Tag Archives: miami

Touchdown! Car companies make electric cars look sexy at the Super Bowl

A recent analysis by Reuters found that automakers worldwide plan to invest $300 billion into electric vehicles. Now they just need people to start buying them: Last year, only 2 percent of cars sold in the U.S. were electric. So it’s heartening that, while the country was enjoying the last Super Bowl that Miami will likely be able to host before Hard Rock Stadium turns into an island, car companies threw major advertising dollars behind making their new electric vehicles look cool AF.

This year, companies forked over an average of $5.6 million for 30 seconds of airtime, not to mention the cost of producing the high-profile spots that featured celebrity cameos and complex narratives. The payoff is that the ads inevitably spark conversation and news articles in the days and weeks and potentially years after the event.

For last night’s game, GM enlisted LeBron James to introduce its new electric Hummer — a car that nobody asked for but hey, I’m not complaining.

Audi struck algorithmic gold with Game of Thrones fan favorite Maisie Williams singing Frozen’s “Let it Go” in an e-Tron Sportback.

Porsche kept it classic with a suspenseful heist set-up that led to flashy car chase through the streets of Stuttgart with its all-electric Taycan sports car.

Viewers in some regional markets saw a nostalgia-fueled ad by Ford for its new electric Mustang, featuring Idris Elba.

Will the ad blitz work? At the very least, it might help the average American realize that Tesla isn’t the only name in the EV game.

Originally posted here:

Touchdown! Car companies make electric cars look sexy at the Super Bowl

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Touchdown! Car companies make electric cars look sexy at the Super Bowl

Climate change is coming for our toilets. Here’s how we can stop it.

Of all the amazing conveniences Americans are lucky enough to enjoy, the bowl that makes the poop go away is one of the best — on par with the tap that turns the water on and the box that makes the food hot. But I am here to ruin your day and tell you that climate change could compromise the humble toilet. If we don’t act soon, the consequences could be disgusting.

About one in five households in the United States depends on a septic system to eliminate waste (that’s 60 million households, for those of you who don’t like fractions). Septic systems not only dispose of our waste, they also protect public health, preserve precious water resources, and provide long-term peace of mind for city planners and plumbers alike. But that septic-associated security could go down the drain, according to information in a U.N. report on oceans published last week.

While the report is not specifically about your bathroom, per se, it shows how a stealthy threat — sea-level rise — could make it more difficult for people with septic systems to flush their toilets. A brief primer on septic systems, which are common in rural areas: The stuff in your toilet goes into an underground tank, where it breaks down (I’m gagging) and gets drained out into a leach field (gross) that’s at least 20 feet from your house. In order to function properly, those drainage fields have to be relatively dry.

Rising groundwater levels (a problem that accompanies sea-level rise) are soaking the fields, making it more difficult for our waste to break down and get absorbed properly. Rising groundwater also affects the soil’s ability to filter out harmful bacteria, which poses a public safety risk. And to make matters worse, increased rainfall, another climate change-related perk, is exacerbating the issue. It’s a back-up problem that can’t be solved with a plunger, if you catch my drift.

New England, where roughly half of homes rely on septic systems, is especially at risk. So is Florida — home to 12 percent of the nation’s septic systems. Miami-Dade county commissioned a report on vulnerable toilets this year and found 64 percent of tanks could run into problems by 2040. Minnesota, an inland state, has to contend with another climate-related toilet problem: lack of snow. Snow, which keeps things nice and insulated, has been noticeably absent in early winter and spring. Freezing temperatures are still kicking around, though. That means the frost line has taken a dive deep underground and compromised thousands of Minnesotans’ septic systems. See? Septic tanks are getting it from all sides these days.

So is the solution to dig up all the septic tanks, put them on stilts, and clothe them in Canada Goose parkas? Not exactly, says Elena Mihaly, staff attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation. She worked on a 2017 report on climate change’s effect on wastewater treatment systems that laid out some possible solutions to this poopy problem.

One method is to reform the way septic systems are regulated so that new systems are evaluated for their susceptibility to climate change before they’re put in. Researchers are already mapping out areas with infrastructure that’s vulnerable to groundwater level rise in coming years in states like New Hampshire. When it comes to existing septic systems, Mihaly says inspecting them when houses change hands at point of sale is a “way to make sure that we’re checking in on how infrastructure is doing given current risk, and how it’s changed from 30 or 40 years ago.”

And there are other practices that can head off this problem, too. Shallower leach fields, for example, rely on a narrower depth to treat water. Municipalities can install town-wide sewer systems in areas where household septic tanks don’t make sense. Frequent inspections are key, too. “It’s important to get your septic system inspected every three or four years,” Mihaly said. “Not only looking at all the pieces on the outside but at what’s happening with the groundwater that is flowing near it.”

