The world has been mourning the loss of Lonesome George since he died at his Galapagos Islands habitat this past Monday because, at more than 100-years old, this giant tortoise was the last living Pinta Tortoise in existence.
Here at StartEmpathy, we see his passing as the loss of an empathy mascot.
For Eduardo Balarezo, this iconic conservation figure similarly stands as symbol for problems with "the institutional efforts to protect Galapagos' flora and fauna," he told Forbes in 2011. "[They] were using an outdated philosophy focusing on the symptoms, endangered species, and were in fact missing the cause: a neglected community."
Inspired by Goerge's story, Balarezo founded Lonesome George and Co. in 2007, a social enterprise that sells apparel to fund "youth educational programs that teach future generations--to make better choices in our interdependent world." Through partnerships with Outward Bound and Ashoka, Lonesome George and Co. helps youth become changemakers that have the ability to reconcile "company, community, and government," something that could have saved the real-life Lonesome George's species. Lonesome George is a reminder that the actions of today's inhabitants of earth often lack empathy to the planet's future generations. As Balarezo describes to Forbes:
"In the end, he is living proof that the system is not working; how many more species, cultures, communities, religions and languages are we willing to put in peril before we start making wiser decisions? The reason we end up facing hopeless situations such as Lonesome George is due to the lack of awareness on the consequences our decisions have in our surroundings."
Image from Lonesomegeorge.net.