After the Storm
Six months after hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico still has no power. Six months after we still don’t know the official number of dead. The government reported 64, but a study by the New York Times indicates it could be over one thousand—let that fact detonate in your head: a news organization had to conduct their own investigation because the government can’t be bothered—and people continue to die because they need access to electricity, or because of an unholy mix of toxins from power plants devastated by the storm. In areas where they do have power there are also constant outages, and large swathes of the population still rely on FEMA for food. I would be surprised and outraged by the incompetence and inhumanity of our government—and yes, it is our responsibility too since Puerto Rico is an American colony—if I wasn’t already acquainted with their response to Katrina or even Flint, but let’s go back to the fact that the government, not the American or the Puerto Rican, has properly counted the dead. Imagine what that must do to the psyche of a people; what does it tell them about the worth of their lives?
This catastrophe has inspired two alternate visions of utopia for the island. On the one hand, there are those in power—rapacious government officials and investors—who are taking advantage of the trauma by pushing to privatize PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) and schools, among other institutions, and by making Puerto Rico their tax-free, private island devoid of pesky, native Puerto Ricans. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans now realize that it is not enough to take back control of their government, but they must also take back control of their energy and food supply.
An isolated island with a whopping 98 percent of its electricity coming from imported fossil fuels, Puerto Rico is particularly vulnerable to weather events of this magnitude. Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was already vulnerable because it has gone unattended due to austerity measures implemented years before Maria. Measures implemented with the ultimate aim to starve public services and make them as inefficient as possible to convince people that the only solution is to privatize. For example, the underwater cable which connects Vieques to the main island has yet to be fixed despite the fact that “PREPA could have requested that other state electrical utilities send workers to Puerto Rico and help with the rebuilding — its right as a member of the American Public Power Association.” (Klein) However, PREPA put in the request after more than a month, which has set back recovery, and yet Governor Rosselló suggests that the only alternative to fix the system is to privatize it. It is clear whom this greasy fool is looking out for: he has described Puerto Rico as a “blank canvas” for investors.
But there is hope. Grassroots movements are seizing the learning opportunity the storm brought along with the devastation. People have seen from organizations like Casa Pueblo and Coquí Solar that renewables are essential to their survival because “in a future that is sure to include more weather shocks, getting energy from sources that don’t require sprawling transportation networks is just common sense. And Puerto Rico, though poor in fossil fuels, is drenched in sun, lashed by wind, and surrounded by waves.” (Klein) To minimize the risks that hurricane related damages are sure to bring to any system, these organizations advocate a decentralized model in which power is generated by the communities that consume it. This would democratize the system and save money, thus giving Puerto Ricans a sense of autonomy that could begin to heal the wounds of the natural disaster, but also the ancient psychological wound inflicted by 130 years of American colonialism.
Puerto Ricans have also seen the importance of taking control of their food supply by going back to traditional farming methods to feed themselves, rather than continue the industrial scale model of agriculture, which leaves them without food, and bleeds them of their money and resources because most of it is exported. Agronomist Dalma Cartagena teaches children agro-ecology, “a term referring to a combination of traditional farming methods that promotes resilience and protects biodiversity, a rejection of pesticides and other toxins, and a commitment to rebuilding social relationships between farmers and local communities.” (Klein) Like Casa Pueblo and Coquí Solar, Cartagena advocates sovereignty for her people over their natural resources. They advocate worker co-ops because they understand that they institutionalize a broad base of power; they understand that if you want the economy to serve the mass of people, not only a tiny elite, then you have to put them in charge. They understand that they will never have an economy that serves everybody if it’s controlled by a handful of thugs like Rosselló.
Now what’s wrong with that? Not a goddamn thing, most of us would think, but not free-market advocates like the low-life Rosselló and friends, who are selling out their own people: they want land not for self-sufficient farms of food, or sun, or wind, but for their gaudy McMansions and airports. These corrosive lumps of fecal matter are also setting in motion their evil machinations to take over the resources of the island and when they do, I hope our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters greet them with their usual warmth—and with pitchforks, and torches, and Don Q Molotov cocktails.
P.S. I am an atheist, but there are times I wish I still believed. It would be comforting to know that there is a special place in hell for these heartless capitalists—probably the inner ring of Satan’s rectum.
Klein, Naomi. “The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island.” The Intercept, 20 Mar. 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/03/20/puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-recovery/. Accessed 6 Apr. 2018.
One Bridge, Two Goats.
Last week, two goats got stuck on a beam under a Pennsylvania Turnpike bridge in rural western Pennsylvania.
Since we can’t exactly ask the goats about their intentions, we don’t know why they ventured out onto the bridge, but goats do love to climb and explore, notes goat specialist Susan Schoenian of the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. These two goats, who are probably pals (because goats are social animals), escaped from the nearby yard where they lived and went on an adventure.
They deftly walked along the beam with their very small feet. They proceeded about 200 feet. But it turns out they couldn’t just keep on walking ahead — there was an obstacle that kept them from moving forward. So they had to turn around and head back the way they came.