Most importantly, it’s crucial to understand that groundwater doesn’t act in predictable ways, and it can impact more than just septic systems. “It’s not a given that if you have 3 feet of sea-level rise you’ll always have this much groundwater rise inland,” Mihaly said. “It’s really dependent on the underlying geology of that area, so it’s going to be very location-specific.” Roads, drinking water wells, landfills, and other infrastructure are susceptible to rising groundwater, too. “We actually have infrastructure that’s inland that we need to be thinking about as well in terms of reliability and functionality in the face of climate change,” she said.

You hear that, America? Climate change is coming for our conveniences. It’s time to get potty trained.

Original link: 

Climate change is coming for our toilets. Here’s how we can stop it.

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Climate change is coming for our toilets. Here’s how we can stop it.

NOAA picked Trump over science. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Hurricane Dorian has come and gone, but the irrevocable upheaval it brought on the Bahamas continues. In Washington, a different kind of debacle is brewing in Dorian’s aftermath.

On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued an unsigned statement that defended President Trump’s baseless assertion that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama “(much) harder than anticipated.” Trump originally made the claim in a tweet on Sunday, September 1, and has continued to try to justify it on Twitter and with a doctored hurricane map in the week since. NOAA’s statement also rebuked the National Weather Service’s Birmingham division for contradicting the president in a tweet that clarified, “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

“From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama,” read NOAA’s statement. “The Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.” The New York Times is reporting that political officials at NOAA put out the statement after Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross threatened to fire them.

The unsigned statement — along with an earlier internal directive telling NOAA staffers not to “provide any opinion” on Trump’s tweet — seems to have set off a firestorm within the agency. NOAA’s acting chief scientist, Craig McLean, is investigating whether the agency’s response to Trump’s claims about Hurricane Dorian constituted a violation of policies and ethics, according to the Washington Post. And the head of the National Weather Service, which is part of NOAA, publicly defended the Birmingham forecasters at a meeting of the National Weather Association.

For NOAA scientists, and meteorologists outside the federal agency, the organization’s apparent willingness to bend the truth for political reasons undermines their integrity.

“This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around,” said a meteorologist the Post spoke with on the condition of anonymity. “One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring — ultimately what the Alabama office did is provide a forecast with their tweet, that is what they get paid to do.”

Elbert Friday, the former director of the National Weather Service, went even further, calling the unsigned statement “deplorable” in a public statement on Facebook: “This rewriting history to satisfy an ego diminishes NOAA.”

For some meteorologists, NOAA’s independence is a matter not only of scientific integrity but of life and death. The agency’s statement is “concerning as it compromises the ability of NOAA to convey life-saving information necessary to avoid substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” McLean wrote in an email to NOAA employees obtained by the Post. If people stop trusting NOAA to provide unbiased forecasts during severe weather events, the thinking goes, the confusion could put them at physical risk.

After all, as Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School, told to BuzzFeed News: “There’s enough uncertainty in a hurricane forecast as it is. We don’t need to introduce a whole lot more.”

See original article – 

NOAA picked Trump over science. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Ultima, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on NOAA picked Trump over science. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

This sexy beach read might actually help Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery

Nothing puts a damper on one’s romantic life like a Category 5 hurricane. That’s just one of the obstacles faced by 20-year-old former sex worker Dolores “Dulce” Garcia, the sugar daddy-dealing protagonist of the new book Side Chick Nation. As she tries to outrun her past by going from Miami to the Caribbean, she ultimately lands in Puerto Rico just in time for Hurricane Maria.

Climate change and colonialism don’t typically make for a sexy beach read, but Side Chick Nation, the fourth installment in UC Berkeley lecturer Aya de León’s Justice Hustlers feminist heist series, attempts to do just that — weaving action and romance into the vivid backdrop of Puerto Rico’s stilting recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Dulce, the titular “side chick,” is a world-weary pragmatist; she answers the call from a past sugar daddy looking to, well, “reconnect,” all while lying to Zavier, the man with whom she has actually fallen for after just a few dates. After Hurricane Irma slows the flow of sugar daddies in Puerto Rico to a trickle, she finds herself sleeping in a storage unit in San Juan, waiting for the next storm — Maria — to hit.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, she serves as a witness to both the heartbreaking reality of climate change and the exploitation that can ensue. She notes the international businessmen who flock to the island to manipulate the destruction for their own financial gain, making shady use of relief funds and devastating the island even more. De León draws parallels between Dulce’s experience as a “side chick” and Puerto Rico’s relationship with the mainland, which cheerfully exploits the U.S. territory in good times but abandons it when it is in need.

For me, as a Puerto Rican transplant who has reported on Puerto Rico’s recovery after Maria, I was intrigued by the novel’s premise. I talked with de León, who teaches creative writing at UC Berkeley, about Side Chick Nation and why she chose popular fiction as a means to get folks riled up about the climate crisis.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Image courtesy of Aya de León

Q.Why did you write this book? What do you hope readers get out of it?

