Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is organizing response teams to continually travel to Puerto Rico and surrounding areas to assist with rebuilding sustainable, modular water and energy systems to provide immediate, life-saving relief and long-term, permanent independence and autonomy of marginalized, impacted communities.
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Contact us to stand in solidarity and mutual aid with Puerto Rico
as people rebuild their homes, and liberate and re-empower their communities in defiance of the United States’ colonial project of dependency, debt, and austerity.
The Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Puerto Rico Rebuilds Campaign/Campaign to Rebuild the Caribbean is a call to allies everywhere to stand in solidarity with people in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean who face the difficult and long-term journey to rebuild their homes and lives.
SOLIDARITY STEPS IN ACTION
- Raise funds for equipment and tools needed to set up modular water treatment and solar energy systems, providing immediate relief.
- Response teams travel to impacted communities throughout October and November, providing immediate access to clean water and electricity.
- Mutual Aid Disaster Relief network continues decentralized response efforts over the long-term, raising funds to construct and install permanent, community maintained water catchment and filtration systems as well as sustainable energy systems.
The Mutual Aid Disaster Relief network is currently raising money to purchase the necessary supplies, materials, and tools to install modular water treatment systems and solar arrays to provide needed and life-saving clean water and electricity to impacted communities.
Each individual donation helps us get closer to providing sustainable water and energy access to residents in Puerto Rico for immediate and long-term disaster relief and community autonomy. If you would like to sign up as a matching donor, please reach out to us at [email protected].
Currently, Puerto Rico still has no power and it is estimated that the island will not return to full power for six months, leaving 3.5 million people without electricity. The only power supply available for residents are a handful of generators, which is accompanied by a shortage of diesel fuel and gas. People are waiting in line up to six hours for fuel. Existing generators are powering essential buildings like hospitals, however, due to shortages, some hospitals have had to refuse patients and others have lost patients because there was not sufficient energy to power life-support equipment, oxygen machines, or to refrigerate some life-saving medications.
The threat to health is also increased by the lack of electricity to power vital wastewater and potable water treatment plants. Raw sewage and floodwaters can contaminate drinking sources. The risk is exacerbated due to Puerto Rico’s already aging and leaking water system, which can result in bacteria and other contaminants leaking into the system as well. Without electricity, water treatment plants are unable to treat and distribute clean water. It would require 2,500 generators to get the entire system operational immediately.
Approximately 60 percent of the island does not have access to clean water and 80 percent of the agriculture has been decimated, leaving millions of residents without drinking water, a stable food supply, the ability to provide sterile environments for health care, or the ability to cook, flush toilets, take showers, or grow food.
The lack of electricity has also made communication difficult with barely any functioning cell phone towers and no reception. Family and friends in diaspora are challenged with raised anxiety levels as family members on the island are unable to check in. Rescue operations rely on satellite phones and response efforts are more difficult to coordinate.
Despite reports of relief arriving on the island and images of military persons distributing water and non-perishables, many rural areas have yet to see or receive aid in their communities. Finance investors, bondholders, and corporate interests are more concerned about the bankrupted Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s ability to raise revenues rather than the rapid restoration of a functioning energy grid, let alone one that is affordable and powered by renewable energy systems. According to the Energy Information Administration, consumers in Puerto Rico already pay more for their power than consumers in any state except Hawaii. Residents are not receiving aid, and yet, the existing infrastructure and methods of relief distribution are making people dependent on it.
For decades, residents in Puerto Rico have been subjected to failing infrastructure, crippling taxes, inflated prices, soaring debt, accompanying austerity, environmental injustice and racism.
Water: As recently as 2015, 99.5% of Puerto Ricans got their water from systems that had violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, testing positive for excessive chemical toxicity, and 70 percent of residents had no alternative but to drink from water from systems that had Safe Drinking Water Act health violations.
Energy: In 2016, 47% of Puerto Rico’s electricity came from predominantly non-renewable energy sources: petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal. Only 2% of the island’s energy needs were provided by renewable energy (predominantly solar and 2 wind farms). The public power company, which buys electricity from AES PR, has allowed the company to deposit coal ash in local landfills, 29 of which are over capacity. Furthermore, and some some of these landfills are open dumps not in compliance with current regulations.
Health: Puerto Rico is home to 23 Superfund sites, including on the island of Vieques, site of a former US naval test range. An aging energy grid, leaking water system, and failing landfills have also contributed to public health risks and disproportionate cancer rates due to contamination. Residents are steadily and gradually exposed to invisible, environmental toxins which harm child development and public health These conditions are disproportionately endured by vulnerable communities during capitalist expansion.
In the wake of two consecutive hurricanes, Puerto Rico’s residents have had to find ways to survive without the help of their own or foreign governments. The Jones Act was only recently suspended to allow foreign aid ships to send supplies directly to Puerto Rico, and the suspension of the Jones Act is set to last only ten days. Again, the focus was on protecting the interests of global trade and banking giants while people are left to suffer without access to basic human rights: water, food, shelter, safe and secure spaces.
Puerto Rico’s land and people have been exploited and made dependent on aid and limited support and services from their own government. This treatment and these health and environmental conditions are unacceptable. They violate human rights and dignity.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief believes in creative grassroots organizing and action that prioritizes and highlights the voices and power of marginalized individuals and communities and furthers their capacity to take action on their own behalf. We engage in a horizontal, multidimensional and multidirectional process that contributes to the liberation of everyone involved, not charitable acts.
The Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Puerto Rico Rebuilds Campaign/Campaign to Rebuild the Caribbean provides communities with tools, equipment, and training where necessary to directly respond to self-determined needs. The campaign calls on allies to stand in solidarity with sustainable and equitable rebuilding efforts.
Donations received will be used to purchase the necessary equipment and tools to implement immediate, temporary, modular water and energy systems that can be transported throughout the island to provide immediate access to clean water and electricity in as many communities as possible. A materials list with associated costs can be viewed here.
Please support the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief Puerto Rico Rebuilds Campaign / Campaign to Rebuild the Caribbean efforts by donating generously and sharing among your networks.
Our initial fundraising goal is between $15,000 and $20,000 and will provide the equipment and tools to travel to various communities on the ground and provide immediate access to clean water and needed electricity. Our System Materials/Cost Preliminary Analysis can be found here.
Help us meet this goal in ONE WEEK!
Continued fundraising efforts will provide materials and equipment to build permanent, community-run sustainable water and energy systems that provide autonomy, do not further pollute communities or cause negative health and environmental hazards or consequences. Communities will have the ability and capacity to direct their own recoveries and futures through solidarity not charity. Materials will be purchased from reestablished local businesses on the ground whenever and wherever possible.
We need all hands on deck! There are numerous ways for people to assist with recovery efforts, both on the ground and remotely.
Two Mutual Aid Disaster Relief teams have already booked their flights to arrive in Puerto Rico over the next 10 days and provide medical and other assistance, and our first infrastructure team aims to leave after October 15th. If you would like to join us, please email us at [email protected] so we can add you to the planning conference call.
Thank you for your continued solidarity in the face of disaster.
Sustainability and Ecological Resilience Program Coordinator
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief