontally into the side of the mountain and harvest the water that way. This was my first time in a mine.

Inside the water mine. Instead of drilling wells vertically into the ground, they drill them horizontally into the side of the mountain and harvest the water that way. This is one of the ways that they collect water before desalinating and distributing it on the island. Only about 30% of the water on the island is potable. This was my first time in a mine.

Collecting pine needles is a lucrative business and some argue that it provides fire prevention as well. Pine needles are used for the beds of cattle and compost on farms. This truck is hauling off pine needles.

Collecting pine needles is a lucrative business and some argue that it provides fire prevention as well. Pine needles are used for the beds of cattle and compost on farms. This truck is hauling off pine needles.

This goat farm, where we received our lecture of the day (while standing in goat poop and sorrounded by flies) is one of the many that continued to operate before the financial crises. Before the economic meltdown, many abandoned their farms, however the economic downturn forced many to return to their farms from the city.

This goat farm, where we received our lecture of the day (while standing in goat poop and sorrounded by flies) is one of the many that continued to operate before the financial crises. Before the economic meltdown, many abandoned their farms, however the economic downturn forced many to return to their farms from the city.

A statue in the center of the capital, Santa Cruz.

A statue in the center of the capital, Santa Cruz.

The White Sands Beach-Sand from the Sahara in Africa was brought in to create this beach-it glows from google maps. The island attracts a blue collar tourist population to its beaches.

The White Sands Beach-Sand from the Sahara in Africa was brought in to create this beach-it glows from google maps. The island attracts a blue collar tourist population to its beaches.

Pinpointing one source of the environmental issues proves difficult, as a myriad of sources prevail- from lack of education, to culture norms, and of course the historic and political nature of the island. Studying the issues of this island and understanding potential sources, opens avenues of discourse for similar issues in other countries. At the same time, learning about the European Union environmental policies to control and prevent future environmental concerns, allows for dialogue into the United States policies as well as how international policy can be applied and improved.

Have you ever studied abroad? Before this I had studied abroad nine years ago in my undergrad. I went to Salzburg College in Salzburg, Austria and was able to backpack all around Europe. Before that I spent two weeks in Ireland in High School.

What was the most interesting fact learned while on vacation or on a study abroad trip?  This trip left my head whirling with new knowledge and an immense appreciation and respect for some of the environmental issues that other countries deal with.

 

 

 

 

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4 responses to “Studying environmental issues on the Canary Islands

  1. What a great experience! I never studied abroad and totally regret it. It’s one of those “living vicariously through my child” things I’m going to push upon him.

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