With the summer over with record temperatures here and in the world, we are at the peak of the hurricane season with a compromised energy system and our vulnerable drinking water infrastructure. And it is not only the vulnerability of our physical infrastructure, but also the social: Let’s see the slow-motion collapse of our health and public education systems.
To this we add the economic precariousness produced by the fiscal bankruptcy and the exhaustion of our economic model and we have before us a cross-sectorally vulnerable country. And since these crises are interrelated, the impact of an event on one has repercussions on the others.
We are fully in a state of sustained vulnerability produced by our individual and collective habits and behaviors.
The climate is just the tip of the iceberg of a planet that suffers human displacement, political polarization, wars, a significant increase in social and economic gaps, a reflection of what several experts have called the schisms of the modern era: the ecological, the social and the spiritual.
“The planet has a fever,” warns Professor Rafael Mendez Tejeda, member of the Committee of Experts and Advisors on Climate Change in the premiere of the podcast, Planeta Puerto Rico.
The fever is, unfortunately, more than climatological. But let’s get to it.
Let’s take the past three months as an example. In Puerto Rico, during the months of June, July and August of last year, 5 extreme heat warnings were issued (when the temperature exceeds the threshold of 92 degrees Fahrenheit). This year they issued 31June being the beginning of summer, the hottest, with more than half of the month under an extreme heat warning. Our just-concluded summer was two degrees above last year’s average high temperature (88.8 degrees vs. 90.8).
This has serious consequences on our energy infrastructure (blackouts) and the cost of interruptions, in addition to the impacts on public health, particularly patients with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions (see studies on this matter carried out by Dr. Pablo Mendez Lazarus).
Climatologically there is a hurricane season, but our vulnerability does not end with it: we face a period of vulnerability sustained by inaction, lack of planning and preparation and absence of public policy that takes us towards comprehensive sustainability.
We cannot deny or minimize citizen behavior in the face of climate change and our vulnerability. Being an island, our habits have a much greater effect on it: from water waste to waste generation.
However, in Puerto Rico we have already begun to take the right steps to get out of this systemic vulnerability.
The private sector, from medium and small companies to multinationals, has to implement our sustainability plans, sharing them with the community and employees. There are already local companies doing it, and we need more. The United Nations Global Compact, to which some Puerto Rican companies belong, is a good starting point to create a local business movement organized around the Sustainable Development Goals.
We citizens must continue incorporating green consumption habits and follow educating ourselves about our responsibility with the sustainability of our country and our planet, which, in short, is for future generations.
And we must continue to pressure municipal governments and the state government to incorporate public policies focused on sustainability with citizen participation, particularly when it comes to adaptation to climate change.
We have great allies in the scientific community, in schools and universities along with the public and private sectors. We can and must get out of this state of sustained vulnerability, but we must firmly accelerate the pace.
Be sure to listen to the first installment of the Planeta Puerto Rico podcast.