battle for paradise

battle for paradise.png

by Naomi Klein on puerto rico




we knew the real disaster was not the hurricane but the terrible vulnerability imposed by puerto rico’s colonial relationship to the us, ..t


this vulnerability was aggravated by washington’s imposition of the financial oversight and management board.. and unelected body pushing for the privatization of electricity and schools, increased costs of basic services, massive cuts in public ed, pensions, vacation time .. all in order to pay bondholder a $73 bn debt that was patently unplayable, illegal and illegit..  the net result was to leave the majority of people in pr w/o a hopeful future, and that was all before maria hit

pares (collective of professors created to defend public ed during 2017 uni of pr student strike) decided to create a series of public forums on disasters.. invited naomi as first speaker.. for a week..


a product .. this book shows junctures at which pr finds itself..


klein exposes he essence of the battle.. pr as resort for the wealthy.. vs utopia pr that is equitable democratic and sustainable for all..

the book is necessary read for anyone who wishes to understand the ongoing crisis in pr and to grasp what is at stake..

a solar oasis


the pink house was casa pueblo.. a community and ecology center.. 20 yrs ago its founders, a family of scientists and engineers, installed solar panels on the roof, a move that seemed rather hippy dippy at the time.. upgraded over the years.. they managed to survive maria’s force winds and falling debris.. which meant that in a sea of post storm darkness, casa pueblo had the only sustained power for miles around..


already a community hub before the storm, the ink house rapidly transformed into a nerve center for self org’d relief efforts..  resources, hospital..  sole source of info.. mood brimmed w optimism..


massolo deyá had warned of risks associated w pr’s overwhelming independence  on imported fossil fuels (98% of energy.. by ship/truck.. so electricity prices nearly twice the us avg) and centralized power generation.. one big storm and..  now everyone whose homes went dark understood those risks..  could immediately grasp the advantages of solar energy.. produced right where it is consumed..


w no fuel.. supplies stuck at port grew ever larger..

powerlines down all over.. literally nothing about the system worked..

pr, though poor in fossil fuels, is drenched in sunk lashed by wind and surrounded by waves


rather than relying on a few huge solar and wind farms, w power then carried over long and vulnerable transmission lines, smaller, community based systems would generate power where it is consumed.. if the larger grid sustains damage, these communities can simply disconnect from it and keep drawing from their micro grids

learned this at occupy

doesn’t eliminate risk but it would make the kind of total power outage that pr s suffered for months .. which hundreds of thousands are suffering still – a thing of the past..

casa pueblo distributing solar lanterns and solar powered refrigerators..  installing panels in houses..


pr’s didn’t just discover what didn’t work (pretty much everything).. they also learned a few things that worked surprisingly well.. ie: solar power; small organic farms.. deep community relationships..t


maria opened window of possibility.. one that could yield a fundamental shift to a healthier and more democratic econ.. not just electricity but food, water… we are looking to transform the energy system – massol


a reimagined pr run by its people in their interests..

if maria is a teacher, this emerging movement argues, the storm’s overarching lesson is that now is not the moment for reconstruction of what was, but rather for transformation into what could be

as it could be..

massol: everything we consume comes from abroad and our profits are exported..  it’s a system that leaves debt and austerity behind, both of which made pr exponentially more vulnerable to maria’s blows..  we look at crisis as an opp to change..


very diff version of how pr should be radically remade.. is being aggressively advanced by gov ricard orossello.. w bankers, real estate developers, cryptocurrency traders, and of course.. the financial oversight and management board (an unelected 7 member body that exerts ultimate control over pr’s econ).. for this powerful group..  the real problem, they argue, was the public ownership of pr’s infra.. which lacked the proper free market incentives.. rather than transforming that infra so that it truly serves the public, they argue for selling it off at fire sale prices to private players..


at core of this battle is a very simple question: who is pr for..? pr’s or outsiders..? after trauma like maria, who has a right to decide..?

invasion of the puertopians


march 14-16 (2018) – immersive pitch for blockchain and cryptocurrencies.. pr as epicenter of multitrillion dollar market – one of speakers yaron brook.. moved to pr.. where he claims he went from paying 55% of his income in taxes to 4%..t

crypto currency nes – blockchain ness

elsewhere on the island, hundreds of thousands of pr’s were still living by flashlight.. many still dependent on fema for food and island’s main mental health hotline overwhelmed w callers.. but inside sold out vanderbilt conf.. 800 attendees.. fresh from a choice between ‘sunrise yoga and mediation’ and ‘morning surf’.. heard from top officials like dept of econ development and commerce secretary manuel laboy rivera about all the things pr is doing to turn itself into the ultimate playground for newly minted crypto currency millionaires and billionaires..


