Tag Archives: puerto

Trump admin lets Florida opt out of controversial offshore drilling plans.

People who lived through last year’s hurricanes may experience grief, anxiety, and depression for months or years, experts say.

“They’re grieving about the loss of what was,” Judith Andrews, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association, told AP. Her organization provides free counseling to Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Following a natural disaster, people experience an arc of emotional responses. This usually starts with a “heroic” phase, when people rise to the occasion to survive and help others, Andrews says. Then disillusionment sets in as people come to grips with a new reality post-disaster.

In Puerto Rico, calls to the health department’s emergency hotline for psychiatric crises have doubled following Hurricane Maria, and the number of suicides has also risen.“Hurricane Maria is probably the largest psychosocial disaster in the United States,” Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, the head of the American Red Cross’ mental health disaster response, told Grist.

Hurricanes can have long-term effects on mental health. Five years after Hurricane Sandy, the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations in the Queens neighborhoods hit worst by the storm are nearly double that of New York City as a whole. The city’s health department is working with local organizers to connect residents with preventative care so that they can get help before reaching a crisis point.

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Trump admin lets Florida opt out of controversial offshore drilling plans.

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New York City is taking BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell to court.

People who lived through last year’s hurricanes may experience grief, anxiety, and depression for months or years, experts say.

“They’re grieving about the loss of what was,” Judith Andrews, co-chair of the Texas Psychological Association, told AP. Her organization provides free counseling to Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Following a natural disaster, people experience an arc of emotional responses. This usually starts with a “heroic” phase, when people rise to the occasion to survive and help others, Andrews says. Then disillusionment sets in as people come to grips with a new reality post-disaster.

In Puerto Rico, calls to the health department’s emergency hotline for psychiatric crises have doubled following Hurricane Maria, and the number of suicides has also risen.“Hurricane Maria is probably the largest psychosocial disaster in the United States,” Joseph Prewitt-Diaz, the head of the American Red Cross’ mental health disaster response, told Grist.

Hurricanes can have long-term effects on mental health. Five years after Hurricane Sandy, the rate of adult psychiatric hospitalizations in the Queens neighborhoods hit worst by the storm are nearly double that of New York City as a whole. The city’s health department is working with local organizers to connect residents with preventative care so that they can get help before reaching a crisis point.

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New York City is taking BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell to court.

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Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

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Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters.

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Another side effect of Puerto Rico’s power problems: Scientists struggle to do their work.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

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Another side effect of Puerto Rico’s power problems: Scientists struggle to do their work.

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Water bills are skyrocketing, and people of color are being hit hard.

A new Chicago Tribune investigation found that residents in black and Latino communities are charged water rates up to 20-percent higher than those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The Tribune examined 162 Chicagoland communities with publicly managed systems using water from Lake Michigan. While only 13 percent of the cohorts surveyed are majority-black, those groups included five of the 10 areas with the highest water rates.

Water bills are soaring across the country. A recent USA Today report of 100 municipalities found that over the past 12 years, the monthly cost of water doubled in nearly a third of cities. In Atlanta, San Francisco, and Wilmington, Delaware, the price of water tripled or more.

Low-income residents and communities of color are bearing the brunt of surging water rates, which have buried families in debt, causing some to lose their homes. In Flint, Michigan, more than 8,000 residents faced foreclosure because of unpaid water and sewage bills.

This year, Philadelphia launched an income-based, tiered assistance program to aid low-income residents. City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez spearheaded the bill because residents in her district — which includes some of Philly’s largest Puerto Rican communities — bore 20 percent of the city’s unpaid water debt despite only being a tenth of its population.

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Water bills are skyrocketing, and people of color are being hit hard.

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Watch Samantha Bee’s haunted house of climate hell.

A new Chicago Tribune investigation found that residents in black and Latino communities are charged water rates up to 20-percent higher than those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The Tribune examined 162 Chicagoland communities with publicly managed systems using water from Lake Michigan. While only 13 percent of the cohorts surveyed are majority-black, those groups included five of the 10 areas with the highest water rates.

