Hurricane Maria was a category 5 hurricane which cause a tremendous amount to several Islands in the Caribbean like Virgin Islands, Dominica and Puerto Rico. This class open my eyes to so much things that is going wrong in Puerto Rico. These things stem from the political systems that takes advantage of its people and adhere to United States wishes. These issues were made worse when Hurricane Maria hit. This Hurricane was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico in the last hundred years and the reason for this is climate change. Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of these catastrophic events.
Climate change is the overall increase in temperature worldwide. This increase in temperature is primarily caused by the increase of certain greenhouse gases in the air. These greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and nitrous oxide. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution these greenhouse gases have been trapping more and more heat and not letting it escape our atmosphere. As a result, the amount of energy available in places adjacent to the equator has made it conducive for stronger more frequent storms to occur.
As many of us already know the industrial revolution is the cause for this large release of greenhouse gases, we have seen in the last 200 years. The main greenhouse gas released is carbon doxed and it has risen from 200 part per million in 1800 to over 400 part per million today. This means there is a lot more carbon dioxide in the air trapping even more heat on Earth. This can be seen from the graph below showing the gradual increase of carbon dioxide emission over the last 200 years.
Now the thing we have to notice is who is responsible for this increase in carbon dioxide emission and the answer is the western world also known as global north. These are countries like United States and many countries located in Europe. These countries benefited the most from the industrial revolution and introduced the most carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. However, the people who are being most negatively affected by climate change are not these people who contribute the most. People who live in the global south are suffering the most. This is due to the fact that most hurricanes start near the equator because of the warmer waters and higher amount of energy available. Also, the sea level is rising and many island nations in the Caribbean like Puerto Rico will have largest issues dealing with loss of coast lines due to rise in water as seen by the graph below. Another reason these countries like Puerto Rico are being more negatively affected than countries like the United States when it comes to climate change is the amount of founds available for infrastructure to help protect against climate change.
Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. There are estimates that hurricane Maria will cost Puerto Ricans over 130 billion dollars in total to fully recover. When the storm hit power went down in most of the island and took month to come back on more many people. This was due to the poorly constructed electric grid in Puerto Rico. As the class as shown me the Storm not only showed how poorly Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is its open people eyes to other issues Puerto Ricans have been facing for years like political corruption. They have also been facing a massive debt which the government is more focused on paying then helping their own people.
There are many things going wrong in Puerto Rico today and most be done to fix these issues. The main issues is the struggle between the people to become an independent country or stay as a part of the United states or even try to become a state. As it is now the amount of support, they receive from the United States is not much and in fact the United States is more focused on Puerto Ricans paying back their debt to them. How can a country which is only worried about profit and capitalism be responsible for the wellbeing of another country? They simply wish to reap all the benefits. In my opinion independency is what is necessary.
Unfortunately, this alone will not be enough to help Puerto Ricans get on their feet. There must be something done about the huge debt Puerto Ricans faces and most importantly somethings have to be done about climate change. The negative effects brought on by climate change are only going to get worse for Puerto Ricans. Hurricanes will get more frequent and more intense. How can a country with so poor infrastructure continue to survive? Something has to be done to fight climate change. The world especially countries who benefited the most have to implement plans which will reduce carbon emission and maybe even one day find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere directly.
Hurricanes do not discriminate when it comes to where they to hit or the amount destruction they cause. In some cases, hurricanes do more damage in one area than another for several reason. This can be due to the intensity of the storm or in many cases the preparedness of a country or region to resist damages from a storm. There have been cases where a category three storm does more damage to location X than a category five hurricane does to location Y. The reason for this in many cases is infrastructure and the resources available to the people for recovery.
I interviewed an old classmate of mine named Phil Lukach on Thursday October the 31st. Phil and his family live on Staten Island and lived through hurricane sandy. I figured interviewing someone who lived through hurricane Sandy would be a great way to compare different aspects between what happened in United States with Sandy and in Puerto Rico with hurricane Maria.
From the interview I noticed there were many similarities and differences between the two. In both case people lost access to electricity. The difference was that people on Staten Island where able to get their power back within several hours or days if you live up North. Some people in Southshore had to wait one or two months and these were the extreme case. As mentioned by Phil “The power went out for a couple hours. Most people around me did not get power back for several days. People in the South of the Island had it the worse some people did not get their power back for several weeks”. In Puerto Rico I know it took people months and even years in many cases before people received electricity again. Phil said his family was lucky that they only had to wait a few hours before getting power back his neighbors across the street had to wait two days. Phil Spoke on how the very next day he saw electric companies working on the grid, the same cannot be said by people in Puerto Rico who had to wait weeks.
