By Tony Butt
Until recently in our evolutionary history as a species, humans couldn't extract resources faster than those resources were renewed. Even if we wanted to we couldn’t because Nature put a limit on the amount we could physically take.
Then, sometime within the last few thousand years, we crossed a tipping point and now we are quickly and unashamedly depleting our own resource base. Our addiction to technology and unsustainable living has spread to almost every corner of the globe. For example, where I live in northwest Iberia, there are no large cities but there are steelworks, paper mills, aluminium factories and a coal-fired power station right next to the coast. Much of the landscape is scarred by open-cast mines and quarries, and the mountains are planted with eucalyptus—an invasive species that can harm the ecosystem. These industries are a source of employment for a local population who could not imagine an alternative.
However, there are a few groups of people in this area who make a living in a much more sustainable way. One such group are the percebeiros, or collectors of goose barnacles. A surprising number of my surfing friends along this coast are percebeiros, so I thought I would talk to them about their work, and find out how being a surfer and being a percebeiro go hand in hand.
Above: Elias Vazquez uses his biztonta to collect goose barbacles. Photo: Tony Butt