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Eladio Fernandez ’85

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13 Aristolochia passiflorifolia is one of the pipe vine species from Cuba that is part of the study that Fernandez is currently conducting in the Greater Antilles.

14 Mother and calf humpback whales in the Silver Bank of the Dominican Republic.

“Every island

in the Caribbean has its own conservation story. Conservation laws in Cuba get enforced, thanks to an authoritarian regime. Haiti has a huge deforestation problem and is undergoing mass extinctions of flora and fauna. Dominican Republic has preserved a third of its territory as protected areas (at least on paper), thanks to the political decisions of a past president who considered preserving nature a national priority. But the current governments have horrible environmental policies,” says Fernandez. “Puerto Rico has a small territory, but the U.S. enforces laws that protect important areas and forests. Jamaica is currently under economic hardship, and its politicians are trying to kick-start the economy again by expanding mining and leasing protected areas for ports. The story goes on and on.” He’s discouraged when he sees governments not valuing the importance of protecting the environment, however. “Nature provides our most basic needs: food, water, and housing,” he says. “Wherever you are sitting, look at what surrounds you—everything comes from a

natural resource. Instead of keeping nature at the center of all political policies, it has been relegated to the side. “Instead, governments dedicate huge amounts of their budgets to education, health care––all important things when it comes to human beings, but they seem secondary when you don’t have access to drinking water,” he says. “Water may not be of any concern in developed countries, but it is a huge issue in developing countries.” Fernandez’s commitment to and passion for his Caribbean region is deep. And it’s lived out in his work and his words. “We can no longer afford to be conservation photographers, filmmakers, and storytellers. We need to take it a step further and do the conservation work itself,” he says. “We now have to be part of the story. The planet can no longer afford people on it who are not paying rent. Everyone needs to get involved by volunteering and giving back to a cause. The Taft motto is more relevant today than ever.” j —Bonnie Blackburn-Penhollow ’84

Island Naturalist,

The documentary series, will be released and shown in fall 2019 in the Dominican Republic, followed by an eight-episode series to be available on one of the streaming platforms. Taft Bulletin / SPRING 2019

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Profile for Taft School

Spring 2019 Taft Bulletin  

Spring 2019 Taft Bulletin