a pitch pr govt has been making to private jet set for a few ears now.. : don’t have to relinquish us citizenship.. or even technically leave the us to escape its tax laws,.. just have to move co’s address to pr.. jus have to spend 183 days in pr..

mining cryptocurrencies is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emission on the planet. w the industry’s energy consumption rising by the week.. bitcoin currently consumes roughly the same amount of energy per year as israel..


many of the crypto co’s currently relocating to pr would presumably do this currency mining elsewhere. still, the idea of turning an island that cannot keep the lights on for its own people; into ‘the epicenter of this multitrillion dollar market rooted in the most wasteful possible use of energy is a bizarre one and is raising mounting concerns of ‘crypto colonialism’..t

now rather than simply shopping for mansions in resort communities, the puertopians are looking to buy a piece of land large enough to start their very own city.. complete w airport, yacht port, and passports.. all run on virtual currencies..


some call it ‘sol’ other call it ‘crytpo land’.. it even seems to have its own religion: an unruly hodgepodge of ayn randian wealth supremacy, philanthrocapitalist noblesse oblige, burning man pseudo spirituality and half remembered scenes from watching ‘avatar; while high

but make no mistake.. the true religion here is tax avoidance..t


as a breed, the peurtopians, in their flip flops and surfer shorts are a sort of slacker cousin to the seasteaders, a movement of wealthy libertarians who have been plotting for years to escape the grip of govt ..t starting their own city states on artificial islands..  anybody who doesn’t like being taxed or regulated will simply be able to, as the seasteading manifesto states ‘vote w your boat’


some 200 000 people have reportedly left the island, many of them w federal help..

this exodus was first presented as a temp emergency measure, but it has since become apparent that the depopulation is intended to be permanent.. the pr governor’s office predicts that over the next five years, the island’s population will experience a ‘cumulative decline’ of nearly 20%

the puertopians know all this has been hard on locals, but they insist that their presence will be a blessing for the devastated island..  brock pierce argues (w/o any specific) that crypto money is going to help finance pr reconstruction and entrepreneurship.. including in local agri and energy..  he says, pr is now being offset w a brain gain .. after enormous brain drain ..


gov rossello himself seems to agree .. in fed he told business audience in ny that maria had created a ‘blank canvas’ on which investors could paint their very own dream world..

an island weary of outside experiments


thru out its long colonial history, the archipelago has continuously served as a living lab for prototypes that would later be exported around the globe. there were the notorious experiments in population control that, by the mid 60s, resulted in the coercive sterilization of more tha 1/3 of pr women.. many dangerous drugs have been tested, including a high risk version of the birth control pill

vieques – more than 2/3 of which used to be a us navy facility  where marines practiced ground warfare and completed their gun training – was a test ground for everything from agent orange to depleted uranium to napalm..


to this day, agribusiness giants like monsanto and syngenta use the southern coast of pr as a sprawling testing ground

50s and 60s.. us manufacturers took advantage of pr low wage workforce and special tax exemptions to relocate .. to test offshored labor.. while still technically staying w/in us borders..

list could go on and on

appeal was a combo of geographical control offered by an island and straight up racism.. ‘an island, isolated, a lot of..expendable people.. for many years we have been used as guinea pigs for us’ – juan e rosario..t.. longtime community organizer whose mother was thalidomide test subject


the deepest scars may be even harder to see. colonialism itself is a social experiment, .. t.. a multilayered system of explicit and implicit controls designed to strip colonized peoples of their culture, confidence and power..


juan: we need to know what paradise looks like (and not kind that performs for currency traders).. people in pr are very fearful of thinking about the big thing. we are not supposed to be dreaming; we are not supposed to be thinking about even governing ourselves we don’t have that tradition of looking at the big pic’.. this, he said, is colonialism’s most bitter legacy..t

time after humiliating time pr’s have been sent message about relative worth and ultimate disposability.. nothing has done more to confirm this status than the fact that no level of govt has seen fit to count the dead in any kind of credible way..t


as of this writing official count is 64.. though a thorough investigation by pr’s center for investigative journalism and nyt .. put real number at well over 1000

no govt has their interests at heart.. in pr or washington.. that means if going to be grand new experiment in pr, one genuinely in the interest of its people, the pr’s themselves will have to be the ones to dream it up and fight for it..  as casa pueblo founder alexis massol gonzalez told me

try this guys..:

as it could be..

