Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 441 | Abril 2018



Why are we ignoring science?

How many Nicaraguans are aware that when Stephen Hawking died on March 14 the world lost one of the most brilliant minds ever known on this planet? Why is Nicaragua, which has so many resources to contribute to science, so uninterested in it? With this question in mind I read a lot, looked for some scientists and formulated some conjectures.

William Grigsby Vergara

Nicaragua is a natural laboratory for evolution, just as the Galapagos Islands were for Charles Darwin more than a century ago, declared Melisa Olave, evolutionary biologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She arrived in Managua in January 2018 as part of a team of four scientists from that university engaged in a three-week investigation into cichlid fish in Nicaragua’s volcanic crater lakes. Her intriguing statements and the research she and her colleagues did on the scientific value of our cichlid fish—commonly known as bream—went unnoticed by most Nicaraguans. This disinterest led me to think about why Nicaragua ignores science.

“Nicaragua should think about what it has”

Leading the team using high-tech tools to research our crater lakes and our bream was Alex Meyer, also an evolutionary biologist, who has worked in Nicaragua since the 1980s and is an expert in the adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes.

A critic of building an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua, Meyer has pointed out that our bream, just like the Galapagos Islands’ finches and the Caribbean’s anolis lizards, are animals of enormous scientific importance because they explain how the law of evolution works. Meyer began research on our bream in 1984, when he came to Nicaragua to study these fishes in situ for the first time. In 2012 he discovered in Managua’s Lake Asososca two endemic species existing only in our country: amphilophus tolteca and amphilophus viridis.

Meyer believes there are many new undiscovered endemic species in Nicaragua’s crater lakes, especially in Asososca and Apoyeque, the two that were geologically formed most recently and have different genetic clusters, capable of harboring different species.

Currently an associate professor at Harvard University, Meyer has devoted 30 years of his life to studying these fish and has succeeded in sequencing the complete genome of more than 600 individual bream. He speaks to us from the weight of this experience: “Nicaragua should value the unique system of its volcanic crater lakes, which are globally considered to be of great scientific importance.”

country with more
religion than science

Does Nicaragua value it? Ours is a country where there’s more religion than science; where religious ideas are deeply rooted and scientific information in any field is questioned from a religious standpoint and scientific debate only interests a minority. In Nicaragua, even many university students don’t believe in the law of evolution but rather in the creation myth they read about in the first pages of the Bible. Meyer’s statements and those of the scientific team accompanying him thus went no further than a few notes in some of the media. It was unable to compete with entertainment news and the latest on the political stage, which never suffers a shortage of actors starring in the corruption scandals that fill our daily conversations.

Did Nicaragua value these top-level scientists who came to measure the chemical composition of our lakes—their salinity, luminosity, oxygen content and PH—so as to better understand the unique physiology of their fishes and teach us what we don’t know? I don’t think so.

And if Meyer’s words haven’t resounded, those of the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking—expert in black holes and one of the most brilliant minds on Earth—will have stirred even less interest. How many Nicaraguans paid any attention, or even knew when Hawking warned the world in late 2017, a few months into Donald Trump’s administration, that “by denying the evidence for climate change and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children”?

Ernesto Cardenal: A mystic
poet dazzled by science

Nicaragua is, in many ways, a paradoxical country. Most Nicaraguans have internalized magical thinking—waiting for miracles mediated by church pastors or believing in miraculous saints; content with the idea of being part of an inscrutable divine plan that explains everything and so belittling the importance of any scientific advance. Yet we in Nicaragua also coexist with one of humanity’s rarities: Ernesto Cardenal, not only Latin America’s most important living poet but the first (and only) scientific poet on our planet today.

You have only to look at his masterpiece, Cosmic Canticle, to feel how this mystic let himself be dazzled by science. Cardenal worked on that book of epic poetry through thirty years of research. He reviewed all the sciences, from archeology to astrophysics, to formulate from his discoveries a majestic portrait of the universe in 500 pages, divided into 43 autonomous yet integrated canticles, in the manner of the classics: Homer, Dante, Milton…

“Poetry has always been about nature,” explains Cardenal, “but as science has advanced so much, poetry also had to advance with scientific progress. Richard Feynman, a quantum physicist, says that nobody inspires our current image of the universe. Science is still not being sung about by the singers. We are heard in conferences but not in songs or poems. I’m an exception, I write poems about science.”

