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Puerto Rico Is Our Future


Puerto Rico Is Our Future

Richard Heinberg

News reports tell of the devastation left by a direct hit from Category 4 Hurricane Maria. Puerto Ricans already coping with damage from Hurricane Irma, which grazed the island just days before, were slammed with an even stronger storm on September 20, bringing more than a foot of rain and maximum sustained winds of at least 140 miles per hour. There is still no electricity—and likely won’t be for weeks or months—in this U.S. territory of 3.4 million people, many of whom also lack running water. Phone and internet service is likewise gone.

Katrina Comparisons Mount for Trump as Puerto Rico Screams for Bolder Response

People seem to be very resilient after natural disasters and are able to rebuild, even knowing that it is only a matter of time until they will have to do it again or those that follow them will. Of course, if global warming increases by several degrees Celsius this ability to rebuild may no longer be an option. The land may no longer be habitable. Because of the small size of Puerto Rico and its location it is particularly vulnerable to devastation by category 4 or 5 hurricanes. There is not much anyone can do about it. As the article points out, increasing sea level rise will make the situation in the future even worse. This is just the risk one takes living in Puerto Rico. Getting hit by such powerful storms does not happen often although there based on recent experience but there is no reason it could not happen two years in a row or within a few years with bad luck. This is one of many struggles around the world of humans versus nature. It has been going on for eons and will continue into the future. Hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, etc. are part of life on earth.


Strange-On CNBC today a gentleman from the Heritage Foundation was saying that the creditors should eat the debt–some of the more" liberal" commentators were saying there needed to be a tax payer bail out–of course most other “news” outlets were ignoring this issue—but these commentators were clearly pointing out that there is no way Puerto Rico is going to be able to pay off this debt. Also on CNBC I heard the most vocal cry against Trump and republican Tax bill. Tom Steyer a philanthropist called it a scam to give tax cuts to the wealthy.

Could we get some real reporting on how Puerto Rico got were they are today—and I mean debt and a bad grid. Why am I sure it involves pay offs to politicians.

Cancel the debt,Lift the Jones act completely, give solar companies a financial incentive to invest in PR,make sure future buildings are hurricane proof. And don’t let the corrupt politicians privatize everything.


It is always good hearing from Richard Heinberg, who has always been miles ahead of most in thinking about the interconnectedness of the environment, the climate, the economy, past policies and decisions, and those yet to be chosen.


Your post suggest you really don’t understand resilience and what building resilience is all about. The ‘oh well, shit happens, nothing can be done about it’ attitude is just plain cynical. Global warming may eventually overtake efforts to build resilience in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. But the island will remain inhabited and there is plenty that can be done to improve conditions and how Puerto Rico is able to withstand future hurricanes.


Yes, Mr. Heinberg. Once, of course, the immediate needs of the people (and ecosystems) have been met, it is imminently doable and a real necessity.


That Jones Act signed by President Wilson in 1917, just appears to be a way that Wall Street and others used to keep the boot on the back of the Puerto Rican people’s necks. Keep the Puerto Rican people in check, and always dependent on Wall Street? Just Evil, Wall Street!


Scrape the Jones Act by all means. Allow PR to default and let the debtors renegotiate. No reason for a taxpayer bailout.

I disagree on the subsidies for solar companies - let everyone compete on an even playing field. Also, there’s no way to hurricane-proof solar. Solar installations are (relatively) fragile (compared to buried pipelines for example)


Oh really? And just how much do the Oil companies get in subsidies? About 80 BILLION a year!
Do you call that “competing on an even playing field”???


Nope - I think we need to eliminate their subsidies. The solution to giving one group subsidies is not give them to everyone, but to take them away from the favored few


Yes, in the less developed world. What I am afraid of is Trump, etc. letting Puerto Rico NOT recover. You are not configuring that they are a part of us I am a 59 year old native Californian. I can assure after each major quake in my lifetime, beginning in 1971, it did not work on the model you describe. It was very expensive and Californians would not put up with the kind of hardship expected of Puerto Rico.


a Chance to Build Back Sustainably and With Resilience
And a free apple pie delivered every Tuesday and Sunday … or whatever happens in the real world.