A. The biggest takeaway that I really want for everyone has to do with Hurricane Maria and the crisis of climate and colonialism in Puerto Rico. I’m hoping people feel that intersection at a level of empathy. Part of what I was thinking of when I was writing was, in the future when this book comes out, the hurricane will have receded from the headlines and yet the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico will be ongoing. I just wanted to make sure that folks could connect to these human stories, this unprecedented level of this devastation at this intersection.

Something that was also super important to me for this book is [to reach] an audience that includes young women of color. I really like the idea of young women of color thinking of themselves as activists around issues like the climate. Being a part of the Puerto Rican diaspora and watching the island get hit made it clear to me that climate change is the top political priority. Climate is something that affects everybody and affects people of color even more. The perception of environmentalism is that it’s a white movement — and that’s not actually true. So I wanted to push back on that.

Q.Where did you get the idea to set the fourth installment of your Justice Hustlers series in a post-Maria Puerto Rico?

A. I was writing another book at the time. I had outlined it and started to work on it. Then, the hurricane hit and I was like, “Oh my god, I have to write about the hurricane!” It occurred to me that the biggest platform that I have was this Justice Hustlers series. I wasn’t sure how to make it make sense with the rest of the series, but I remembered one character from a previous book — Dulce. One of the things I was reading at the time was Salvage the Bones, a novel about Hurricane Katrina. It made me think: what does it mean for the audience to know what’s gonna happen while the characters don’t know?

Q.You went to Puerto Rico to research this book. What was that like?

A. I had not been back to Puerto Rico for a decade. I visited in 2018 about a year after Hurricane Maria hit. It was really intense to be back. One of the things that was so profound is that the whole island has signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There was some sort of emotional chill because people had been deeply impacted in a lot of ways.

I mostly was in San Juan where things looked more or less back to normal. Still, stores were closed and traffic lights were knocked out — and that was almost a year later! I rented a car and drove around the interior of the island, where I saw lots of FEMA tarps blue roofs. I definitely got a sense of the devastation. That was key for me — to just go and just bear witness. It was less about information and more about being present with the community.

Q.The book deals with a lot of really intense issues like colonialism and disaster capitalists while also telling this gripping, feminist romance storyline. Do you think popular fiction in general, might be the way to get people to understand the complex relationship between disparity and climate crisis?

A. I think popular fiction and fiction, in general, has always played that role. It’s hard to empathize with a historical event, but it’s easy to empathize with an individual. And that’s what I wanted — for people to connect. What does it mean to have your homeland devastated, your people devastated? Ultimately, I’m writing romantic suspense but I’m thinking of suspenseful situations that relate to big political situations — like Hurricane María.

Q. Can you tell me about the challenges of writing about disaster?

A. I just had to cry a lot. I had to grieve a lot. And I had to hold off feelings like being unworthy or unable or not up to the task. Here we have this thing that changed the Puerto Rican people, and here I am, this sort of west coast, mixed-heritage diaspora Puerto Rican who is like the second generation born in the U.S. How could I possibly be the person to write this book? Ultimately it’s just the reality of the disaster. Maybe I’m not the right person, but I’m the person with a book contract and I can’t write about anything else.

The hurricane changed stuff for everyone in the diaspora. We have to show up, and what I have to bring to the table is a book that is a popular fiction approach. This may be the story for people that aren’t gonna read Naomi Klein’s Battle for Paradise — although I hope everybody will read that too! I wanted the message to get to the places where I already had a platform. I can’t imagine having written about anything else. This is the story of my people right now.


This sexy beach read might actually help Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery

Posted in Accent, alo, Everyone, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Paradise, Ultima, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on This sexy beach read might actually help Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery

With hurricane season looming, Trump is blocking relief funds and mocking Puerto Rico

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In the two hurricane seasons since Donald Trump was elected president, the United States was hit by five major hurricanes, including Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. In the immediate aftermath of the record-breaking storm, Trump accused the mayor of San Juan of “poor leadership” and suggested Puerto Ricans weren’t doing enough to help themselves. Nearly two years later, Trump is still criticizing Puerto Rico with misleading descriptions of what has transpired since the storm.

His disdain for the island and its leadership has bled into a fight in the Senate over disaster relief for victims of the 2018 hurricane season.

Since March, Congress has been working on an aid package to assist victims of recent floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. Last October, the first Category 5 hurricane since 1992’s Hurricane Andrew made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Seven months, 59 deaths, and $25 billion in damage later, Congress has yet to send a relief package to the Floridians affected by the storm. Lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on a finalized deal because Republicans, following Trump’s lead, have rejected measures that include more funding relief for Puerto Rico, where torrential rain and extreme winds caused catastrophic damage, including a major power grid failure and nearly 3,000 deaths.

“That whole bill is being jeopardized because of pettiness,” Al Cathey, the mayor of Mexico Beach, told the Washington Post last month.

