My home region is Puerto Rico and is where my heart lives. I have many family members still living in Puerto Rico and who I visit at least once a year. Due to climate change, many countries and regions have been affected by hurricanes. Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, on September 20, 2017. The reason for the devastation is climate change has impacted the atmosphere by making it warmer and because the sea surface temperatures are increasing as well, there is more moisture is in the atmosphere. Damages from Maria were caused by heavy flooding from the extreme amounts of rain due to climate change adding more moisture to the atmosphere.
Maria left most of the Island without electricity for a whole year. Many of my family members say there are still people with out electricity, two years later. Although, most of the areas have been restored with electricity, many areas often have blackouts. Many homes and business were destroyed and people are still trying to recover. Even through this devastation, the people of Puerto Rico remained resilient and determined to recover.
However, there are areas of Puerto Rico that will never be the same. As a child and young adult, my favorite place to visit in Puerto Rico is El Yunque National Forest. Words cannot describe being in nature, around hundreds of different types of tree species. Hearing the birds chirp and the calls of the coquis felt peaceful and tranquil. In a speech by Dale Bosworth the chief of the Caribbean National Forest, he states there are about 250 different types of trees on less than 30,000 acres of land. That is a lot of different trees for that amount of land and more importantly homes to hundreds of different species.. This deprives us from another natural resource that helps fight climate change. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and store carbon, it can lessen our carbon footprint which is necessary to cool the earth. After the hurricane hit the forest with winds of 130 miles per hour, the beautiful green lush land was left brown and silent. It was an extremely hard thing to digest. It left many people on the island sad, depressed and scared. The El Yunque forest is extremely important to the island’s water supply. Twenty percent of the island rely on the forest for their water supply. Barcelona is a village that relies on the water that streams directly from the forest. The water is filtered and runs along the pipes directly to their faucets. When hurricane Maria hit, it damaged the pipes and the village was left without water for days. The village came together and quickly reacted. They repaired the pipes with what resources that had and was able to have some flow of water. Although, the water was brown and unfiltered, they made sure when the repairs were done, a water committee was organized. They had to think of ways to be prepared if such a disaster were to occur again. The committee distributes water filters and are committed to finding ways to keep the water clean after heavy rain falls. The forest was a great source of water supply for the island and so were the trees. The trees have a major role on the carbon dioxide that was released. This change of release can have a large effect on the concentration in the atmosphere. Giselle Gonzalez who has worked in El Yunque Forest for 26 years, stated that hurricanes can be good for forests in some ways. When the leaves and branches get knocked down, to the ground, it can help fertilize the soil for a faster new plant growth. It has been two years since hurricane Maria wiped out the forest, but the forest has made some changes. Trees are starting to grow more and there is some green lush. We can hear the birds and coquis. This new regrowth has given the people of Puerto Rico hope. It will take years for the forest to be full of life again, and all though it will not be the same, it will be home to hundreds of species and the center of our hearts.