Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz named one of Grist's 50 Fixers
This story was originally published by Grist.
His research gets to the root of the problem on Puerto Rico’s farms
Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz grew up in rural Puerto Rico, where he lived between a river and a pasture. He often gathered plants for his grandmother, and learned to look to the natural world for sustenance and healing. That childhood experience flows through his Ph.D. research into food systems and food sovereignty in Puerto Rico, where severe storms may devastate the local food supply — a problem that climate change intensifies. His earlier work established that nearly half of the island’s farmers remained worried about feeding themselves months after Hurricane Maria tore across the island in 2017. For his dissertation, he is documenting the political and economic barriers that prohibit local farmers and fisherfolk from adapting to a changing climate. “What I see is that farmers are aware of climate change, they are motivated, and have internal capacity to adapt,” he says. But local policies too often block farming practices that could build resilience, or prevent farmers from accessing resources that could get them there. His goal: to foster networks between nonprofits, ag officials, and farmers that will keep Puerto Rico well fed.