It’s because of phenomena like the exceptional Ernesto Cardenal that our country is also an enigma. In Nicaragua we live in ignorance and corruption and rank second in poverty among the countries of the continent and, at the same time, here lives this man who, just like the French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin, knows how to sing to God with the melody of string theory.

Is it dangerous for our country?

Another brilliant priest, Manuel Carreira—this time a Galician Jesuit, a NASA consultant, and a member of the Vatican Astronomical Observatory, an institution that for centuries has functioned as the “the eye of God”—has also tried to weave together philosophy, theology and physics to explain the origin of the universe throughout his life. But his discoveries also failed to catch the attention of most professionals in Nicargua, , despite the magical realism our reality.

I read Carreira. He explains that in quantum physics a particle doesn’t have to pass through the middle to move from one extreme to another across surface X. Do we understand it? I don’t know, but I am sure that understanding it is important.

Why does Nicaragua turn its back on science? Isn’t doing so also dangerous for our country? I’m burdened with these questions. A first answer that occurs to me is that if we continue to be ranked high in Latin American poverty it’s also because our country’s investment in education is minimal, and that this is why we don’t have enough scientists to explain to us how we can truly develop and not just appear to develop.

I wonder if this will be the main reason… What I venture to state is that few people in Nicaragua even know Father Carreira exists and equally few have read what Stephen Hawking has explained and left for us as a legacy. And they should be read and understood because, one a believer and the other an atheist, they are living proof that religion and science can coexist in peace and collaboration.

Aiming too high

Perhaps I aimed too high when, out of curiosity, I asked a taxi driver in Managua if he knew who Marie Curie was. He told me he didn’t even know if it was a man or a woman. However, without the contribution of that great Polish scientist who won two Nobel prizes (for physics in 1903 and for chemistry in 1911), that taxi driver couldn’t get an X ray in any hospital in the country if he were to break a bone in a traffic accident.

I aimed even higher when I asked the woman selling medicines in a pharmacy close to my house if she had ever heard of Mileva Maric, the mathematical child prodigy and first wife of Albert Einstein, without whom Einstein would never have been able to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.

If neither the taxi driver nor the pharmacist knows of these two renowned women, it isn’t a wild guess to assume it unlikely that any parish priest or preacher from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (better known as Stop Suffering) will know about the significance of Einstein’s elegant equation E=mc2 (Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared), which changed the way we see the world…

I can also assume that some of the lawyers working for the government, or the businessmen allied with it, or the communicators in any of its media, will also be unaware of how quantum physics rules the planetary spheres but will firmly believe that the presidential couple’s luck comes from the alignment of the universe, a pseudoscientific canard peddled in Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 best-seller The Secret.

How can we buy scientific books?

In a country like ours, where minimum-wage government workers earn a monthly C$5,208.27 (US$168) and the basic family food basket costs C$8,733.93 córdobas (climbing to a total equivalent to US$420 when other basic products and services on the list of 53 are included), it’s as certain as the limited education we had growing up and the shortage of scientists we have today that there’s no space in that basket for scientific books. Not even accessible books such as those written by Jaime Incer Barquero, one of Nicaragua’s few naturalists who, following the luminous trail of Charles Darwin, has devoted more than 50 years of his life to roaming the country investigating our varied ecosystems.

Then there are older and more expensive books such as Viaje por Centroamérica (1881-1883), written by the Swedish biologist Carl Bovallius, which offers a historical-geographical-ethnographic record of the region’s characteristics, or British geologist and naturalist Thomas Belt’s 1874 book The Naturalist in Nicaragua. If we could buy them, if we were to read them, we would learn a lot about what our country was like more than a century ago. We could see what we had and how much we’ve already lo.st.

We live in a land of water and fire

There are wonders in Nicaragua, abundant raw material for a lot of research with which we could contribute to world science. We have the largest freshwater lake in Central America and third largest in Latin America. Lake Cocibolca’s surface area of over 3,088 square miles is a virtually unexplored treasure.­ As if that isn’t enough, Lake Xolotlan, with over 386 square miles, is Central America’s second largest. And if that still isn’t enough, the Río Wangki, known by some as Coco, the largest river in Central America, runs through 466 miles of our geography.