In Puerto Rico, crumbling infrastructure was made worse by the powerful hurricane. A year and a half later, residents are still waiting on funds to repair hospitals, roads, and public schools. On the mainland, Hurricane Michael victims are also in dire straits. Many residents in Bay County, Florida, home to Mexico Beach, are still living in tents and trailers. Debris still lines the streets of Mexico Beach, and some residents continue to live in severely damaged homes. Because of Congress’ delay, many of the short-term aid programs have run out. Just before the six-month anniversary of the storm, the housing vouchers that allowed victims to stay in hotels expired, leaving 250 households scrambling to find other shelters. “We are truly the forgotten storm,” Bay County Commissioner Philip Griffitts told the Miami Herald.

Despite the sense of urgency in Florida, the president seems intent on continuing the fight over Puerto Rico funding. He has repeatedly said that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion in aid, but that is far from reality. Congress has allocated only $41 billion to Puerto Rico, and only a small fraction of that has been used because local government officials must detail how they plan to use the funds before they are disbursed.

Trump’s misleading tweet comes days after Republican and Democratic senators appeared to be taking steps toward finalizing a package. It signals that the White House isn’t ready to acquiesce to Democrats’ desire to include more funding for Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, hurricane season is set to begin in just four weeks.

Link to original:  

With hurricane season looming, Trump is blocking relief funds and mocking Puerto Rico

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on With hurricane season looming, Trump is blocking relief funds and mocking Puerto Rico

Florida’s toxic algae gets the Daily Show treatment

Get your

daily dose of good news

from Grist

Subscribe to The Beacon

Algae, commonly found in health food stores or clustered along the side of pool, might not appear dangerous. But don’t be fooled. South Florida is currently suffering from a massive algae crisis. The nasty sludge turns tourists away, provokes asthma attacks, and kills manatees. It’s such a mess that algae has turned into a campaign issue in the race for the U.S. Senate.

The Daily Show went full-on Miami Vice to get to the bottom of it. Comedians Roy Wood Jr. and Michael Kosta suited up like Crockett and Tubbs, learning along the way that the toxic fumes from algae can cause liver damage and make it hard for beachgoers to breathe.

As the faux-detectives sip sugary cocktails, Miami Herald environmental reporter Jenny Staletovich tells them that the sugar industry’s farming practices are partly to blame for the algae issues.

“Has anyone ever reached out to the sugar industry and just said, ‘Stop doing that’?” asks Wood Jr.

“Stop doing that, sugar,” Kosta adds.

It’s not just the sugar industry, though. There’s also our old pal climate change: Warmer waters tend to breed larger algae blooms. As if Florida didn’t have enough climate worries already.

View article:  

Florida’s toxic algae gets the Daily Show treatment

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Florida’s toxic algae gets the Daily Show treatment

Antarctic melt holds coastal cities hostage. Here’s the way out.

After a quarter-century of intense study, we now know the unequivocal truth: Antarctica is losing ice to the oceans, and that ice loss is picking up speed.

Forty percent of sea level rise since 1992 has happened in just the past five years — a three-fold increase in the pace at which icebergs are breaking away from land, according to a comprehensive new study based on satellite data, ground measurements, and models. In West Antarctica, where the ice sheet is inherently unstable, the last five years saw an average net outflow of 159 billion tons of ice. In total, the frozen continent has lost 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992.

“As we observe the system for longer, we see more and more changes of the type we feared could happen as the climate warms,” says Helen Fricker, a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California-San Diego who worked on the study, in an email to Grist.

The collective work, published in this week’s special edition of the journal Nature, assembles a half-dozen papers written by the world’s top experts on Antarctica. It serves as a major update to our understanding of how human activity affects the Earth’s largest store of ice — and what it would take to prevent a worst-case scenario.

Antarctica’s glaciers are massive enough to flood every coastal city on Earth. So it’s no exaggeration to say that what happens in Antarctica over the next few decades will determine the fate of not just Miami and Mumbai, but also the course of human history. If we’re lucky and quickly start cutting emissions, Antarctica’s glaciers might mostly remain in place. The alternative is unthinkable.

There’s still so much we don’t know about Antarctica. But a series of major breakthroughs in recent years have raised the urgency and scale of scientists’ efforts. This week’s papers put that information into context. The clear takeaway: There is no sign of a slowdown in Antarctica’s melt rate.

After five major Antarctic ice shelf collapses in the past 25 years, there is now enough data for an emerging science of ice shelf “damage mechanics.” Ice shelves — floating extensions of glaciers grounded on solid bedrock — are vulnerable to melt from both warm air above and warm water below. Their health is increasingly at risk as climate change intensifies. In recent years, scientists have learned that ice shelf collapses are probably a precursor for major glaciers to accelerate toward the ocean — and therefore a requirement for worst-case scenarios of sea level rise in our lifetimes.