Yummmm, apple trees what a great idea. :slight_smile:


The Jones act is about unions and jobs for Americans that pay well. If you scrap the Jones act you may as well let foreign airlines fly domestic flights in the US and let truck drivers from Mexico and Canada drive point to point inside the US. The Jones act applies to all domestic sea shipping and was not designed to keep the boot on Puerto Rico. It also applies to Alaska and Hawaii, as well as point to point along the US coasts. The boot on the neck of Puerto Rico by Wall Street comes from the way Wall Street treated Puerto Rico after Congress stripped their special tax status. It was designed to screw them. Let’s not let them use this disaster as an excuse to strip union members of their good jobs, That is exactly what disaster capitalism does. BTW people who have been screaming about the Jones Act being responsible for slowing the delivery of relief supplies, I call bullshit. There are about 9000 containers of relief supplies in the Port of San Juan that have been sitting there unable to be unloaded or transported due to logistic problems.


The Jones Act is about screwing over everyone for the benefit of the owners and crews of 171 ships.

If you feel it’s the right thing to put 3 million or more people’s lives at risk for the convenience of a handful of shippers and their crews, fine.


I understand your point----but when it comes to an Island is the Jones act doubling prices—this is what has been reported.


And it is right wing nonsense.


The Jones Act is not stopping supplies from getting to P.R., as of yesterday there were 9000 containers of relief supplies in the Port of San Juan that have not been unloaded due to logistic snafus. The people pushing the meme that it is the Jones Act are the Heritage Institute and the Cato Institute and the other usual players in disaster capitalism who are using this as an excuse to bust union labor. Go ahead be a part of the propaganda.


We are all stuck in a treadmill of Corporate Greed, all because we do not have the ability to organize a fairer system of operating our societies, and for those who have tried, it has only partially worked, and generally only then by using some form of violence to keep dissenters in check. Our problem is -US humans - we have a streak of greed in us that never seems to be under control.
So - now that I have determined that humans are a useless, selfish bunch of narcissists, what can we do for Puerto Rico NOW ? I have given the money I can to a charity that has a high rate of usage for actual relief (ie NOT the big relief orgs who use too much for their headquarters & advertising !) - now I watch the horror on the news while that big fat useless person in the White House pontificates his views on other humans who never had a wealthy father - while he filches every cent he can from the public purse into his own bank ! Ok Yes I get pretty angry at the situation but I really hope that people stop waiting for somebody else to organize things & get their act together - 1. Get rid of all those trees blocking the roads - local people can help with that. 2. Get water tank trucks on street corners. 3. bring in thousands of tarps so that people can cover over their houses & start living in shelter again. 4. Generators - give the darned things away - give those small generator packs that sell for a couple of hundred dollars, just enough for a frig & 1 light - that’s all they need for now - maybe just a few fridges in selected homes, who then share the space with neighbors ? 5. Give out boxes of rice & beans type meals - stuff that just keeps people alive with no frills. There should be emergency packs in every district anyway in a hurricane prone area ! THEN install thousands of small electricity generating installations, so no-one is dependent ever again on a huge sprawling mess of wires - they have SUN galore in that area !


Building on this article I have posted the following on the Elon Musk Facebook page.

Hello Elon Musk,
With your entrepreneurial, organizational and technical skills together with your business interests I can think of no-one who could better direct this vital project:
Puerto Rico needs and could become a wonderful place for, not disaster capitalism, but a project which would create a multitude of micro grids using solar, wind and batteries created by a multitude of local cooperative efforts. Such a system could be extremely storm resistent and develop a new industry for a land that sorely needs one. I would think that this could be accomplished as fast or faster as the reconstruction of the islands present grid. Certainly this would require people to coordinate the efforts as well as trainers and advisors for both the co-ops and the electrical systems.
What do you think? Does this appeal to you?
Thank you,
Ted Wilcox