See how a group of photographers is responding to the media's nonstop negativity about their home.

Maybe you've heard Puerto Rico is in a little bit of trouble.

The latest scare has been about the island's "unpayable" $72 billion debt.


"¿Más sacrificios? Bummer." Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

But who wants talk about that, right?

We get it. They're in a debt crisis. That drum's been beaten so loudly that Greece is like, "Uhh, guys, can you keep it down? We're trying to focus over here."

The crisis may be out of the ordinary citizens' hands, but a group of Instagrammers is stepping up with a solution.

"Puerto Rico was getting a bad reputation ... for our current economic crisis," said artist Fernando Samalot in an interview with Upworthy. "And there was no effort from the government to mitigate the situation and keep people interested in visiting."

Image by The Real Puerto Rico/Instagram, used with permission.

Samalot is one of 10 ecotourism Instagrammers who helped launch an online initiative dubbed #CrisisIsland, the goal of which was explained in a statement by Synapse Social, the social media consulting group behind the campaign:

"The initiative aims to flood social networks with images and videos to show the world the natural beauty, gastronomy, hospitality, and traditions of the island beyond the economic and social problems that have dominated the conversation recently. ... The main purpose of the initiative is to promote tourism as an engine for economic recovery.

Their hope with #CrisisIsland is that the world will see all the things that make Puerto Rico immeasurably rich.

Samalot hopes more locals will feel empowered to act as representatives of Puerto Rico because, as he says, "nobody can tell the story better than the people who are actually living it."

With thousands of photos and videos posted to #CrisisIsland, it seems Samalot's wish is beginning to come true. And as you scroll through the images, debt doom gets swallowed by wonder and longing.

They show a Puerto Rico that's just rolling in green...

Photo by Fernando Samalot/Instagram (@simonebirch), used with permission.

...riddled with hidden gems...

Photo by Harold Camilo/Instagram (@haroldcamilo), used with permission.

...and bathed in turquoise.

Photo by Isaac Reyes/Instagram (@sakography), used with permission.

They show people who are proud of their home...

Photo by Gabriel Ocando/Instagram (@krekro), used with permission.

...who see the bigger picture...

Photo by Harold Camilo/Instagram (@haroldcamilo), used with permission.

...and who know the financial crisis, huge as it may seem, is mere chump change next to Puerto Rico's natural wonders.

"Tus problemas no son mas grandes que estas montañas. La vida es un pestañeo, compártela, disfrútala, siembra la semilla del amor. Puerto Rico necesita gente como tú, con determinación. Has tu parte." Photo by Gabriel Ocando/Instagram (@krekro), used with permission.

"Your problems are not bigger than these mountains. Life is a blink, share it, enjoy it, sowing the seed of love. Puerto Rico needs people like you, with determination. Do your part." — Gabriel Ocando

For some, it may be hard to imagine a collection of photos leading to real change, but isn't it as good an idea as any?

They won't erase the the island's debt or solve their broader economic struggles. But they can remind locals to stay optimistic while also showcasing Puerto Rico's vast offerings beyond the walls of resorts and strip malls.

"Tucked between mountains, through the veins of our land, the source of life flows." Photo by Fernando Samalot/Instagram (@simonebirch), used with permission.

"The power of social networks is undeniable," said Carmen Portela, founder of Synapse Social. "This group ... has decided to use that power to seize the crisis and improve the image of the country, which has so much to offer the world."

See more on the #CrisisIsland Instagram feed and in this video by The Real Puerto Rico:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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JediMentat 44 / Flickr

Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world and it's also one of the greatest producers of waste. The company uses more than 8,000 coffee cups per minute, which adds up to four billion a year. Over 1.6 million trees are harvested every year to make its disposable cups.

Since the cups are lined with plastic only four cities in the U.S. will accept them for recycling.

Starbucks has attempted to address this issue in the past by making bold proclamations that it will reduce its waste production, but unfortunately, they have yet to yield substantial results.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less