The biggest of these shelf collapses so far, Larsen B back in 2002, raised alarms throughout the research community. In a matter of weeks, a 10,000-year old mass of ice the size of Rhode Island was gone. Last year, a smaller and partial collapse of the nearby Larsen C ice shelf produced one of the largest icebergs ever seen.

Thanks to all the science that’s taken place since, we have the ability to project forward what could happen over the next 50 years. It’s the same story we know, but with more certainty: We are at a make-or-break moment when it comes to climate change. The ice shelf collapses that humanity has already kickstarted can’t be rolled back, so the goal now is to prevent more of them.

More than any other region on Earth, Antarctica holds humanity hostage — but humanity also has a way out.

“The next few years will be a pivotal period for decision making with regard to Antarctica,” Fricker says. “Depending on what is decided, we could be looking at significant and irreversible changes over the next 50 years.”

Believe it or not, there’s a clear bright side here. Quickly slash emissions, and the ice shelves should still remain stable across most of the continent. Doing so would require an unprecedented era of global cooperation, but the collaborative research taking place right now in Antarctica — an effort shared by dozens of scientists from 17 countries in this week’s update alone — could serve as inspiration. It’s a symbol of what’s possible when people work together for a common cause.

“If you are optimistic, you can find good news here,” says Christina Hulbe, a polar expert at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “Some amount of future change has been locked in by our past decisions, but there is still time to avoid the worst thatcan happen.”

Hulbe, whose first trip to Antarctica was in 1991 but was not directly involved with this week’s report, sees it partly as the culmination of what she’s been working for her entire life. In her view, the way the report is framed — as a stark choice presented to humanity — “accomplishes something that charts and graphs never will.”

In narrative prose unusual for a formal scientific study, the researchers imagine what Antarctica might be like in 2070 — with and without rapid cuts to emissions. Given the incredible size of the Antarctic ice sheets, actions taken in the next decade, the researchers conclude, will reverberate for millennia.

“I’ve never been at an Antarctic or climate conference where people said, ‘That happened slower than I thought it would,’” Hulbe says. “There is nothing here to be complacent about.”

Originally posted here: 

Antarctic melt holds coastal cities hostage. Here’s the way out.

Posted in alo, ALPHA, Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Antarctic melt holds coastal cities hostage. Here’s the way out.

Homesick and strapped for cash, Hurricane Maria survivors grapple with life in Miami

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

“Christmas,” Mariner Ostolaza said mournfully, like it’s the name of a loved one who died too young. “Do you know what a Christmas is in Puerto Rico?”

She sets her coffee down, freeing her hands to gesticulate pizzazz, and answers her own question. It starts on Thanksgiving and it ends in mid-January with Fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastián, a street festival.

“It’s three months of partying, drinking, and freaking good-ass music,” she said, sighing. “Being here, it was sad. My family over here is already Americanized, so they don’t do the same parties or the same traditions we have over there.”

The 28-year-old fled to Florida’s largest city in October after Hurricane Maria inundated Levittown, the middle-class San Juan suburb where she lived in a one-story home with her grandmother and great-grandmother. She agonized over the decision to leave.

The night the floodwaters came, just hours after the winds and rain subsided, she watched swarms of cockroaches and rats engulf entire lampposts as they scurried to drier heights — a nightmarish, almost Biblical omen. She had believed she might die as she navigated her packed 2005 Toyota Corolla through streets that had become fecal rivers.

She spent the next week wading through sewage, air-drying clothes and old love letters, and chasing evasive bouts of sleep in the sticky nights without air conditioning. Then, one morning while she waited in line for gasoline at 4 a.m., service blinked onto her phone for a moment, and she got a text from her aunt in Miami. A family friend working at Royal Caribbean secured spots for Ostolaza and her grandmothers on a cruise ship leaving San Juan the next morning.

“I didn’t want to come,” she said. But her job was less secure than it once was, since the hotel where she worked didn’t know when it would welcome tourists again. And her uncle, and — once she finished weeping — her mother, convinced Ostolaza leaving was the only choice. The next day, she joined her grandmothers, who were depending on her to be their English translator, and boarded the ship. She arrived in Miami on Oct. 3, her dad’s birthday, the first one she’d ever missed.

Nearly nine months later, Ostolaza feels stuck in a city with expensive housing, limited jobs and — the weather and plentitude of Spanish speakers aside — few resemblances to her island. Puerto Rico remains in shambles and without reliable electricity. Federal authorities have yet to even determine the final death toll from the storm, though Harvard University researchers this week pegged the number at 4,645 — 70 times the official tally and nearly three times higher than Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On Friday, a new hurricane season begins.

Roughly 136,000 Puerto Ricans fled to the mainland United States in the months after the storm. That figure, based on school enrollments as of last February, is expected to surge well above 200,000 when states release new data in September. Almost half of them stayed in Florida.