In addition to this neglected, abundant wealth in water, Nicaragua has 58 volcanic formations, six of them active, including Santiago in Masaya, whose accessible crater now looks like a vermilion lava cauldron and astonishes tourists from all over the world. As a sign that religion was forcibly imposed in our country, the “Cross of Bobadilla” stands on the highest point of that volcano in memory of Friar Francisco de Bobadilla, who wanted to protect the town near the volcano from the “demons” and nearby “gates of hell” he believed were right in the crater. So many volcanos, such a powerful source of energy… and how many volcanologists? How much geothermic energy?

As well as having so much water and so many volcanos, all full of scientific information untapped by us, Managua is the only capital in the world containing five volcanic crater lakes: Xiloá, Apoyeque, Asososca, Tiscapa and Nejapa, all inhabited by the bream that so fascinate Axel Meyer… But just as we ignore science, we also ignore nature, the chest that keeps its secrets. No government has been able to prevent tons of garbage being dumped into Tiscapa and Nejapa, in particular, and no message about taking care of them has gotten through to the population.

Nor do we take care of our forests, irresponsibly cut down thanks to the economic interests of the wealthy few and the economic need of the many poor. We are even serenely deforesting the country’s 71 “protected” areas, including the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, which together with the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras form the largest and most extensive area of biodiversity in Central America. Despite being of incalculable biological value, which we barely know, and still awaiting research and studies, they are increasingly less protected.

Is the war over between
science and religion?

Science has advanced tremendously in the world since Pythagoras perfected mathematics and Aristarco predicted the eclipses of the sun three centuries before the birth of Christ. From that time up to today the relationship between science and religion has been very tense and has suffered significant confrontations.

The Christian hierarchies have vacillated about humanity’s scientific progress for a long time. Nicholas Copernicus and Johannes Kepler weren’t believed when they demonstrated that the geocentric theory, upheld by the Aristotelians, wasn’t true and insisted that the Earth is not the center of the universe.

The Church’s hierarchy condemned Galileo, considered the father of modern astrophysics, when he mathematically demonstrated Copernicus’ ideas. He had developed the telescope and with it, for the first time, saw the different phases of the Moon, the sunspots and Saturn’s rings but, under penalty of torture, he was forced by the Vatican to recant his theory that it was the Earth that moved, not the Sun.

Isaac Newton was the one to prove Galileo right and vindicate him in Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687), where he explained, among many other scientific truths, the influence of the Moon on tides, which is still fundamental for all those who navigate on the world’s seas. A profoundly Christian man, Newton defined each of his discoveries, among them the law of gravity, “gravitational force,” as a “secret revealed by God.”

Progress has come much faster since then. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian priest, formulated the Big Bang cosmological model in the 1930s, based on the Theory of Special Relativity proposed by Einstein at the beginning of the century and Roger Penrose, George Gamow and Stephen Weinberg would defend his theory as the origin of our universe years later.

The war between science and religion is already becoming a thing of the past… at least between scientists and trained religious authorities at the top levels.

Immersed in an
unscientific religiosity

The brilliant Stephen Hawking, a self-proclaimed atheist, was a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. On eulogizing its “exceptional member,” the Academy wrote that in his meetings with the last four popes (Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis I), Hawking always told them he wanted to “advance the relationship between faith and scientific reasoning.”

In 2015 Pope Francis surprised the world with his lucid encyclical Laudato Si, an enormously significant document that warns of the social consequences, especially for the poorest, of the environmental crisis facing the planet today. The encyclical was also extremely novel because a document devoting so many pages to the incorporation of science-based data, analysis and arguments had never before come from the Vatican.

If there had already been reconciliation, not simple but nonetheless evident, between religion and science, it had taken place at the top, amongst the most serious scientists and most lucid religious authorities. Most Nicaraguans haven’t yet achieved that reconciliation, or even know about the historical arguments that resulted in the literal reading of the Bible they now defend.

In Nicaragua, most people live in a virtually unscientific and deeply religious world, where the Bible explains, regulates and announces everything…and where, one way or another, most of the media consolidate that worldview.

I repeat: why do we ignore science? Is it due to the scant investment in education? Is it because of limited access to scientific literature? Is it due to the importance of traditional religiosity that ignores or disparages science, a religiosity with “truths” that are never questioned, never debated, just repeated and obeyed?