The brown goat managed the trick. “He walked out to a concrete pier and somehow got himself turned around,” says Todd Tilson, operations manager in the maintenance department of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The white goat did not manage to turn around.
That’s why, in the photo, you’ll see the two goats facing each other.
Tilson reports that the brown goat “kept hitting the white one with its head” to make it walk backward. “It would take one step, two steps back, then stop,” he says.
And really, can you blame it? Would you want to walk backward on a beam that is about 8 inches wide and 100 feet above the ground?
Yeah, me neither.
The goats weren’t likely to leap off, conjectures Schoenian: “They’re not going to jump. That’s not part of their behavior to jump off of something. Their desire is to climb.”
In their predicament, she sees similarities to human behavior: “Think of a child who climbs out there to explore and gets stuck and is too scared to go any further. And you just kind of shut down even if you could keep going.”
The call about the stranded goats came into the Pennsylvania Turnpike at roughly 10 a.m. Tuesday. The son of the owner of the goats said they had been out there 18 hours already.
Clearly, a crane was needed. But the turnpike crane was in use, so the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation stepped in. Steve McCarthy, a civil engineer for bridge inspection with the department, was drafted for the rescue effort. “It was my first goat extraction,” he says.
He and a colleague got in the bucket at the end of the long arm of the crane.
Pennsylvania Turnpike spokeswoman Rosanne Placey called the operation “Goat Watch” and remembers “dozens upon dozens” of status reports from turnpike maintenance folks coming in on her phone.
A happy ending wasn’t guaranteed. “If they fall off the beam while we’re trying to rescue them, it would feel like we did harm to them,” Tilson says.
“The initial plan was to try and separate the goats so we could grab the goat facing the wrong way and turn it around,” McCarthy says. But the white goat wasn’t cooperating.
“I said, ‘I’m going for it,’ ” he recalls. “I grabbed the goat as tight as I could.” And he lifted it into the bucket.
The white goat was deposited on the bridge and handed over to its owner’s son. McCarthy then tapped the beam with a pole to encourage the brown goat to make its way back.
Asked about the possible cost of the rescue, Tilson says, “We didn’t even calculate it. We were just trying to be a good neighbor and get the goats back safely.”
McCarthy is a happy man. “In this day and age, when things can go terribly wrong,” he says, “it was great to see things go right.”
His success is a testimony to a value that is sometimes lost in our quick-attention-span age: persistence.
“There was no way,” he says, “I was letting go of that goat.”
An Open Letter From New Yorkers to the Residents of Parrish, AL
Dear Residents of Parrish, Alabama,
Let’s not act like we both don’t know what this is about.
It’s the shit. Well, if you want to be specific, it’s our – i.e., New Yorker’s – shit. And if you want to be really specific, it’s the 200 containers of our shit that’s been stuck on a train in the middle of your town for six weeks.
We just wanted to – right out the gate – say we’re sorry this is happening to you. Hey, if anyone can sympathize with the plight of living in a constant haze of human fecal matter, it’s New Yorkers. But really, this isn’t our fault.
I mean, we wouldn’t even be in this mess if those tree-hugging cucks at the Environmental Protection Agency hadn’t made us stop our simple, elegant solution to this problem in the first place. Since 1992, rather than sending our poop out to sea, we send it to our neighbors via train. More than 1,020 tons daily, in fact.
Usually, our poop would pass through your town the way it passed through us, without a second thought or smell. But due to legal issues regarding the transportation of human waste, this is your world now. And until those issues can be sorted, the shit will never reach its intended destination: a little slice of stinky solitude, paradoxically named “Big Sky Landfill.”
I, along with the other 8.5-million New Yorkers, wish that Poo-Choo Train a speedy departure from nose-shot of your town.
Mexico goes Organic
Mexico just passed a new law. A really nice law I might add, at least I liked it. The Mexican Senate just approved a decision where all adults become organ donors immediately after their death. There is no consent forms, or specific forms, a dying patient has to sign to donate their organs; it simply happens right away. This seems like a pretty cool new rule. After all, in America, only about 45 percent of the population is registered as organ donors, and conversely, about 21 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant that the hospital doesn’t have the organs for. With some fake mathematics that are inaccurate and totally made up, it seems like if everyone donated their organs then basically no one would die, right? If you thought I would say something witty afterwards, you are mistaken.
Another promising part of the whole organ donor issue, is that 3D printed organs seem to be developing fairly fast. Flat organs like the skin and hollow organs like the bladder have already been implemented. It would be pretty cool if the need for an organ transplant was quickly alleviated by a quick skin scrape to collect cells, a quick culturing of those cells, and then boom! A 3D printer quickly pops you out a brand new liver. Of course, it currently isn’t possible to print out an entire liver. In fact, that’s a rather long ways away. However, scientists have already come close to creating some liver tissue, which is already fairly amazing considering that the liver can grow back as quickly as it can.
Another cool perk from these 3D printing shenanigans is that perhaps they will help us with the far less than ethical practice of testing medicine on lab animals and clinical patients. If we can make tissues out of cultured cells and test medication on them, then maybe, just maybe, we can stop testing medication on live subjects.