Faculty Writing: Puerto Rico’s “Unnatural” Disaster

The ongoing human and ecological catastrophe in Puerto Rico, wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, has brought to wider attention the systemic injustices and inequalities that have long-plagued the island commonwealth. As BISR faculty member Adriana Maria Garriga-López and co-authors Claudia Sofía Garriga-López and Alexa S. Dietrich explain, in a piece published recently by ITEMS (the journal of the Social Science Research Council), the disaster inflicted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is “unnatural”—that is, conditioning and deepening the crisis are Puerto Rico’s decaying and neglected infrastructure, the non-enforcement of environmental laws, and the deregulation and privatization of public utilities. While some disaster-response professionals laud individualistic relief efforts as “cutting edge,” a more effective and lasting solution to Puerto Rico’s ills would be, as the authors point out, to create and maintain “an infrastructure of sustainable economic development and reliable everyday public services.”

Last week in N+1, Patrick Blanchfield reviewed Michael Woolf’s scandalous expose of the Trump presidency Fire and Fury. Rife with back-stabbing testimonials and tales of palace intrigue, the book nevertheless fails, perhaps through no fault of its own, in its ambition to say something truly new about Trump. Depressingly, “its promised revelations are not really revelations at all. The fundamental scandal, the book’s centerpiece truth—that the President is breathtakingly unfit, and his administration is a slow-motion train wreck—has been obvious all along.”

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