Climate Conversations S2E10: Climate Resilience in Puerto Rico

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On this week of Climate Conversations, the team sits down with Ramón Bueno, a MIT alumnus, and climate and development specialist. We discuss the devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, in the context of systems failure and intersectional justice.

Bueno outlines the significance of the centralized power system in Puerto Rico, and how its reliance on fossil fuels has failed the people of Puerto Rico. To avoid similar failures in the future, he advocates decentralizing power systems via developing micro grids, as well as developing electricity infrastructure that is more resilient in extreme weather events.

Bueno and the team also look at how the hurricane amplified social and economic justice issues. We discuss the many opportunities for addressing those issues while increasing initiatives to reduce poverty.  The conversation closes with highlights of what communities both in Puerto Rico and in the greater Boston area have undertaken to mobilize for immediate needs as well as social and environmental justice longer term.


Ramon Bueno's picture

A belated thanks for the

A belated thanks for the opportunity back in mid-November to talk about the conditions in Puerto Rico then, almost two months after hurricane María.

(I am moving an update on it to a regular post).

Dan Renner's picture

Scientificly, this

Scientificly, this conversation is based upon an assumption -- that it was caused by 'fossil fuels'.

Could it also have been caused by a butterfly taking a left when it should have taken a right? Yes. Could it also have been caused by HAARP? Yes.

As for 'fossil fuels' the major problem with them is utilization. Shell Eco Marathon record holders have gasoline vehicles running above 5,000 MPG yet the average sedan only runs 27 MPG. What is wrong with this picture?

Curt Newton's picture

Thanks Dan. I didn't hear

Thanks Dan. I didn't hear Ramon blaming fossil fuel per se, but on the power structures that have grown up around fossil fuel.

That PR's demolished power system is a symptom of more fundamental political and social inequalities. Rebuilding the grid around centralized solar, but still controlled by PREPA, may be a little better than running it on imported deisel, but what's really needed is utility reform and community ownership.  

Sarah Lipuma's picture

Thank you for bringing up the

Thank you for bringing up the systemic problems in Puerto Rico.

It gave me a lot of hope, to know folks are talking about bringing people into the island, maybe even some of those Puerto Ricans who left in the 50s, back for opportunities that haven't existed for a long time.

Rajesh Kasturirangan's picture

Thanks for your comments,

Thanks for your comments, Sarah.

One of the threads that kept coming up in the conversation with Ramon is how important it is that scientists and other professionals in PR have access to their peers in the mainland - mental isolation is one of the downsides of being physically isolated. Collaboration is good for everyone. 

Curt Newton's picture

Thanks for sharing this,

Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. I'd missed it.

I appreciated how it puts financial stats in context, not just raw dollars: "$306B the US spent on disasters in 2017 is 3x the education budget", and "Forest Service spent 56% of its 2017 budget fighting fires." PR's $80B in damages feels overwhelming.