FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Puerto Rico After Maria: Owning the Problem

Photo by The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

The failure to treat our colony Puerto Rico as we treated suburban Houston is no accident and it brings sharply in focus how American Exceptionalism makes exceptions to those not white-skinned and upper class. Following the debacle of Katrina, where working poor blacks were hit hardest by poor regional planning and investment, the sequel in the Caribbean shows how ruthless capitalists can be to those low on their ladder. The “external costs” of resource exploitation of the planet include the increasingly powerful storms that run wild over intentionally ruined mangrove swamps in Louisiana, and wipe away decaying above ground electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico, that would have been replaced wit modern underground systems in a gated community.

Houston was built without zoning or enough simple land-use planning to build expressways above flood waters or to keep areas below water reservoirs free of housing. By luck of the draw this area was the first of three consecutive natural disasters and therefore had the undivided attention of federal resources. The fact that upper middle class homeowners were tricked into buying floodplain property says quite a bit about their understanding of the natural world.

Florida was hit by a very strong storm, luckily its path was sufficiently westward to limit damage to heavily populated areas on the east coast. Electrical power was restored in less than 2 days on the east coast and a few days later on the harder hit west coasts. Thousands of utility boom trucks were assembled from all over the US to assist. Lineman from WI were on the way to Florida and were told to turn around, because so much help had been received they were not needed.

Why were these trucks not put on Roll-On Roll-Off ships in Jacksonville ( a major auto import portal) and sent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands?

After 4 weeks of no electricity to power wells and sewage treatment plants we have been told that part of the problem is that it takes at least 5 days to get a barge of power poles to the islands. How long does it take to decide they are needed?

Some critical thinking is needed for the rebuilding of all of these disaster areas. Can we build them to new standards, recognizing new flood plains with rising seas, buried utilities to protect from stronger winds, stronger roofs to prevent blow offs? Can we implement alternative energy and micro grids to gain strength from distributed networks and multiple small sources?

Most importantly, can we recognize the need of citizens of all colors and classes to the same protections?

Believers in market solutions decry planning as socialist and restrictive of freedom. Of course their freedom is based on profits from artificially cheap labor and materials, whose value is skewed by currency differentials, trade policies, and local political oppression opposed from afar (in Puerto Rico’s case a banana republic we own outright).

Real land use planning in Houston would return the lowlands to the sea and rebuild housing to the north on higher ground.

Repair of the mangrove swamps in Louisiana requires filling in the numerous oil industry canals that destroyed the sponge affect of a swamp. Fossil fuel accelerated climate change doubled down on a fossil fuel industry ruined natural defense of the shore-lands. The complete rebuilding of our Caribbean colony will require a building code that can handle 150 mph winds.

We have the knowledge and skills and resources to do these things together. We need to plan, and we need to transcend our bigoted national mindset that these darkies don’t deserve our best. If the “party of the people” wishes to stand up and move beyond whining about interference in an election they tried hard not to lose, it could develop a winning approach based on the idea that peace, health, and prosperity for all is the goal. The context must be sustainable economic development that sees the problems we face as opportunities for a transition to a new society. We need to expose and reverse the policies that the capitalists insist on being free to impose on us. But that approach requires acknowledging that we have found the problem, and we own it.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail