Challenge, Change, and Charles (Darwin)

Our lives are constantly buffeted by the winds of change.  Charted on a graph, that rate of change has accelerated to the point that the upward axis never seems to level off.  But every person can embrace the embrace the challenge of change by observing and learning from change in nature, at its most basic level, and the implications and inspirations those changes can have for us.

600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, straddling the equator, is the island archipelago of the Galapagos.  This island chain is famous because of one of its visitors, British scientist Charles Darwin who developed his theory of evolution and adaptability after visiting the Galapagos and reflecting on what he observed there.

Several years ago, my wife and I had a chance to visit the Galapagos Islands with some college students.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that everyone should consider making because of the fascinating creatures you can observe there, many of them just inches away.

I saw at least 3 examples of how these animals evolved, adapted over the years to deal with an environment that is frequently harsh.

Darwin's Finches

Darwin’s Finches

First is the bird that was one of Charles Darwin’s main inspirations for his theory of how creatures can evolve:  The Galapagos finch.  The finches on different islands have different beaks, some pointed, some parrot-shaped, some coned, some shorter depending on their source of foods.

What We Can Learn:  Find a new approach.

 

Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana

Next is the marine iguana.  Prior to observation in the Galapagos, iguanas were thought to be exclusively land-based but some iguanas in the archipelago learned to use marine algae as a source of food, finding it on rocks or swimming into the ocean to find it there.  And the marine iguana’s feet have evolved to the point where they hold fast to rocks so when a wave recedes, the lizard is still there munching contentedly.

What We Can Learn:  Sometime you go with the flow and sometimes you just hang on.

Saddleback Tortoise

Saddleback Tortoise

Finally, there is the giant tortoise.  On some of the islands, the tortoise’s traditional food was unavailable either due to its disappearance or lower branches having been eaten by other animals.  The saddleback adapted by its shell growing a peak and being able to extend its neck to reach higher branches and leaves.

What We Can Learn:  Stick your neck out.

Charles Darwin is frequently misquoted as positing that “only the strong survive” when his theory proved that adaptability is paramount.  If we observe he constantly-changing  landscape of life and then assess what changes we need to make in our lives and skills, we can effectively deal with change and challenge.