With their striking flora and fauna and consistently pleasant temperatures, it’s no wonder that the Caribbean islands are often described as paradise. Across the region, ecosystems ranging from high-elevation cloud forests to cactus scrublands boast an incredible array of plants and animals. The Caribbean is also designated as a biodiversity hotspot, which means that its rich natural resources are under threat of destruction. About 70 percent of its original habitats have been lost to natural processes such as water and wind erosion, as well as human activities like deforestation, chemical dumping, and construction. Rising sea levels are another looming menace.

One of the first recorded comparisons between the Caribbean and paradise came from Christopher Columbus in 1492 as he gazed upon the islands during his first voyage west. As we all know, Columbus sailed the ocean blue on behalf of the monarchs of...

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