Our Power Puerto Rico: Moving Toward a Just Recovery

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) Our Power Puerto Rico report demonstrates how the "Just Recovery" model can be utilized to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria of 2017, which devastated Puerto Rico’s agriculture and rural farms. Just Recovery is a model centered on frontline communities' ability to respond, recover and rebuild from climate accelerated disasters. The model is created through the accumulation of hands-on cases conducted by Climate Justice Alliance which is an organization with 67 urban and rural frontline communities, organizations and supporting networks. The goal is to lay the groundwork necessary to activate community participation in both immediate emergency responses and long-term rebuilds. It also emphasizes that the process must be led by those who have been treated unequally in everyday life - the queer, trans, working-class, folks of color, disabled, immigrants, and/or femmes on the frontlines. By doing so allows frontline communities to build their own power, agency and self-determination while achieving climate adaptation. The report also includes a list of practical steps for conducting the Just Recovery model. 

Our Power Puerto Rico Initiative was launched in 2017 by CJA, Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico and various communities and non-governmental organizations. The Initiative focuses on three main objectives to help communities to be resilient when disasters occurred: just transitions, food sovereignty, and energy democracy. Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico is a 30-year-old organization that consists of local farmers and food sovereignty activists in Puerto Rico. Its goal is to build food sovereignty for the local communities so they can ultimately achieve self-determination and justice. They created solidarity brigades to educate the local farmers on agroecological farming and to facilitate conversations on critical issues such as climate justice and political education among local communities. 

The Initiative also developed an OurPowerPR International Solidarity Brigades for timely response to disasters with three main pedagogical principles - technical work (hands-on/field work), political and critical dialogue, and shared reflection. The goals are more than just recovery from the disaster, but taking a step further to establish food sovereignty, energy democracy and climate justice. 45 representatives from countries from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua and Indigenous territories have joined the brigades to consolidate power across the border to help Puerto Rico. 

The Our Power Puerto Rico Initiative demanded: 

  1. Self-determination: the people on the ground make their own decisions. 
  2. Full elimination of PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Security Act) and cancellation of the $74 billion debt. 
  3. Justice over the Jones Act. 
  4. Assessment of PR’s Infrastructure and a plan for climate resiliency. 
  5. Prioritize equity and environmental justice.

The Initiative utilized a translocal strategy which includes:  

  • Strategy meetings with decision-makers and community representatives interested in solidarity and deepened climate justice ties
  • Delivery of Just Recovery and renewable energy and construction supplies
  • Investment in communications and narrative-building to support frontline groups
  • Coordination of multiple solidarity brigades to lend direct support on the islands


Publication Date: 2019

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