To efficiently operate projects aimed at preventing pollution and protecting public health, an obstacle-free runway is required. To achieve this, we must identify what the frequent barriers are.
Here are three: local politics, extreme weather events, and threats of federal budget cuts to these types of projects. Each barrier impacts the results of the work and operations carried out by nonprofit organizations. For each one, there must be a plan and a strategy that mitigates its impact.
At the local level, public policy tends to move based on political interests, which are not always in the best interest of the environment. Therefore, we must take a closer look into the decisions that politicians make and publicly audit the legislative measures approved. We should hold accountable the politicians who are slow to take action towards these challenges that afflict Puerto Rico, as well as recognize those who are committed to solving them.
On the other hand, extreme weather events delay our agendas and the progress that communities make. This climate reality has to be recognized in our work plans, budget, and infrastructure. Contingency and mitigation plans should be incorporated into our strategies immediately, along with the ability to operate from resilient spaces and with an electrical system that runs through renewable sources.
The recent budget proposal by the White House to reduce by 26% of the spending budget of the US Environmental Protection Agency is the same headache we experience every year. In fortunate cases, Congress manages to restore them without any increase, and in most cases, the budget decreases.
Being at the mercy of decisions at the federal level keeps those who run environmental programs on constant alert, as it threatens the financial stability of their corporations. Managing it requires a business frame of mind, one that places the fiscal health of the organization at the same level as the health of the environment. Achieving the latter is impossible if we cannot financially sustain our operations. The Estuary explored its offerings in the Guayacán Group accelerator and developed opportunities to generate revenue to continue its mission while maintaining its operations. Many nonprofit corporations have taken this step after realizing that we cannot rely on federal grants and that our services are as marketable as the services offered by for-profit corporations.
Another opportunity that would further mitigate the threat of federal cuts is the partnership with related organizations. For example, there is Filantropía PR known as Red de Fundaciones, which has launched a campaign towards equity and social justice. Its programs seek both social and environmental issues. There can be no social justice if we do not breathe clean air, and if the rivers, lagoons, and beaches are contaminated with wastewater. There is also the Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, which should continue to direct its efforts towards building institutional capacity and supporting a healthy administration of community corporation projects.
Puerto Rico can also count on the goodwill of philanthropic groups in the United States to which we should continue to educate about our needs. Platforms such as the Clinton Global Initiative has proven to provide a national and international forum for local projects. Similarly, the Environmental Grantmakers Association is a group of 200 donors interested in supporting local efforts. Their visit next week should serve to actively educate about the challenges we face and present our projects.
In short, the race to achieve our respective missions aimed at environmental conservation should not fall upon predictable barriers. We can put on our “social entrepreneur” hat and develop a plan, establish responsibilities, and create local alliances, along with those outside entities that share an enthusiastic commitment and sincere interest in helping us.