Hurricanes level a lot of things, but structures of inequality are not among those disrupted. What happens in the years after these big storms can lay bare how those structures make disaster recovery much, much harder for the relatively poor and powerless. Specifics vary from place to place, but certain common inequities and injustices stand out.
- Parts of New York City have taken much longer than others to recover from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and are also still extremely vulnerable to repeats. How so? This excellent and riveting piece explains some of the many reasons: “New York’s Rising Tides: Climate Inequality and Sandy’s Legacy” (Willa Glickman, New York Review of Books).
- The story of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017 adds ingredients that include a messy landscape of corruption, the Trump administration’s not dispensing aid promptly, and now earthquake damage. See this very good piece, “Puerto Ricans Still Waiting on Disaster Funds as Hurricane Maria’s Aftermath, Earthquakes Continue to Affect Life on the Island” (Arelis R. Hernández, Washington Post). Two short supplementary pieces are “Roofless Homes, Scattered Debris. Why Has Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Recovery Been So Slow?” (more on corruption; Jim Wyss, Miami Herald) and “Update on Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery” (claims that aid is finally speeding up; Danica Coto, Insurance Journal).
- Most national attention after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was given to Houston. But a nearby oil refinery city offers a vivid example of what happens in a smaller place with more concentrated and racially structured poverty: “Two Years After Hurricane Harvey, Port Arthur Remains in Disaster Recovery Limbo” (Michael Barajas, Texas Observer).
- New Orleans is our most widely publicized version of what happens in a city with both wealth and poverty, and since it has now been quite a while since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a few longer-term observations are available, some perhaps surprising, others all too predictable. See “More than 12 Years after Hurricane Katrina, Scientists Are Learning What Makes Some Survivors More Resilient than Others” (Kelley Servick, Science) and “White New Orleans Has Recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Black New Orleans Has Not” (Gary Rivlin, Talk Poverty).
This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.