Bestselling author David Wallace-Wells, whose book The Uninhabitable Earth was a “brutal portrait of climate change” stated indifference of US politicians to the devastation of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria was horrifying. The indifference of US politicians to the Hurricane Maria disaster is chilling, he warns. Puerto Rico’s ongoing struggles to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria could be routinely replicated in other places if the climate crisis spurs nationalistic governments to scale back aid to certain disaster victims.
Maria smashed into Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing around 3,000 people, crippling the power grid and devastating the island’s agriculture and tourism industries. The US government’s sluggish response to the disaster was found to be deficient in an official report, with many Puerto Ricans claiming the federal government has been indifferent to their plight.
As global heating fuels more powerful hurricanes, as well as rising sea levels, drought and wildfires, more people around the world will be in need of assistance at a time when populist, nationalist leaders have gained prominence in several countries including the US.
“What really stands out to me about Maria is the indifference of much American power to suffering even to those within its borders, seeing those people as somehow less American and less deserving,” said Wallace-Wells. “In the US we often find ways to turn away from people suffering in places like Mozambique or Bangladesh. The harrowing thing about Puerto Rico is that even American citizens were defined as undeserving. It’s horrifying and ugly on its own terms on a moral level but also as a glimmer of the way we will respond to these disasters down the road. We are already seeing more intense competition for resources and focusing our investments and political sympathies closer and closer to home. It’s concerning because all suffering in the world now has some sort of climate fingerprint.”