Hold on, this may take a moment to connect:
Puerto Rico can become the first significant size polity to rebuild itself from the ground up to be totally Carbon free. Or at least, that seems like a good idea. If only the US Government wasn’t so anti-Puerto Rico, owing to the president being, well, Trump.
Anyway, there is now a pile of money and effort pouring int Puerto Rico and this can be used in part to give Puerto Rico sigificantly more economic and energy security in its future, if only energy-smart decisions are made now. So let’s see what Get Energy Smart Now blog has to say about this!
Puerto Rico’s electricity system, prior to Maria, heavily relied on centralized diesel power generation with above-ground power transmission: very high cost electricity, dependent on continued fossil-fuel imports, with great vulnerability to disruption.
Post disaster, thoughtful policy and efforts would seek to maximize value in the Disaster 4R chain: relief, recovery, reconstruction, and resiliency against future impacts.
Rapid deployment/installation of solar-power centered micro-grids to Puerto Rico is a clear example of a Disaster 4R.
Here are some rapid thoughts as to such a Solar Disaster 4R package.
Go HERE to see the bullet pointed suggestions which could ultimately lead Puerto Rico into the next era of energy planning and development. As noted in the bullet points of the post, the success and validity of any such overhaul is based on it coming from the Puerto Rican society, economy, and local population.
Visiting Arkansas, hanging around briefly with some people in the Real Estate business, I found a lot of hatred of Mexicans, whom they unimaginatively referred to as “spics” but making it clear they were talking about Mexicans, not some other spics. Sitting with a group of people talking about racism in an urban neighborhood in near Minneapolis, I found zero mention of dislike between whites per se and blacks per se. But Poles and Tibetans, they were very much disliked by people who were mostly but not all white. Years ago I remember being shocked by a fellow anthropologist who expressed a hatred of Cubans. This hatred stemmed from the death of a friend, gunned down by a Cuban criminal, who was in the US because of Mariel, in the Milwaukee area, a significant ultimate destination for Cuban refugees at that time. Where I grew up, all the white people sorted out and looked down upon each other by closely defined European ethnicity, and all the white people feared and distrusted all the black people, and there was one Japanese guy. But, we knew about, were told about, Puerto Ricans. That was in upstate New York, and New York City had a lot of Puerto Ricans, to the extent that as a child I thought Puerto Rico was an island just a few miles off New York City (because I was told that, don’t know why). White New Yorkers historically disdain Puerto Ricans because people from Puerto Rico represent one of the largest Hispanic groups in that area, or at least, did for many decades, while certain people were growing up and doing business.
It is not true that racism is random, arbitrary, or non deterministic. It is not build in, it is not always the same. Racism emerges with a strong historical context and different racisms look different for discernible reasons. American racism is special in its own way, with its own history, not the same as other racism, and there is an interesting characteristic to it. Most everybody who is white dislikes, distrusts, or disdains, the people of color, mainly African Americans. Recent immigrants of any ethnicity or geographic origins are generally disdained. That is all expected. But, since The Americas are a complex web of mostly Hispanic cultures with diverse and sometimes very complicated histories (Who knew history was so complicated? Nobody knew!) that part of American racism tends to have very specific parameters. Arkansas landowners rent to Mexican migrants. Minnesota city dwellers have a long menu of immigrants from diverse places across Eurasia and Africa, and multiple New World countries. It is a good thing Minnesota has a good educational system, because racists here have to know a LOT just to know whom to disdain. My Anthro colleague was from the Milwaukee area, where anti-Cuban sentiment had festered. If you were not from a Mariel recipient area, or near the mysterious Puerto Rican Islands of New York Harbor, or a Landlord to the Mexicans, you might not know much, or care much, about those specific groups. In short, white anti-other feelings are not uniform or consistent, and vary with the place the particular white person grew up and the particular way history has shaped their hatred.
All this is a long way of saying that Donald Trump hates Puerto Ricans because he is a white dude from Queens of a certain age, who was involved in real estaate, and also most would say, a white supremacist. I’m not sure if the rest of the country, outside of New York, is quite seeing this or understanding it. A hurricane during a Trump administration could happen anywhere other than Puerto Rico, and Trump would respond less disdainfully and stupidly. A hurricane hitting Puerto Rico during the Trump administration is not so much of a disaster in Donald Trump’s eyes. It isn’t just that Trump likes other people better, or is getting Puerto Rico wrong. No. Trump is a pretty right wing privileged real-estate connected white guy from Queens. Dollars to donuts says he likes that a hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Keep that in mind while listening to what he says and watching his body language. It will all make sense, in a sick and demented sort of way, if you do.
