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In anticipation of a busy summer season in Puerto Rico after almost three months of confinement over the COVID-19 emergency, Scuba Dogs Society (SDS) has presented the “Guide to Leave Your Mark in Harmony With Nature,” aiming to educate the public on how to return to nature in a healthy and respectful way.

The guide proposes concrete actions in eight areas, such as flora & fauna and the climate, to fully enjoy natural spaces without harming them.

The guide includes the new normal rules of wearing masks in public and following social distancing measures, as well as calling on residents to participate in beach cleanups and other conservation efforts.

In addition, SDS says we need to continue using reusable products, bottles and containers, rather than one-use plastics and plastic straws; avoid Styrofoam materials, such as containers and coolers; use eco-friendly shampoos and soaps; keep our beaches and other natural areas free of garbage; and refrain from harming marine life and coral reefs.

Out of respect for others, the guide also calls on people to refrain from playing loud music at the beach and other public spaces; clean up after your dogs; and use Jet Skis, boats and other motorized equipment with caution.

The document was created by a group of scientists, including Ariel Lugo, director of the U.S. Forest Service’s International Institute for Tropical Forestry; Fernando Silva, director of the Institute of Sciences for Conservation; and marine biologist Ana Trujillo, executive director of SDS.

“With human beings in confinement, nature has received an extraordinary benefit. We are an essential part of nature, and we need to return to it. Many other species have already done so; they returned happily to their habitats without feeling threatened. We must also return to our natural spaces to enjoy them, but in a responsible, caring and harmonious way,” Trujillo said.

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Lugo, who has spent several decades contributing to scientific research and multiple efforts to conserve forests in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, said he is confident that humans, as an integral part of nature, will learn to adapt resiliently to the new changes and improve the forecasts for the environment. He recalled how nature recovered in Puerto Rico after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Natural systems respond and adapt to mankind’s footprint. If our mark is in harmony with nature, we will have vibrant natural systems that are in sync with our activity. A footprint in disharmony with nature results in altered natural systems that are less likely to support our activities,” Lugo affirmed.

In recent days, some residents in Puerto Rico have returned to natural spaces, such as beaches and rivers, “without due care,” the organization indicated. However, the most egregious example were the hordes of people that flocked to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri over the Memorial Day weekend, many of them not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

To avoid such examples, SDS urges people to take advantage of the historic situation that has taken over the world to establish a new social paradigm to, once and for all, live in harmony with natural resources.

In this regard, Alberto Martí Ruiz, co-founder of SDS, said that Puerto Rico needs to reflect and seek avenues of consensus to improve our interaction with nature.

“Given this historic change in the behavior of the human species due to the risk of contagion of COVID-19, it is also our responsibility to change the way we impact nature. This is called the human footprint. If we all improve our footprint, we can continue to enjoy nature as clean and healthy as it is now,” he stated.

The Guide To Leave Your Mark in Harmony With Nature can be accessed at www.scubadogssociety.org.

Reporter for The Weekly Journal. She is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience. Rosario received both of her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

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