Water bills are soaring across the country. A recent USA Today report of 100 municipalities found that over the past 12 years, the monthly cost of water doubled in nearly a third of cities. In Atlanta, San Francisco, and Wilmington, Delaware, the price of water tripled or more.

Low-income residents and communities of color are bearing the brunt of surging water rates, which have buried families in debt, causing some to lose their homes. In Flint, Michigan, more than 8,000 residents faced foreclosure because of unpaid water and sewage bills.

This year, Philadelphia launched an income-based, tiered assistance program to aid low-income residents. City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez spearheaded the bill because residents in her district — which includes some of Philly’s largest Puerto Rican communities — bore 20 percent of the city’s unpaid water debt despite only being a tenth of its population.

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Watch Samantha Bee’s haunted house of climate hell.

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Tesla’s solar vision gets its first big test in Puerto Rico

It was a transaction concocted on Twitter — and in a few short weeks, declared official: Tesla is helping to bring power back to Puerto Rico.

Early this month, Elon Musk touted his company’s work building solar-plus-battery systems for small islands like Kauai in Hawaii and Ta’u in American Samoa. He suggested a similar setup could work for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, tweeted that he was game. Musk replied quickly: “Hopefully, Tesla can be helpful.”

After earlier reports of the company’s batteries arriving at San Juan’s port, Tesla announced today that it has started constructing its first microgrid installation, laying out a solar field and setting up its refrigerator-sized Powerpack batteries to supply electricity to a children’s hospital in the Puerto Rican capital.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria destroyed swaths of the island’s electrical grid, 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. Total grid repair costs are estimated at $5 billion — an especially steep price for a public utility already $9 billion in debt. The lack of power is especially dire for hospitals, where unreliable electricity may spoil medicines that require refrigeration and complicate crucial medical procedures. The results could be deadlier than the storm itself, but solar power could help head off further disaster.

The idea that solar could serve as a viable source of emergency relief is new. Sure, renewable technologies have proliferated and become more affordable, but there’s a tried-and-true response to natural disasters: Fall back on diesel generators and fuel until utilities have a chance to restore grid power.

This has largely been the pattern in post-Maria Puerto Rico. One hardware store told the New York Times it was selling up to 300 generators a day. FEMA claims it has installed more generators in Puerto Rico than in hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas and Florida combined. But generators are expensive, inefficient, and prone to failure. And burning diesel in homes comes with health risks like carbon monoxide poisoning.

By contrast, a microgrid setup — that is, a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and electrical inverters that doesn’t require input from the main power grid — can potentially take immediate effect, providing reliable electricity with no pollution. And, once installed, these self-contained systems could help eliminate the rolling blackouts that were a problem for Puerto Rico’s major utility even before Maria.

Tesla is only the most prominent company to bypass the conventional avenues of rebuilding to install renewable power and batteries. Other companies and nonprofits have been marshalling resources to fill the void left by federal relief efforts. German renewable energy outfit Sonnen has pledged to build microgrids in priority areas, working with local partner Pura Energia to install donated batteries to power first aid and community centers. Another group, Resilient Power Puerto Rico, is distributing solar generators to remote communities, where they can serve as hubs for immediate necessities like charging phones and filtering water.

Marco Krapels, founder of the nonprofit Empowered by Light, traveled with a solar installation team to Puerto Rico in early October to deploy solar-plus-battery microgrid systems on fire stations. The nonprofit partnered with local firefighters to quickly cut through red tape paralyzing much of the disaster response.

“It takes only 48 hours to deploy once it arrives in the San Juan airport,” Krapels says of the standalone systems. “The firefighters, who have 18 flat-bed trucks, pulled up to our cargo plane; three hours later we were installing the system; and 48 hours later we’re done.”

The microgrid systems provide electricity and communications to the fire stations, as well as water purification technology that can provide up to 250 gallons of drinkable water a day — crucial on an island where 1 in 3 residents currently lack access to clean water.