But few are settled. Ostolaza got a job waiting tables at a Puerto Rican restaurant in Kendall, south of Miami, but she still lives rent-free with her aunt and uncle. She is debating when, or whether, to go back, wondering if remaining in Miami, with its increasingly flood-prone streets and heedless waterfront construction, is any less delusional than returning to Puerto Rico in an era of rising seas and warming temperatures.

‘Miami can barely handle the people who live there now’

Ostolaza’s predicament demonstrates policymakers’ failure to prepare for sudden influxes of migrants fleeing the kind of extreme weather that is becoming more frequent as climate change worsens, scientists say. Her reality also highlights a more subtle effect of displacement, a quiet epidemic of homesickness and depression, particularly among Americans with as unique a culture as Puerto Ricans.

The problem threatens to become much worse in South Florida. Caribbean nations that neighbor Puerto Rico are particularly at risk, and not just from sea-level rise. Since the early 1980s, countries like Jamaica, Haiti, and St. Lucia began adopting neoliberal economic reforms pushed by the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund. These policies devastated agriculture on the islands, as study after study shows, forcing them to rely on imported food and bottled water, and revolve their entire economies around tourism.

“The only thing that keeps the entire Caribbean economy from completely collapsing is tourism,” said Jesse Michael Keenan, an expert in climate migration at Harvard University.

Like in Puerto Rico, where the island’s $70 billion public debt has strangled the local economy, financial hardship already makes many in the Caribbean eager to leave. When extreme weather ravages infrastructure and makes it difficult to import and distribute products, countries are thrown into chaos, and South Florida is the closest entry point to safety in the U.S.

Puerto Ricans heading to Orlando after Hurricane Maria.Pedro Portal / Miami Herald / TNS via Getty Images

“Miami can barely handle the people who live there now,” Keenan said. “It’s hard to imagine a future where they could handle much more influx from the Caribbean.”

Hurricane Maria became the deadliest disaster in modern U.S. history, not because it was a Category 5 storm, but due to the failure to provide emergency relief quickly enough, if at all. The Harvard survey found that the number of deaths soared in the months after the storm as a result of the interruption of medical care. About 14.4 percent of households reported losing access to medications, 9.5 percent said the widespread blackouts left respiratory equipment useless, 8.1 percent said nearby medical facilities remained closed, and 6.1 percent said there were no doctors at those clinics. Nearly 9 percent of households in remote, mountainous areas could not reach emergency services by phone.

In the weeks after the hurricane made landfall, food and medicine stayed packed in shipping containers as the Federal Emergency Management Agency struggled to find ways to distribute the much-needed goods around the storm-ravaged island. (The agency insisted they were retail goods, not aid.) Companies contracted by the agency failed to deliver millions of meals to hungry Puerto Ricans. Federal contractors hired to rebuild the island’s crippled electricity grid became the subject of corruption allegations. At one point, the company Whitefish Energy Holdings suspended work on power lines until Puerto Rico’s bankrupt electric utility paid up. Last month, Puerto Rico plunged into darkness yet again after an excavator working too close to a fallen transmission tower got too close to a high-voltage line.

The Trump administration, after some debate, tweaked welfare rules to allow Puerto Ricans to buy prepared meals with food stamps. But the White House refused to offer aid money to Puerto Rico in January, insisting the island undergo means testing that determined it was too rich to qualify for the funding, despite the poverty rate surging from 44.3 percent to 52.3 percent after the storm.

As the administration continues to ignore and marginalize scientists whose research warns that climate change is making the frequency, strength, and speed of hurricanes more cataclysmic, mismanaged relief efforts could well become a permanent fixture.

The federal government’s bungled response to the storm extended to the states that took in displaced Puerto Ricans. It took FEMA more than a month to activate a transitional housing program for displaced survivors. The agency planned to discontinue paying for Puerto Ricans to live in hotels in April. But after state and local officials scrambled to shore up funding to keep the Puerto Ricans housed, FEMA reversed its decision and approved a request to extend a transitional housing program to 1,700 Maria survivors. But that program expires on June 30 and FEMA has no plans to extend it again.

FEMA spokesperson Lenisha Smith said the agency was working “closely with survivors of Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico, including those in Florida, on finding more permeant housing solutions.”

Finding permanent housing has been a struggle, particularly in Florida.

“They don’t have the money for renting any house that they can afford in Florida,” said Angel Marcial, a bishop with churches in Orlando, the top destination for Puerto Ricans in Florida. “Many of them don’t have enough money for the down payments or the deposit, even what they receive monthly is not enough for a monthly rent.”

But in Orlando, at least, the Puerto Rican community is filled with more recent arrivals and is close-knit, making it easier to access community services.

Miami, the second-strongest magnet for Puerto Ricans and almost twice Orlando’s size, is a bit tougher. The cost of living there is 10 percent higher, according to Expatistan, a site that compares living expenses between cities.

