Our Power Puerto Rico For A Just Recovery & Resilient Rebuild

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Congressional House Representatives will be voting this week on the Federal Aid Package for Puerto Rico before they go on recess. The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA)  calls for A National Day of Action on Wednesday, October 11th, to demand that Congress pass an immediate federal aid package designed for the Just Recovery and Resilient Rebuild of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico
Photo courtesy CrowdRescue HQ

This map shows the devastation that Hurricane Maria wreaked upon Puerto Rico.

The relief package must include debt relief, the repeal of the Jones Act, transparency in distribution of resources, an assessment of infrastructure, and additional provisions detailed in an online petition that will be delivered to US representatives the day of the mass actions. Angela Adrar, Executive Director of CJA, explains why action is needed now to help Puerto Rico develop a sustainable and pragmatic approach to recovery.

“Wall Street’s business-as-usual approach to relief and recovery has led to land-grabs and riches off the misfortune of vulnerable communities. If we act with a clear vision for a Just Recovery, Puerto Rico can serve as a model for areas suffering the same climate injustice.”

What are you doing today for the National Call to Action? In Washington D.C., Our Power Campaign will begin its Congressional Visit tour and drop petitions off to provide #JustRecovery for Puerto Rico and a lift to the Jones Act.  You can follow their progress on Twitter: @CJAOurPower.

Hurricane Maria’s Devastation of Puerto Rico

On September 20th, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, struck Puerto Rico full force only days after the Irma storm. Two weeks later, Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents are suffering intensely in what has quickly become a major humanitarian and environmental justice disaster.

Hurricane Maria attacked Puerto Rico with devastating winds, drenched the island with destructive flooding, crippled communications, decimated buildings, and damaged a dam that placed  downstream residents at risk of catastrophe. But help has been slow to come to communities where the destruction is described as “apocalyptic,” officials and residents argue.

A systemic change in relief and response is needed, as well as an engineering vision for sustainable infrastructure that can withstand category 5+ storms, which are predicted by scientists to become more commonplace as a consequence of the changing climate.

Advocates for a Just Recovery in Puerto Rico

Many influential community advocates, writers, scientists, and climate activists have joined in to the call to gather together and attest that no longer will the US governments’ blase approach to Puerto Rico’s devastation be accepted.

