Not to Make You More Depressed, but Disaster Capitalism is a Thing

11.28.2017 Arts & Culture
Erynn Brook
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I am writing this in early October… I can’t predict the future, but it is safe to say that Puerto Rico will still be in crisis when this is published in late November. And nobody will be talking about it anymore. At the time of this writing three separate hurricanes have made the news in the past month. From Hurricane Harvey in Houston to Irma and Maria in Dominica and Puerto Rico. But news moves so quickly nowadays, and even with 24 hour cycles it seems like we can’t get all the information we need. News has been constructed into appealing sound bites, and because of that we’re missing opportunities to engage in and understand deep, complex issues affecting our world today.

Puerto Rico has been devastated. But don’t worry, a whole host of free market solutions are just salivating to get in there. In fact, they have been for years. The free market economy is an alien concept to Puerto Rico, but the aftermath of Hurricane Maria leaves the island wide open for disaster capitalism to take root.

Naomi Klein wrote The Shock Doctrine in 2007. In the book she explores the ways in which companies, governments and non-government organizations exploit natural disasters for economic gain. Puerto Rico is a beautiful place, as Donald Trump was happy to remind them on his visit. He was also happy to remind them of their debt. Because that’s what you do when a place you’ve systematically disenfranchised for over a hundred years experiences the worst crisis imaginable. You remind them that you forced them into a position where they owe you a lot of money.

Climate change, caused by the overconsumption in white society, affects black and brown people disproportionately.

Hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and earthquakes continue to decimate the poorest areas of the world while the rich get richer.

We have mined the earth of her natural resources, and now we mine the destruction left behind for even more profit. Soon new tourist destinations will open up, pricing poor people out of the areas they used to live in. Now, don’t get me wrong, this has been the case in Puerto Rico for some time. Slums bordering on resorts housing poor locals while rich tourists ignore them because the wall around the hotel was built high enough to keep them out of sight.

Last week we gave thanks around a turkey, on stolen land, for food that many of us did not grow or harvest ourselves. In a few weeks we’ll be inundated by the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you’re like me you’re already losing sleep over what to buy for your mother. But maybe this holiday season we could all get our loved ones the gift of enlightenment — and lighten our load on the environment at the same time.

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