“Religion is acquired as a habit,
while science has to be learned”

To understand, I went to several representatives of the Nicaraguan scientific community to hear their points of view.

Marvin Tórrez is the coordinator of the Juan Roberto Zarruk Biological Station at the Central American University (UCA). He’s delighted that Pope Francis has been so concerned about climate change and wrote Laudato Si to warn us of the catastrophes that lie ahead not as punishment from God but as the result of human irresponsibility and what the pope calls “the throwaway culture” and “technocratic paradigm” dominating the world. He thinks Francis’ charisma has enabled many people to see the Catholic Church as viewing science positively and believes the encyclical is a good document for educating young people.

Why is religion more important than science in Nicaragua? I asked. His answer was that “because religion is learned at home, for many people it’s tied to the family. Religion is acquired as a habit and science has to be learned. And learning is tied to education: that’s where the difference is.”

According to this 36-year-old biologist, medicine is the science that’s advanced the most in Nicaragua. “That’s where there’s been more development, perhaps because it’s linked to health. I can’t talk about all the sciences. In the environmental sciences, which are in my field, I can say that there’s been a lot of progress in training for numerical and spatial analyses. Something similar is already there in ecology and biology and in environmental and natural resource engineering.”

Nicaragua’s universities have made an effort to offer scientific careers, especially in industrial, civil, computer, environmental, agricultural, electrical, electronic, mechanical and chemical engineering. Despite the positive efforts, however, the National Engineering University (UNI) is famous for “straining out” public school students across the country who have a hard time passing the annual entrance exam.

In 2016, 89.8% of applicants didn’t pass the math exam and couldn’t enter the university. As a result, UNI authorities decided to modify the admission test in 2017 favoring psychometric tests and giving lower ratings to math tests. Only in this way could they admit more than 50% of the applicants to UNI.

There’s a lot of information
and technological illiteracy

According to Marvin Tórrez, the universities produce a lot of information and have web portals where you can access research they’ve done. “The problem,” he says, “is who the recipients of all that information are. We can no longer talk of a lack of information. There’s a lot on the internet and in some state institutions. Some NGOs also have information they make available to the public, in reports or bibliographic material. The Leon Entomological Museum’s work is quite outstanding, for example, providing a lot of bibliographic material.”

The problem of the “recipients” of the available information is real. Many students don’t know how to do virtual searches due to functional illiteracy, which today is expressed in technological illiteracy, limiting the students’ access to what the new computer technologies have to offer.

Nicaragua has a lot of functional illiteracy of various types and even still has a high illiteracy rate. According to data from the Central Bank of Nicaragua, 20% of Nicaraguans over 10 years of age don’t know how to read or write.

“The priority is
quality basic education”

I asked Marvin Tórrez, who defines himself as a biologist by inclination and vocation, why Nicaragua doesn’t invest in scientific research, but he doesn’t think that’s the priority yet. “If you don’t first invest in providing quality education to children, you can’t talk about research,” he replied. “The emphasis must be on investing in basic education. First that, then later we’ll get back to research. The UCA invests in research through a fund and I know other sister universities in the National Council of Universities that have similar initiatives. They also hold annual scientific conferences and some governmental and nongovernmental initiatives are even linked to projects. But, more than wondering why there’s no research we should wonder why the impact isn’t perceived. The answer is that there’s a prior lack of quality basic education.”

Tórrez points out the lack of interest in knowledge and excessive interest in post-studies economic remuneration that characterizes us. “It’s a generational problem that first comes from our parents. Young people have been taught to study in order to make money, not in order to learn. Just listen to what’s said in many homes: Get the diploma even if afterwards you sell tomatoes.”

“Scientific knowledge must be
linked to humanistic values”

What can we do to get young Nicaraguans more interested in science and less in religion and politics? For Tórrez, the answer is clear: “Invest in human resources; teach children from a young age the foundations of science: mathematics, physics and chemistry.”

Tórrez is worried. He doesn’t think Nicaragua is prepared for the catastrophes climate change will cause and sees that both poverty and deforestation are making us very vulnerable. He insists on prevention, which requires scientific knowledge, because he reckons that it will protect us from our vulnerability.