There are 95 fire stations in Puerto Rico, Krapels says, and he estimates it will take just under $5 million for Empowered by Light to outfit them all. So far, the nonprofit has transformed two stations, one in the low-income Obrero neighborhood of San Juan and one in the town of Utuado, in the remote center of the island. After both installations, Krapels says, the local fire station was the only building with the lights on after dark — outlying and underserved communities are always among the last to receive emergency relief.

“There are parts of the island that are so destroyed that there is no grid,” Krapels says. “There is nothing to fix: The transformers are all burnt, the poles are gone, the wires are laying on the street.”

As much as 80 percent of the island’s high-power transmission lines were destroyed, Bloomberg reported, and even optimistic estimates of repair work have a majority of the island off the grid until late this year.

In the coming months, as communities and companies work to rebuild that infrastructure, there will be an opportunity to make the island more resilient. Companies like Tesla offer one path to less vulnerable electricity infrastructure. Meanwhile, organizations like Resilient Power Puerto Rico emphasize the importance of economic resilience, too. The New York-based founders want to put power in the hands of the island’s residents, modeled after similar efforts in the Rockaways post-Sandy. The nonprofit has ambitions to establish 100 solar towns, a robust green economy, and more electrical independence for all.

“If we’re going to rethink energy in Puerto Rico, let’s really empower people to deploy their own distributed renewable generation and storage,” Krapels says. “The sun is there every day, and it’s going to shine for the next 5 billion years.”

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Tesla’s solar vision gets its first big test in Puerto Rico

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Hurricane Maria crushed Puerto Rico farms. This activist wants to grow resilience through food.

Puerto Rico’s local food movement was in revival mode. While the island struggled with an ongoing debt crisis and a shrinking population, farming was finally growing after a century of decline. More than 1,700 farms opened up since 2013, boosting agricultural jobs by 50 percent. The number of farmers markets tripled over five years; young people were moving back to open up restaurants and food trucks.

Rodríguez Besosa

 

Isabel Gandía, NYC/PR

Then, Hurricane Maria hit. With 80 percent of the island’s crops ruined, farmers face huge losses from their stripped fields, not to mention their damaged homes.

Tara Rodríguez Besosa’s sustainable restaurant was wiped out by the hurricane. As the local food advocate deals with her own losses, she’s coordinating relief efforts through the Puerto Rico Resiliency Fund to send food and seeds to farmers devastated by Hurricane Maria. In the long term, she’s collaborating with different organizations to create a national sustainable farming proposal plan for Puerto Rico.

The local food movement was fighting against the tide even before the hurricane. Like many islands today, Puerto Rico depends on imported food, which accounts for 85 percent of what residents eat.

I spoke with Rodríguez Besosa to learn how farmers are coping and how Puerto Rico can rebuild its food system with resilience in mind. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Q. How are farmers doing right now?

A. They just lost their jobs, they just lost their houses. We’re still, even after weeks, getting in contact with them and getting them out of their houses. There have been landslides, there are fallen trees all over, there are bridges that are completely erased. They are not doing so well.

Obviously, we are still in the emergency relief situation, but food takes time to grow. And so we really, really need to see this as an immediate issue. How do we get farmers back to farming? How do we get a roof over their heads? How do we get them seeds? How do we get them tools? Because it takes a while to not only be happier, but to be more autonomous.

Q. What should people should know about sustainable food in Puerto Rico?

A. Just like most everything else, sustainable food is fighting colonization. At the end of the day, the issue is that we are a colony of the United States. And not even most people in the United States know that. The hurricane is unveiling an already humongous problem. We’re dealing with the Jones Act. We don’t vote for the president of the United States. A whole bunch of issues surface once something like a natural disaster happens.

It’s all about creating resilient communities, about creating autonomy, about having power over our food. You know, food is a really powerful tool. So how can we use food to gain independence? We don’t want to receive aid just as much as Trump doesn’t want to give it to us. But we need to grow our own food to be able to get out of this.