Puerto Ricans also don’t have central hubs in the city, like the Cuban and Haitian communities do. They’ve instead dispersed as the neighborhood once known as Little San Juan undergoes rapid gentrification. Land prices in Wynwood, a neighborhood just north of downtown, quintupled between 2012 and 2016, according to real estate data cited by The Real Deal. Lease rates more than doubled. For many, the neighborhood has become too expensive for natives, let alone newcomers.

Andrea Ruiz-Sorrentini, a University of Miami researcher studying how Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria are adapting to Miami, said evacuees despaired over the dearth of go-to cultural locations in the city.

“There is not a renowned hub in Miami to go and experience what it is to be Puerto Rican,” she said, sitting in a rec room of a Puerto Rican cultural center in the Roberto Clemente Park, one of the last prominent emblems of Wynwood’s Puerto Rican heritage. “Yes, Wynwood exists, but in recent years it hasn’t been the same.”

In October, Florida became the only state to enter into a host-state agreement with FEMA, and Republican Governor Rick Scott began urging federal officials to fund relief efforts. In January, nearly four months after the hurricane, the federal government granted Florida $13 million to help displaced Puerto Ricans find jobs. In response, Scott unveiled a new $1 million employment effort with the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and Ana G. Mendez University the next month.

Rick Scott speaks about the influx of Puerto Rico residents.Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel / TNS via Getty Images

Fewer than a quarter of the 20 actions a Scott spokesperson listed the administration as taking in response to Hurricane Maria dealt directly with displaced evacuees.

Florida’s stringent rules for accessing public services make the situation for poor displaced Puerto Ricans even more dire. Scott worked closely with the Trump administration to roll back rules that expanded Medicaid protections.

“That’s emblematic of Florida’s conservative approach to social services in general,” said Edwin Meléndez, an economist and the director of Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies. “That means the community infrastructure, the nonprofits that provide services and the privatization of government leaves services not even comparable to those in the Northeast, where other Puerto Rican communities exist.”

‘These displaced Puerto Ricans will be climate voters’

The state’s cutbacks in welfare spending mirror its reluctance to spend money to prepare for climate change, despite facing some of the greatest risks from rising seas and extreme weather. Scott, who has long denied the science behind climate change, insisted during his reelection campaign in 2014 that his administration spent $350 million on sea-level-rise mitigation efforts. PolitiFact, the Florida-based fact-checking service, declared the claim “mostly false,” noting that the governor’s office included in that figure $100 million in sewer infrastructure that had nothing to do with sea-level rise. As recently as last year, conservationists accused Scott of ignoring global warming and pushing an Orwellian erasure of the words “climate change” from public documents.

The influx of new voters from Puerto Rico could tilt the Florida electorate against representatives who deny climate change.

Eight in 10 Latinos think global warming is happening, including nearly nine in 10 Spanish-speaking Latinos, according to 2017 survey data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Sixty percent said they would vote for a candidate for public office because of their position on climate change, and 51 percent said they would join a campaign to convince elected officials to act on global warming. That number jumps to 61 percent among Spanish-speaking Latinos.

In Florida, where Latinos make up 16.4 percent of registered voters, polling by the Environmental Voter Project found the average Latino voter to be almost 10 percent more likely to care about climate change than the average non-Hispanic white voter. The group identified 514,691 Latinos who are already registered to vote and would be highly like to list “climate change or other environmental issues” as one of their top political priorities, and that doesn’t even count newly arrived Puerto Ricans with firsthand experience of the kind of storm scientists forecast to become more common as the planet warms.

The Harvard study found that the median age of Puerto Ricans who left after Hurricane Maria was 25, placing them in the millennial age group that tends to favor policy solutions to climate change.

“In short, every bit of data tells us that these displaced Puerto Ricans will be climate voters, and any candidate who ignores them (and their priorities) could easily lose the election because of it,” Nathaniel Stinnett, executive director of the Environmental Voter Project, said in an email.

That may be fueling some Florida Republicans’ concerns about newly registered Puerto Rican voters. John Ward, a candidate in the GOP primary for Florida’s 6th Congressional District, drew criticism last week for saying displaced Puerto Ricans should not be allowed to register to vote in Florida.

“I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote,” he said in a video uploaded to YouTube by a Republican rival. “It’s not lost on me that, I think, the Democrat Party’s really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don’t think they should be allowed to do that.”

That hasn’t stopped people like Ostolaza. She registered to vote in Miami almost immediately after arriving in the city. She doesn’t know whom she plans to vote for in Florida’s Senate election this year, in which Scott is the Republican frontrunner to challenge Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

But she said she couldn’t vote for someone who rejects scientists’ warnings about climate change.

“Not after living through what I did, and seeing everything,” she said. “We’re the ones who suffer more.”

The next day, at Isla Del Encanto, the restaurant where she works, Ostolaza took an order for alcapurrias. On her way to the kitchen, she wisped by a large blue and white sign that read: Boricua Vota.