His conclusion at the end of the interview is precise and honest: “Where there’s no science there’s poverty. When you have science you can educate for a better future. But, be careful, science must be linked to humanistic values. If it isn’t, you end up working to aggrandize the capitalist system, which only boosts the accumulation of wealth by the few. If science is used without moral values, without ethics, it’s useless. You can encourage scientific education, innovation, research and technology, but if the results only benefit a small percentage of the population, it might as well not exist.”

“Lack of education in children
and of clarity in the political class”

Still in the UCA, I decided to also talk to the current vice rector, Jorge Huete Pérez, who has a PhD in molecular biology from the University of California. He agrees with Tórrez that medical science has developed the furthest in Nicaragua because it addresses issues that directly concern the whole population. “However, if we compare ourselves to other Latin American countries, such as Cuba or Brazil, our development is still very incipient even in that field.”

He also agrees with Tórrez about why Nicaragua isn’t investing more in scientific research: “Lack of good basic education and because the Nicaraguan political class is unclear about the roots of our country’s problems.”

Despite everything, Huete has already noticed a generational shift: “I see an increasing interest in science and technological development among young people. There are ways to attract them to science, by abandoning orthodox teaching methods. Nicaragua can encourage young people’s interest by finding better ways to teach science. The problem for scientific education is that the ways it’s being taught are sometimes not the most appropriate.”

There’s already an
incipient generational change

Dr. Huete is right: there is a change. In paradoxical Nicaragua we already have proof. In May 2016, ten students from the American School in Managua participated in an annual “astronomical search campaign” started over a decade ago by a professor of Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, which has evolved into the International Astronomical Search Collaboration and now serves more than 500 schools, involving some 7,000 students in 60 countries on 6 continents.

The 7th and 8th grade American School students (aged 12-13) found two new asteroids! Along with Julio Vannini, a middle-school science teacher in the American School and secretary of the Nicaraguan Association of Amateur Astronomers (ANASA), they spent three weeks analyzing images sent by the Texas university and succeeded in identifying four celestial bodies, of which, two were confirmed asteroids.

Four years earlier five students from the Pierre and Marie Curie School in Managua participated in the same campaign and were the first to discover an asteroid. On that occasion, Jaime Incer Barquero, president of ANASA, described the finding as significant “because with it Nicaragua enters into the universe of nations with special interest in astronomy.” But, despite the discovery and the jubilation with which our naturalist received it, the government of Nicaragua gave these young discoverers no public recognition.

Another “miracle” in this field is that of Kevin Morales, a fourth-year medical student at Nicaragua’s Redemptoris Mater Catholic University (UNICA), who won first place in the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition promoted by UNESCO’s World Action Program last year. His winning project was called BHOGIP, a bracelet with stickers filled with microchips so people with congenital or acquired visual disabilities can locate objects because they vibrate with a distinctive frequency depending on how far away they are.

More than 2,000 proposals were submitted in the “Best Project” category, 550 of which were pre-selected. Kevin won first place among the 20 finalists. He ascended the podium with young people from Brazil, Ghana and Ethiopia who were awarded prizes in a ceremony in October, transmitted live from Berlin. Kevin’s commitment and achievement are more than encouraging and coming from Nicaragua are almost heroic.

“The importance given religion indicates a country’s scientific development”

I’m still in the UCA with my bag of questions… Katherine Bammen, an Austrian scientist with a doctorate in the biochemistry and microbiology of water resources, is a researcher and member of the Inter-American Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS) and coordinator of the Central American Regional Master’s Program in Water Sciences. She is now directing the new Natural Sciences’ Inter-Disciplinary Institute at the UCA.

Bammen also applauds Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si: “There’s a global political crisis and the fact that the Pope has focused on the problem of climate change and the need to address it from different approaches came at just the right time to guide everyone.”

For Bammen, “the importance given to traditional religion in a country is an indicator of the level of scientific development of that country. In Nicaragua that development is very poor through a lack of the necessary tools, among them institutional capacity and a critical mass of professionals.” Nonetheless, she thinks Nicaragua has progressed in both the social and the natural sciences, although much remains to be done: “What’s needed is for all the sciences to work together in an interdisciplinary way.”

