WATCH: Puerto Rico Planting 750,000 Trees to Defend Land From Natural Disasters
September 20 marked the one-year anniversary of the most devastating and deadly natural disasters in 100 years of U.S. history—Hurricane Maria. Today, Puerto Rico continues to face both challenges, such as Tropical Storm Kirk landing today, and opportunities.
Many wonder how Puerto Rico is doing so EcoWatch teamed up with the non-profit Para la Naturaleza (PLN) for an interactive Facebook live experience on Thursday. Watch the video below to learn how the community of Puerto Rico—the town of Comerío—came together to revitalize the natural ecosystems. PLN is working towards the ambitious goal of planting 750,000 native and endemic trees and establishing 33 percent of Puerto Rico's lands as protected by 2033.
"We lost over 31 million trees during both hurricanes," said director of PLN Fernando Lloveras. "And one of the things that we realized early on is that the ecological recovery was a kind of an inspiration for human recovery."
PLN is bringing a botanical garden to the students at Juana Colón Public School, their sister organization which has transformed into a Montessori curriculum.
The students are learning the natural sciences in the classroom and also building a forest within the school. They plant trees to hold sediments and prevent erosion, especially in future flooding.
Planting of native trees, such as soursop or cacao, also brings essential wildlife to the area.
"Trees are an easy way to help increase climate change resiliency," said senior program officer at Chesapeake Bay Trust Jeff Popp in the comments thread of the live video.
One student, Andrea Santana, shared her moving testimony. "It was a really difficult process, but it was really beautiful to see how we all got together to see nature recover. When I first saw this place I was shocked because there were fish all over the place," she said. "The buildings next to the river were completely destroyed and the vegetation here was just simply lost."
Sustainability is the main goal of PLN. Together, the communities overcame an unfathomable disaster in Puerto Rico.
Santana ended her testimony with inspiring words. "We all just have to stick together and just go through it. We learned that lesson and I'm really happy [about] it."
- Hurricane Maria's Legacy: One Year Later ›
- Hurricane Maria ›
- 'We Are Not OK': A First-Hand Account of Hurricane Maria ›