I have spent nearly a week as on the archipelago that is Puerto Rico as a student attorney with the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic networking and connecting with students, industry leaders, and scholars in the microgrid and sustainable agriculture sectors. In the past two days, I had the distinct pleasure of partaking in back-to-back meetings, first with the Director of the Puerto Rico Resilience Fund and El Departamento De La Comida, non-profit with the goal of opening two-hundred local and sustainable farms in the next 24 months; and the second with the Steering Commissioner of INESI, an organization connecting faculty experts in energy transitions and resiliency throughout the 11 University of Puerto Rico campuses, and further connecting them with international partners.
While the two meetings were vastly different. They were different in structure (the first took place in Professor Kim Diana Connolly’s AirBnB kitchen table, and the second took place in French-style brunch restaurant), and they were radically different in specific content. Yet, both meetings left me with one very similar takeaway. Whether it’s Puerto Rico, Cuba, or Buffalo, before a community can overcome its self-sufficiency issues, a community must undergo a sociological change regarding what environmental access to justice means to it.
It was very interesting to hear all of both sets of meeting participants share one thing I have learned more about in Puerto Rico\ They both focused some of our discussions on the colonial nature of the Islands, and how this theme shapes each of their individual perspectives on how to decolonize.
Healthy food distribution networks and hub models are one goal, especially because food hubs are pliable and can be tailored to the specific needs on a community level, both big and small. According to the Director of the Resilience Fund, the Islands import anywhere from 85% to 98% of all consumed food, and most deaths on the Islands are diet related. Therefore, it naturally follows that the most logical solution to Puerto Rico’s dependency on imported food is the Fund’s creation of sustainable farms, markets, and food distribution networks.
But what does true sovereignty look like and how does Puerto Rico get there? INESI’s Steering Commissioner explained his view that if the social aspects of sustainability become separated from the technological, then renewables can be very harmful when operated by the wrong regime by way of regime-locking methods within infrastructure, colonialism, and systemic inequality. Both groups attest that transparency in renewable solutions and education within communities is critical to Puerto Rico’s ongoing sustainability and decolonialization movement.
Listening to these influential players in their respective sectors and their takes on how to change society’s path towards self-sufficient sustainable practices made me reflect on how Buffalo, NY struggles form its own solutions to similar problems. I am now wondering whether PUSH’s Green Development Zone be a flexible model for a community in Puerto Rico?
If you want to check out the Resilience Fund, INESI, and PUSH, I’ve provided the links here:
Be on the lookout for my next #UBLawResponds post detailing coming developments and possible partnership opportunities with these newly-formed connections on the Islands.