  • Naomi Klein, international best-selling author and award-winning journalist.“Standard responses to disasters leave behind more pollution, more debt, less democracy, and a weaker infrastructure. In contrast, a Just Recovery would reduce pollution, reduce debt, challenge systemic racism, deepen democracy, and leave behind a sturdier, more resilient public sphere.”
  • Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE and Steering Committee Co-Chair of Climate Justice Alliance: “Puerto Rico today is a living, breathing, suffering symbol of climate injustice. The devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Maria is the culmination of centuries of colonialism, extraction, and repression. As Puerto Rico rebuilds, it must revolutionize the society’s decaying systems of survival and confronting the dominant political and financial institutions that have profited from this decay.”
  • Cindy Wiesner, Executive Director of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance: “In my community in Miami, I witnessed first-hand what happens when people show up for each other during a climate crisis. Frontline communities across the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast and the US South are responding to each other’s needs and bearing the brunt of the recovery with little to no resources. It’s a crime against humanity how the government has chosen to respond. This government owes Puerto Ricans full debt relief and a long-term investment in their survival.”
  • Sarah Shanley Hope, Executive Director of Solutions Project: “The lives and livelihoods lost as a result of Hurricane Maria exacerbate injustices borne for centuries by frontline communities. We have an opportunity to respond in this time of human crisis with immediate relief and intentions for a long-term regenerative economic transformation. It’s imperative that frontline leadership determines the path for recovery that provides a just and sustainable future. We support the coordinated efforts of CJA as they center the needs of those most impacted and therefore with the greatest vision for what comes next.”
  • Anthony Rogers-Wright, US Coordinator, The Leap: “Climate exacerbated storms like Hurricane Maria further elucidate the cycle of colonization that is afflicting the island and people of Puerto Rico. Systemic racism, bigotry and economic injustice are only a sample of variables that contributed to this humanitarian crisis. The people cannot afford an anemic recovery effort superficial in nature. These efforts must be led by the people in a way that benefits those who were impacted first and worst by a crisis they had little to do with creating. The Leap is honored to stand with the Climate Justice Alliance, Uprose Brooklyn and other groups who are leading the efforts for a people-powered recovery in Puerto Rico.”
  • Jovanna Garcia Soto, Solidarity Program Officer for Latin America at Grassroots International: “We as Puerto Ricans and people of color in the USA need to stand up in solidarity and work side-by-side with the people of Puerto Rico towards a Just Recovery and a sustainable, resilient rebuild that prioritizes autonomy, food sovereignty, climate and social justice, respect to the Mother Earth, and the human rights of all people in the Island. We need to take the lead of the courageous Boricuas organizing a regenerative people’s project on the ground with the goal of decolonizing Puerto Rico.
  • Saulo Araujo, WhyHunger: “Thousands of families are still in desperate need of clothing, water, food, housing, and health care. Here from the US, communities are mobilizing to provide support and amplify the voices of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. The solutions will come from them and it is imperative that we stand with the people of Puerto Rico to the rebuild their livelihoods and sovereignty.”
  • Mateo Nube, Movement Generation: “The people of Puerto Rico require our full support: there can be no sacrifice zones. The time to step up is now. Our children and grandchildren will look back at this pivotal moment in history and judge us by the choices we made. Climate change is real. Transition has become inevitable. Justice however, is not. It is upon all of us to bring about a Just Recovery for the people of Puerto Rico; to make this a Just Transition for all.”
  • Jacqui Patterson, Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP: “Citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world are living in squalor and lives are threatened and lost daily as the situation persists. Circumstances are deteriorating with untreated illnesses and simple infections become fatal. The US government is duty-bound to address this crisis but long-term redevelopment must be by the people of Puerto Rico with locally elected officials empowered to reject the interests of the mono-focused wealth building agenda the government and corporations that have caused the island to a pay the price of catastrophic climate change impacts.”
  • Jose Bravo, Executive Director, Just Transition Alliance: “A just recovery has to start by taking responsibility for the double standard and colonial mentality of the United States towards Puerto Rico. Secondly, a just recovery must put those in harm’s way and those that have disproportionate impact first. Lastly, a just recovery is possible only if the grassroots people of Puerto Rico are the ones leading and holding the efforts accountable. A just transition for the people, by the people, with local economies, and sustainable production is needed.”
  • Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA: “There’s no doubt that extreme-weather hurricanes are enhanced by human-caused climate change. We humans need to work together to address global warming and rebuild devastated communities right. Greenpeace is honored to work with climate justice allies to support a #JustRecovery for Puerto Rico that includes renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, and community-led planning.”
  • Dawn Phillips, Executive Director, Right To The City Alliance: “In the wake of Hurricane Maria and decades of environmental, structural and colonial racism, neoliberal austerity, and land-grabs by private equity funds and Wall Street banks, we must all stand with the people of Puerto Rico to support and fight for a long-term just recovery. A Just Recovery calls on us all defend the right and leadership of the people of Puerto Rico to self-determination, and to democratic control and autonomy over the resources, land, water, and food in Puerto Rico. We must fight against the attempts by Wall Street and government to further privatize and colonize the island for profit and exploitation. We stand arm-in-arm with the people of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Diaspora across the globe leading the efforts for just, sovereign and sustainable Puerto Rico.”

Join a group of individuals who will no longer take No for an answer to social and ecological injustice us as they take to the streets on October 11th, 2017 and speak out on behalf of Puerto Rico’s citizens. Frontline communities have been at the forefront of the solutions and are pushing for a Just Recovery for all communities hit by climate disasters, including Puerto Rico.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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