Macy Cherneff '22 has always been passionate about environmental issues. In her role as editor-in-chief of Taft's Global Journal, Macy works with student authors and editors to bring the awareness, understanding, insights and vocabulary that members of the Taft community need to engage in meaningful dialogue around current global and environmental issues. Over the summer, Macy took her commitment to that work one step further, engaging in a student service and leadership program in the Galápagos Islands.
"I think that my travels to the Galápagos relate well to the objectives of the Global Journal," says Macy. "I immersed myself in a new culture while helping to better the global community."
A province of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago. They are home to a plethora of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else in the world. Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos in 1835; his work there helped inspire his theory of evolution. The Galápagos Islands are also a UNESCO-designated heritage site, making cultural preservation and environmental conservation paramount. That work was the core of Macy's 14-day experience in the Galápagos Islands.
"The objective of our service work was to clear out invasive tree species and plant endemic trees in their place to restore the natural habitat," Macy explains. "We began by digging large boulders from the ground using iron spades and transporting them in wheelbarrows to the planting area. Then we used machetes to cut down invasive blackberry, guava, and Cuban cedar trees. We then used the spades to dig large holes for the endemic Scalesia trees. Finally, after planting the Scalesia seedlings and watering them, we moved three large boulders on all sides of every tree to ensure that the giant turtles that share the land cannot eat or step on the Scalesia seedlings."
The work was difficult, Macy notes—back-breaking, in fact. But the results were substantial and will have meaningful impact on environment: Macy and her team planted 67 Scalesia trees during her time there.
Macy traveled in her downtime, visiting museums, neighborhoods and historic sites, immersing herself in local culture and gaining, she notes, "a greater knowledge of the uniqueness and beauty that comes with different cultures and ways of life."
"The most meaningful part of my experience was conversing with the local people of the Galápagos and experiencing a completely different culture from my own," Macy says. "Each person has their own culture, their own backstory, their own opinions, desires, and dreams. Those differences are what makes the world beautiful. I loved watching the little boys and girls play soccer together and observing the townspeople's pure love for simplicity. The kindness and joy that was expressed by the people of the Galápagos Islands was truly the most impactful part of my experience."