The White House calls the disaster in Puerto Rico a “good news story,” implying that the federal government is doing a great job there.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump put out a tweet today that seems to imply that the US needs to consider whether or not it wants to help Puerto Rico, which, by the way, is actually part of the United States.
Here is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, responding to some of this:
Hat tip: Media Matters for America
Two or three thoughts about the current crisis.
When there is a major climate disaster in the US, people move. Since the US is big and has large gaps in population, it looks different than when a disaster happens in some other places. Five million (or more) Syrians leaving the Levant left a major mark across the globe. A half million leaving the Katrina hit zone was barely noticed on a global, or even national, scale, not just because it was one tenth the amount, but because of our size and space as well.
Something close to half the 400K or so displaced by Katrina (over half of them from NOLA) have returned to the vicinity they formerly lived in, and only a third to the same original location. The others are all over the place, distributed with a rapidly decreasing distance decay function. So these displacements, in the US, tend to be very long term and can thus affect demography and politics far afield.
An exodus from Puerto Rico will likely have a different decay function than seen for Katrina because it is, and apparently few people know this, an Island! But anyway, it is likely that there will be an exodus from Puerto Rico and it is starting to look like it will be sufficient to make Florida less Purple and more Blue, and specifically, more anti-Trump.
Note that in the past, New York was the most likely destination for a person from Puerto Rico to move, which is funny given Trump’s statements about all his Puerto Rican friends. For those not from that region, Puerto Ricans have long been hated by white supremacists in the greater NY metro area. But I digress. Anyway, over recent years, Florida has become a growing center of the US Mainland Puerto Rican community.
For context: There are about 3.5 million people living in Puerto Rico who identify as Puerto Rican, and about 5.3 million self identified Puerto Ricans in the lower 48. Currently there is somewhat under one million in Florida, somewhat over in NY, but Puerto Ricans are everywhere in the US, with the fewest in the upper plains and the most in the greater NY area (as far out as Penn) and Florida.
We are concerned that cholera will spread in Puerto Rico. You may remember the ca 2011 epidemic that mainly struck Haiti (see chart above). There was another ten years earlier. There is some interesting research out there linking cholera to climate change. The pathogen, Vibrio cholerae, lives in coastal waters where it has a keystone commensal relationship with copepods and other microinvertebrates. We think of cholera as a highly contagious pathogen among humans, but it starts from its natural reservoirs in water. In some areas of South Asia, cholera was significantly attenuated by the discovery that simply passing well water through common cotton cloth filtered out the disease enough to make a difference, at least in some contexts.
For historical context, there was a huge cholera epidemic in the Caribbean in the 19th century, and I understand this event, which killed something like 30,000 in Puerto Rico alone, is still a traumatic memory in the region. From a 2011 summary of the historic epidemic, written I suspect in response to the re-emergence of the problem about six years ago:
The Caribbean region experienced cholera in 3 major waves… The 3 periods of cholera in the Caribbean that we have identified are 1833–1834 (with, according to Kiple , possible lingering cholera in outlying areas until late 1837 or early 1838) in Cuba; 1850–1856 in Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Nevis, Trinidad, the Bahamas, St. Vincent, Granada, Anguilla, St. John, Tortola, the Turks and Caicos, the Grenadines (Carriacou and Petite Martinique), and possibly Antigua; and 1865–1872 in Guadeloupe, Cuba, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Martinique, and Marie Galante.
It is thought that Cholera is more likely to be abundant and to spread into human populations with warmer waters, and possibly the range over which cholera is a lingering constant threat in coastal waters is likely increasing. Also, increased air temperatures and rainfall can increase growth or spread of cholera in the wild. This is a relationship first identified in the 1990s, and that has been demonstrated through several studies. The next few weeks and months in Puerto Rico are an accidental and potentially horrific experimental laboratory to test the science that has been percolating along over the last 20 years.