Vegetables canned by the Queer Kitchen Brigade in Brooklyn wait to be delivered to farmers in Puerto Rico.Tara Rodríguez Besosa

Q. Other than the warming-worsened hurricane, how have farmers in Puerto Rico felt the impacts of climate change?

A. We’re an island, so the whole coast of Puerto Rico has definitely been impacted by climate change. If we’re talking about food, the seasons have completely changed. A lot of farmers are finding it very drastic, the changes in atmosphere and climate.

And this is not going to be the last hurricane, right? We just got hit by one hurricane, and then completely destroyed by another one two weeks later.

Q. Tell me about your restaurant.

A. It wasn’t profitable, but it was great! The best ingredients ever!

It was an experiment. I was 26 years old and super-frustrated that restaurants weren’t supporting farmers in the way that I thought that they could. Our kitchen started as a way to prove that you could have a restaurant that used only local, sustainable produce.

But the restaurant was completely flooded during the hurricane and then it got broken into a few times. The restaurant right now is on pause. We decided, let’s focus now on getting these farms back on track.

A community garden that worked with the restaurant was wiped out by Irma and Maria.Tara Rodríguez Besosa

Q. One farmer I spoke with mentioned the idea that local, organic farms in Puerto Rico could be “hubs of resilience” for communities going forward.

A. They already are, to be honest.

One of our proposals is to start these small community food hubs all along the island, so different farmers can have access to a walk-in cooler with a place where they can sell their food, with a community kitchen that can cook that food and then reach out to the community.

That’s part of a more elaborate plan. Because again, we’re still dealing with a really immediate emergency situation. A whole bunch of deaths have been going on because people are drinking contaminated water. People in the middle of the mountain towns don’t have access to food. A lot of my farmers can’t get out of their homes. We’re trying to get chainsaws through so that people can move trees away. In Puerto Rico in general right now, people are doing it themselves with very little means and very little food.

Q. How are you doing, given everything you’re doing and what’s going on?

A. I’m getting hundreds of emails a day. We’re receiving donations, coordinating fundraising events, coordinating groups of people to go see farms. We’re emotionally drained.

If you work with sustainable food, one of the major things is: “Why do we feed each other?” We feed ourselves and we feed each other this food because it nourishes us and it makes us happy. So how do we give farmers the kind of attention that right now they need? And how do we nourish them during a time when they are doing more physical labor than before?

It’s a long way ahead. Just imagine that a match was dropped over Puerto Rico and it just went poof! all over the place. To have something like this happen really shakes you up.

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Hurricane Maria crushed Puerto Rico farms. This activist wants to grow resilience through food.

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Federal officials accidentally emailed a reporter their plans to spin Puerto Rico.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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Federal officials accidentally emailed a reporter their plans to spin Puerto Rico.

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You’re probably going to be driving an electric car soon.

While we’re all talking about IQ tests, here’s a math problem: Imagine you’re a tree with 56 apples to take care of. One day, a massive storm comes and knocks out about four of those apples. They’re all on the ground now, kind of smushed.

But one of those apples didn’t have the same advantages as the other ones — too many pesticides growing up, let’s say — and it’s extra-smushed. It is also $74 billion in debt. (You may ask: Who loaned an apple $74 billion? Hedge funds have long embraced predatory lending practices, but that’s a math problem for another time.)

Anyway — as the tree, it’s your job to get those apples back in shape. You decide to allocate $36.5 billion in fallen-apple assistance. But only $5 billion specifically goes to that extra-smushed, indebted apple, and then that apple has to pay it back. It has to share about $14 billion with the other less-indebted and -smushed apples.

Surprise! This isn’t really a math problem — it’s an ethics problem. The tree is the United States government, the apples are all of its states and territories, the smushed apples are Florida, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the extra-smushed apple is Puerto Rico. Donald Trump’s self-lauded aid plan for the ailing and indebted territory is a loan.

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You’re probably going to be driving an electric car soon.

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