Puerto Rico shows environmental awareness in March for Science
Puerto Rico joined the international March for Science held this past Earth Day. Organized in part by the nonprofit organization Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR), the largest network of Puerto Rican scientists in the world, the march proceeded from Plaza Colon in Old San Juan, moving towards the Capitol building and ending finally at the Pavilion of Peace in Luis Munoz Rivera Park.
Dr. Monica I, Feliu-Mojer, vice-director of CienciaPR said “For the past decade our organization has brought science and the scientific community closer to the Puerto Rican public and promoted science communication and education, and scientific careers in Puerto Rico…CienciaPR is proud to participate and co-organize the March for Science Puerto Rico.”
Another participant in the march, Dr. Heidi Morales, urged the US government and Puerto Rico’s to acknowledge that “climate change is a reality, that we are not inventing the data. Already 97% of scientists are in consensus that it is a reality, we are not trying to lie to anyone, we do not want to scare people. We just want to act in a responsible way for the environment.”
Rolando Rivera Arzola, president of Earth Day Puerto Rico and another prominent participator said that the environmental discussion in Puerto Rico in the coming years would focus “sustainable construction, waste management, and public policy in creating that bridge with the community; That is, that they (the government) speak face to face with science, without intermediaries.”
According to an August 2016 report from the EPA, Puerto Rico has seen substantial changes in climate over the past half century. The archipelago has warmed by more than one degree (F) since the mid-20th century, and the surrounding waters have warmed by nearly two degrees since 1901. The sea around Puerto Rico has been rising about an inch every 15 years, and heavy rainstorms have become more severe and frequent. Since 1958, the amount of rainfall during heavy storms has increased by 33 percent in Puerto Rico. Another consequence climate change may exact on the islands are more frequent droughts. In 2015 for instance, Puerto Rico faced one of the worst droughts in its recorded history and hundreds of thousands of residents faced water shortages during that time. Climate change could compound some of the systemic issues Puerto Rico has already been fighting in the past 10 years, including spread of illnesses, and damage to the islands’ natural ecosystem both on the islands and in its environs.
Participants in the March for Science in Puerto Rico could be assured by some of the action Puerto Rico has taken both in assessing the nature of climate change and plans to combat it. The Puerto Rico Climate Change Council has prepared comprehensive reports on the tangible effects of climate change on all aspects of Puerto Rican society as well as what can be done to mitigate future consequences of the changing climate. Puerto Rico’s expression of solidarity in the march for science shows a concerted popular effort to protect and preserve the luster of the islands’ natural ecosystems. 2017 could prove a pivotal year for Puerto Rico’s climate future as the islands vote on statehood in June. Incorporation into the United States may prove an integral step forward for bolstering Puerto Rico’s scientific institutions and vital for achieving the aims of the marchers who organized on Earth Day in San Juan.