Ecocentricity Blog: After the Storm

Feb 28, 2018 9:30 AM ET

Maria is estimated to have cost $90 billion in damages, which means its impact will be felt for a long time yet to come. Puerto Ricans won’t forget Maria for decades, if ever.


As of my writing this, it’s been 160 days. I’m tempted to play the “guess what I’m talking about game,” but it would be cruel to make you do the math. I’ll make it easy. It’s been 160 days since September 20, 2017, the day Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico.

Here are some more numbers for you, all sourced from Wikipedia’s page on the storm.

  • 4 – The category of the storm when it made landfall;
  • 64 – Miles per hour of sustained wind speeds in San Juan at landfall;
  • 113 – Miles per hour of wind gusts in San Juan at landfall;
  • 37.9 – Maximum inches of rain received on the island;
  • 15 – Maximum feet of flood water depth reported on the island;
  • 780,000,000 – Estimated dollars of agricultural losses on the island, representing 80% of the territory’s agricultural yield at the time;
  • 80,000 – The number of people in Puerto Rico without power BEFORE Maria struck, as a result of Hurricane Irma two weeks prior;
  • 3,400,000 – The island’s approximate population, all of whom lost access to grid electricity in the storm;
  • 88 – Percent of Puerto Rico’s population without power one month after the storm;
  • 45 – Percent of Puerto Rico’s population without power three months after the storm.
The restoration work continues, and you can find current data at this website. Remarkably, 15.6 percent of Puerto Rico’s territory still lacks electricity! Maria is estimated to have cost $90 billion in damages, which means its impact will be felt for a long time yet to come. Puerto Ricans won’t forget Maria for decades, if ever.
My question to you is this – Have you forgotten? I don’t ask accusingly, because it’s entirely reasonable to have moved on. Maria’s impact on the continental United States was minimal, and so much has happened in the news cycle since September. There’s a decent chance you haven’t seen, read, or heard anything about Hurricane Maria in months.
Which is essentially my point here. News comes and goes so quickly in our information age! Maybe there is so much tragedy in the world that any single event is destined to be replaced in mere weeks. Maybe disasters are psychologically difficult to keep top-of-mind. Maybe our modern bite-sized snacking on information means that we can’t stomach heavy dishes like Hurricane Maria. I’m sure it’s some of all of these.
I’m not going to rail against social media and news as a business model here. Honestly, I don’t think I have a sufficiently informed position to do so. Instead, I will simply call on all of us to do a better job of remembering.
When a tragedy occurs that deeply touches you, don’t let it leave your mind in mere days. Contribute financially to it in the moment, and consider including it again in any year-end gifting you do. Set a calendar reminder for six months later, so you can reflect on it on the other side of the year. Go looking for news coverage the moment you think, “I haven’t heard much about that in some time.”
We honor those people who suffer when we simply remember them. Today, I’m proud to honor the people of Puerto Rico for their resilience in the face of a truly devastating storm. Blessings to them as they continue to rebuild their home and their lives.
Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858