2 convos.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


casa pueblo is just one ie.. among many.. w next to no resources.. massive communal kitchens.. raised money..coordinatin supplies.. rebuilt schools.. in some communities.. electricity reconnected w help of retired electrical workers..

they shouldn’t have had to do all this. pr’s pay taxes – the irs collects some 3.5 bn from the island annually.. to help fund fema and the military.. which are supposed to protect us citizens during states of emergency..  but in saving selves.. discovered a depth of strength and capacity they did not know they possessed..

so coming up with own big ideas.. their own dreams of an island paradise that performs for them

‘welcome to magic land’


kids 3rd-8th grade do work of agro ecological farming – dalma cartagena.. ‘after maria, we encourage stunt to touch the plants and let the plants touch them because it’s a way of healing the pain and anger.’

when students watch plants grow that they planted from seeds, it’s a reminder that despite all the damage.. ‘you are part of something that is always protecting you’


‘a lot of conventional farmers right now are starving even though they have an amazing amount of land’ – katia aviles.. ‘they didn’t have anything to harvest because they had followed the dept of agri’s instruction’ and literally bet the farm on a single, vulnerable cash crop..t


overnight, everyone could see just how dangerous it was for this fertile island to have lost control over its agri system, along w so much else.. could see that agro ecology was not some quaint relic of the past, but a crucial tool for surviving a rocky future..


elizabeth yeampierre: by drawing on long protected indigenous knowledge about what seeds and tree species can survive extreme events. as well as the kind of energy and sturdy structures.. are creating a model not just for the island, but for the world..  how to prep for fact that climate change is here…t


but.. people’s movements need to move fast.. they aren’t only ones w radical pans.. about how the island should transform after maria

shock-after-shock-after-shock doctrine


finding that as much as 60% of the more than $70bn pr supposedly owes would be found to have be accumulated in violation of the island’s constitutions and is therefore illegal.. and if a large part of the debt is illegal, not only would it need to be erased, the fiscal control board would need to be dismantled, and debt could no longer be used as a cudgel w which to impose austerity and further weaken democracy..

desperation, distraction, despair, and disappearance


the state of shock that is being exploited into four categories:

desperation: relief/reconstruction have been so sluggish/inept/corrupt.. instill sense that nothing could be worse than status quo.. so anything at all can seem like an improvement

distraction: daily life as immense struggle.. ie: time devouring bureaucracies to pay for repairs et al.. can’t pay bills because offices closed

despair: callers making credible threats to take their own lives overwhelmed the island’s 24 hr mental health hotlines

disappearance: vanish daily onto planes headed for florida and ny and elsewhere in the mainland us.. many w direct help of fema.. ‘air bridge’.. airlifting people off island and boarding others onto cruise ships..  once eon mainland provided w funds to stay in hotels (set to expire march 20).. a political choice as much as a choice to fly and bus the residents of new orleans to distant states after katrina.. often offering no way to return.. a process th a permanently changed the demographics of the city.. ‘instead of helping.. encouraging to leave’


mercedes martinez while visiting a still closed school: ‘our job is to motivate people to know that it’s possible to resist things as long as we believe in ourselves’

that would include resisting money, school, work for pay, cars, et al

i don’t think she meant to include these things.. but to me .. yeampierre resilience law includes these things in said austerity

the islands of sovereignty converge

sovereignty ness


the biggest challenge she (christine nieves @mythirstybrain) said, has been helping people to see that they don’t need to wait for others to solve problems – everyone has something they can contribute now..  they may not have food or water.. she went on, but people know how tot do things..

this process of discovering the latent potential in the community has been like

‘opening your eyes and all of sudden seeing ‘oh wait, we’re humans and there’s other ways of relating to each other [now that] the system has stopped  – nieves..t

a nother way.. ie: 2 convos.. as infra

eye opening


gathering of organizations and movements ‘against disaster capitalism and for other worlds ‘.. see if we could come together at this crossroads to create a diff future ‘  – mariolga reyes cruz


‘we need reinvention not re construction..’ ..  ‘repsonding to underlying causes of the disaster..t

dang.. ie: a nother way .. roots of healing


unable to stop (shock doctrine) becasue they are too busy trying to survive – when best healing is seeing they can help themselves..

race against time