“The canal project was applauded”

Even the institutional capacity for scientific research is very limited in Nicaragua. This was confirmed for Bammen with the submission of the interoceanic canal construction project. The government never consulted the population much less Nicaragua’s small scientific community about this project, which was announced and approved in just a few days. Neither did the national institutions do the relevant research to demonstrate if a project of this magnitude was viable or not and whether it would affect Nicaragua’s biodiversity.

“This project was applauded by many,” said Bammen, “even though it involved damaging the largest tropical lake in the Americas and the 16th largest in the world, a lake with the potential to be the engine of Nicaragua’s development, but not by crossing it with a canal.”

Three contented young scientists

Can we talk about our country’s scientific contributions? Are there any significant ones? Katherine Bammen considers the creation of the UCA’s Molecular Biology Center (CBM) a great advance: “It has given Nicaragua a capacity that’s not normally found in underdeveloped countries and has aroused interest in science in young people, even though the environment in which many of them live, the poverty and lack of education, don’t help.”

Three outstanding young people in the CBM have overcome the obstacles placed in their path by the country where they grew up. Fania Pérez Mendoza, 26 years old, is now a researcher for its Health and Population Genome Program. After studying clinical bio-analysis she specialized in molecular genetics and is happy in her work. Lucía Páiz Medina, 29 years old, is a molecular biologist and scientific researcher for the Center’s Biodiversity and Bioprospection Program and she’s also content. And Suyen Solange Espinoza, the same age as Fania and like her a researcher for the Health and Population Genome Program, recalls how her early love for the medical sciences led her to study biochemistry until she turned her passion into research.

She very cheerfully recalls: “I recently completed a project on the Human Papillovirus (HPV). I visited two Nicaraguan communities where I studied the kinds of viruses that usually affect women. People know about cancer but have no idea about the different types that exist. Being able to determine which type is the one that has caused the disease is fundamental because that way the treatment is more directed and, furthermore, if we know the types we can develop specific vaccines.”

The gender bias in science

These three young women show that, despite the dominant patriarchy, there’s a scientific future for them in Nicaragua.

Margarita Vannini, an honorary member of the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences, has published comments on its official website: “If we analyze the gender relationship that exists in the Science Academies of the Americas, we find that something happens with the professional training and integration of women scientists. Women represent only 15% of the members of these academies. This means that the world of sciences is still masculine. We reach the same conclusion looking closely at the gender relationship in Nobel Prize winners: 849 men and only 43 women.”

Despite this striking gender bias, which extends well beyond our borders, there are young women such as Fania, Lucía and Suyen, who can make a difference in the future.

Not many or big changes as yet

Yes, all is not grim. Since 2012 the Nicaraguan government has included science, technology and innovation in its Human Development Plan, leading the Nicaraguan Council of Science and Technology to promote National Science Week, where children and young people can submit scientific projects for productive activity, social projection, research, teaching…

Not many or big changes have been seen as yet. In order for this to happen, to get out of poverty, Nicaragua needs collective reflection, a radical about-face where religion and politics don’t hinder or disparage scientific development.

I read that Trappist-1, a solar system located 39 light years from the Earth, was discovered in February 2017. It’s formed by seven planets, six of them rocky and one with a mass similar to that of the Earth. This discovery has ignited the expectations of thousands of scientists around the world that someday we can find water on a planet other than our own, where climate change is already causing disastrous catastrophes such as we saw in 2017 with the unusually destructive hurricanes Irma, María and Nate, which one right after another left damage that will take the people, particularly those of the Caribbean, decades to repair.

I think NASA is closer to reaching that solar system than Nicaragua is to becoming a scientific power. But we mustn’t stop working to try to achieve it. We have so many raw materials in our country, so many natural resources to contribute to world science, that this task should be a priority.

We still have time

Katherine Bammen thinks a priority at this time is to change people’s awareness about the environmental problem, especially among the young. In a few years’ time that could inspire a new breed of scientists with enough information, knowledge and sensitivity to provide solutions to the climate crisis that’s already affecting us.

She’s optimistic. Despite deforestation, neglect, avoidable pollution, what the institutions don’t contribute and the lack of a needed critical mass of professionals, Bammen still considers Nicaragua a tropical paradise with great biodiversity and more productive bodies of water than those of other countries. Not all is lost and we still have time. It’s up to us all to take care of this paradise.

William Grigsby Vergara is a Nicaraguan writer.

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