In terms of damages his home suffered some damages inside and in the backyard. A substantially large tree branch from the tree in his backyard fell on the deck and destroyed the table and parts of the deck. Wind damaged several of the shingles on the roof. Some flooding occurred in his basement and damaged some items they had stored there. He also spoke on how some homes were destroyed and had much more damages for friends and relatives who lived in Southshore. He said “I felt so bad seeing the destruction the storm caused in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Couple of my friends who lived in SouthShore had to evacuate and homes had to rebuild because they suffered heavy damages”. He spoke on how after few months people fixed their homes with help from the government.
Phil spoke on how several people he knew received help from FEMA and that is why they were able to repair issues quickly. This reminds me of Puerto Rico and how horrible of a job FEMA did when it came to helping people. This is also evident from the fact that within first ten days of hurricane Harvey and Irma FEMA sent 100 million dollars to help regions effected but within the same time frame only sent 6 million dollars to Puerto Rico to help with hurricane Maria. This is shown in the figure from below. The discrepancy in money allotted only got worse as time passed.
From the interview I notice that Phil and his family went through similar troubles during hurricane sandy has people did in Puerto Rico during hurricane Maria. A few significant differences were the infrastructure in place and the help received after the hurricane. Many homes in Puerto Rico were destroyed due to strong winds. The homes were not built strong enough to withstand these winds speed usually because of funds and materials available to build homes in the first place. The electric grid is one of the main differences. As we studied in class the electric grid in Puerto Rico is in bad shape and faces corruption often instead of repairs. This alone cause thousands of people to surfer and many to die. In Staten Island most people received energy back within a few days and for some extreme case a month. This shows us that when it comes to hurricanes what causes most damage is not having proper infrastructure and not having enough resources.
When I first heard of hurricane Maria, I thought it was going to be another typical storm. It was several weeks after the storm hit when I noticed how wrong I truly was. My grandmother and mother came from Puerto Rico when my mother was younger, and I only went once when I was four. I don’t remember anything about the trip. My connection to the island may be weak but I still have many family members there and my grandmother often talks to her siblings. Her mother just passed away recently and she was a hundred years old. My grandma says her family takes up a whole city block where they live.
When the Storm hit, and I saw on the news how it was being reporter as not a huge deal or not that destructive and to me that was a little difficult to believe. After a few weeks my grandmother told me she still couldn’t reach her family by phone. She was scared for her brother and sisters. The news mentioned how most of the island was without electricity and this was the reason that my grandmother could not reach her family.
Reports came out that only 6 people died. I had a hard time believing it was so low because of the lack of ability to communicate with the island. Then reports started coming out saying thousands of people died. How did we go from 6 to thousands of people dying? According to the research article “Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria” the official reports were that 64 people died. Different institutions had varying death counts as can be seen from graph below. After doing their study they calculated that at least 4645 people pasted away directly or indirectly to due hurricane Maria and stated the death toll may be higher than this. Something went wrong in terms of an accurate determination of how many people died.
Trump made the disaster worse with things he said and did. He was the first person I heard saying only six people died. From what I noticed Trump doesn’t fact check anything and doesn’t listen to his own security advisers. If he receives information that fits his narrative, he would use it and tell people false information. When it was clear and obvious to us all how bad the hurricane was, he still did little to help. One of the things I remember the most is him throwing tissue to a crowd of people as if these paper towels would solve all problems. All the paper towels in the U.S wouldn’t be enough to solve this problem. I personally think he is retarded so nothing he does surprises me, and I don’t take things he says seriously.
This class has opened my eyes to the fact that many things went wrong in Puerto Rico prior to the hurricane Maria. Things have been going wrong for a very long time and it became the normal, so it was hard to see. Some of these issues like poor infrastructure, a crumbling economy and a government whose main concern was paying off a debt and not investing in their own people.
I have taking several classes pertaining to countries to the South of the United States like Mexico, Dominican Republic, Colombia and many others. I noticed how every time the U.S found a way to exploit these countries. They did this by promising democracy and putting in power people who would work for U.S interest. In many cases they took resources from these countries and gave little to nothing back. I thought Puerto Rico was different because of its status has a commonwealth and the fact that Puerto Ricans received U.S citizenship. I came to find out that Puerto Rico suffered much like other Caribbean islands due to the U.S. In some ways these other countries may have been lucky to be able to fight for their independence and work towards their own future rather than having a government put in place which only cares about helping the United States and not their own people.
Now that so many issues are brought to the publics eyes hopefully the island can start recovering not just from the hurricane Maria but from its own political and economic turmoil. I feel the only answer is making Puerto Rico a state or it becoming its own country. The reason I feel this way is because as a state Puerto Rico would get all the benefits States usually get like aid from the federal government. This will also truly make every Puerto Rican true citizens with no restrictions on their citizenship. They would be able to vote for the president and other benefits that come with statehood. In terms of becoming their own country this would lead to self-rule. They would be able to put a government in place of their choosing that works for the people of Puerto Rico and not for the U.S government interest. This would lead to the ability to trade with the world and not have to use the U.S as the middleman.