Source article – 

Homesick and strapped for cash, Hurricane Maria survivors grapple with life in Miami

Posted in alo, ALPHA, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Homesick and strapped for cash, Hurricane Maria survivors grapple with life in Miami

Congressional Republicans got F’s on their environmental report cards

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have never been further apart on environmental issues. The top leadership in the GOP is comprised entirely of climate change deniers, while Democrats have aligned in opposition to President Trump’s agenda. But a report released today by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) calibrates the distance between the two parties with some hard numbers.

The group has been calculating the performance by members of Congress for nearly 50 years by evaluating how each member votes on environmental legislation. This year, the Republican-controlled Congress had plenty of opportunities to show where they stand. LCV counted a total of 35 House votes and 19 Senate votes to overturn climate regulations, open up drilling on public lands, undermine the Endangered Species Act, and confirm a slew of Trump-appointed judicial and cabinet nominations.

“We’ve seen the parties have gotten further and further apart,” says Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s senior vice president for government affairs, “and more Democrats have recognized that good climate politics is good politics.”

All those votes resulted in single-digit failing scores for most Republicans. The Senate average of 1 percent is a historic low, while House Republicans pulled an average of 5 percent. Meanwhile Democrats in the House and Senate earned 94 percent and 93 percent, respectively.

Those are just party averages, and it’s worth noting just how many legislators are at the extremes, which tilts the scores: More than 100 Democrats, now leading the opposition to Trump’s deregulatory agenda, earned perfect scores, while the Republican average was dragged down by the 170 lawmakers across the two chambers who earned a zero.

But what about the Climate Solutions Caucus in the House, the growing bipartisan caucus whose 70 members (with 68 voting members) are equally divided between Republicans and Democrats? For some moderate conservatives and climate activists, the caucus represents the best hope in Congress for ever advancing climate legislation as long as Republicans hold power. One might expect the caucus Republicans to earn higher scores than their party overall, and technically they did score a bit better than their House peers. But their average 16 percent score is still a failing grade.

In fact, more than half of the Republicans on the caucus earned less than 10 percent (Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who once proposed a bill to abolish the EPA, is among them with 6 percent). Representative Carlos Curbelo is co-chair of the caucus and represents the Miami area. He is generally considered a leader on climate change, but his score was 23 percent. One caveat is that many representatives from Florida missed a number of votes, due to the time they spent in their districts after Hurricane Irma — those missed votes may have affected their scores.

As Megan Jula and I reported:

[The Climate Solutions Caucus’s] critics charge the caucus has expanded its size at the expense of its credibility, providing Republicans who have been actively hostile to government programs a low-stakes opportunity to “greenwash” their climate credentials without backing meaningful action — just in time for midterm elections. In fact, many members may be vulnerable in the 2018 cycle; 24 of the 35 Republican members’ districts will be competitive races, according to an analysis of The Cook Political Report. Republicans in these races could benefit from distancing themselves from Trump’s climate change denial.

The exception is Pennsylvania Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, who earned the highest of any Republican with 71 percent — a solid C-minus.

“It’s unfortunate that 71 percent is now such an outlier,” Sittenfeld notes, “because it used to be that a number of Republicans voted pro environment.”

Here’s LCV’s full report with a breakdown for individual members of Congress.

Link to original:

Congressional Republicans got F’s on their environmental report cards

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Congressional Republicans got F’s on their environmental report cards

‘Climate gentrification’ is coming to Miami’s real estate market.

In 2017, I couldn’t stop trying to identify corvids. It’s harder than you might think. My latest challenge: a photo of a black bird on the ground. It’s got the fluffy neck feathers of an adult raven and the blue eyes of a baby crow. I’m going with: Raven.

Turns out it’s an Australian raven, a species identifiable by their bright blue eyes. By the rules of #CrowOrNo, I win, because I correctly guessed it’s not a crow. (Though in fairness, I’d call it a draw.)

#CrowOrNo is a weekly Twitter challenge hosted by University of Washington crow scientist Kaeli Swift. Each week, she posts a picture of a bird, which always — to the untrained eye — looks an awful lot like a crow. For a few hours, the eager public submits guesses as to whether it’s a crow, or no. After the big reveal, she explains the clues to use to tell crows from their cousins.

The challenge helps illustrate the large and surprisingly complex world of corvids, a smart family of big-brained birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays. It also shines light on some great crow-themed mysteries, like why some crows have caramel-colored feathers.

For me, the more I learn about crows, the more I see the extraordinary in the most seemingly ordinary birds — like the fact they can recognize faces and might even give gifts.

That’s the value of taking science out of the lab to the social media sphere, like Swift is doing. And, crow or no, I think we could all use a little more science in our lives.

Jesse Nichols is a contributing assistant video producer at Grist.

Continued here:

‘Climate gentrification’ is coming to Miami’s real estate market.

Posted in alo, Anchor, Casio, Everyone, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, ONA, The Atlantic, Uncategorized, Wiley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘Climate gentrification’ is coming to Miami’s real estate market.