Disasters reveal the vulnerability, inequality, and power embedded within the fabric of any society. Hurricane Maria exposed Puerto Rico’s inherent vulnerability to climate change as an island territory. The widespread power outages in the wake of the storm also revealed deep inequalities with respect to the distribution of resources around the territory. Moreover, the hurricane uncovered ways in which Puerto Rico’s unique positionality as a colonial territory of the United States creates barriers to a rapid recovery. In the face of disasters such as Hurricane Maria, a resilience discourse inevitably emerges as a critique of pre-disaster preparation. Resilience narratives inform both ex ante approaches to policymaking in advance of extreme events and ex post facto recovery efforts. Proponents often argue that policymakers must increase community or energy system resilience without questioning the normative nature of resilience.

The project questions whether a reliance on existing conceptions of resilience unwittingly creates blind spots that exacerbate vulnerability, harden unequal social structures, and perpetuate power imbalances. By interrogating resilience in the context of pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico, this research fills important gaps in both the energy justice and climate adaptation literatures, where pre-existing vulnerability, inequality, and power are not adequately addressed.

Project Principal Investigators