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- A few more details.
- References, citations, and URL links included
- My contact info
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Hello. I’m sorry for all that you in the Caribbean are suffering through. I want to help. We all understand there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of needs to be met. Rebuilding. Healing. The fact is there is never enough relief funding and resources. I believe I can offer you substantive value towards your goals. This should be a ten-minute read, maximum.
You face impossible odds. I also face incredible odds – to even reach through to you. Skepticism is easier to come by than trust – to qualify myself, my credibility, my sincere offer. To move, to ask for so little, to offer whatever abilities I have. You have unlimited reasons to be dismissive of me. Is there even one leader among you willing to respond? Make your own informed judgment about me.
To be clear, I’ve lost everything I once owned, too. A devastating event. Now I have nothing. I’ve since dedicated my life to fight for social justice, economic development, and innovative solutions for impoverished communities. My personal hardship has transformed into an opportunity. To help you, to help your community. If you find me valuable, then I help you.
If I help you, it helps me. Simple.
What ways can you use your rebuild to ‘reset’ and improve your economy?
Job creation, infrastructure, utilities, and other long-term needs? Preparedness for future disasters? Use whatever buzzwords; global warming, climate change, climate crisis. Use whatever talking points: carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, sixth mass extinction. An unassailable truth is warmer sea surface temperatures (SSTs) fuel hurricanes. Heavier precipitation, farther inland, even faster rapid intensification (RI), more stability in adverse conditions, greater storm surge. It is time to review every practice, process, need, and solution. Build it better.
Literally, we could discuss hundreds of topics. I can filter and unpack subjects in great detail. I’ve worked with product design, supply chain management, import/export, manufacturing, multi-billion dollar corporations, startups, business incubators, and creative industries. I’ve worked with governments, private businesses, nonprofits, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and more.
Sadly, most of your relief funding will escape your localized economy.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports 40% more revenue escapes local economies when comparing non-local to locally-owned retailers. In restaurants, 50% more revenue leaves your community forever. This isn’t even close to what you’re facing right now. The food, water, medicine, appliances, cars, lumber, concrete, fuel, relief workers, outside contract workers, expert advisors, insurance companies, shipping agents. Very little of that money stays in your economy. You need that to remain, to capture it. For infrastructure, job creation, tourism, social services, public health, education, tax revenue, and everything else. I can help.
Consider creating a closed-loop economy, like an alternative/community currency. There are over 4,000 in operation around the world. Curitiba, Brazil used bus tokens to transform one of the country’s poorest favelas into earning the highest environmental award from United Nations. A scholarship ‘multiplier’ can take the same amount of funding and affect an exponentially greater number of students. Habitat for Humanity uses sweat equity to build new homes. Solutions are everywhere.
Before you collect, haul, and pay for removal of all that debris… What can be done with it?
The wasted opportunity to retrieve value is evident after each natural disaster: Hurricanes like Andrew, Hugo, Ike, Katrina, Sandy; now Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Concrete can be crushed, gypsum used as drainage, wood converted into more than just mulch. There are portable crushers. Systems to create ethanol from bio waste. Building materials like Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) can use 30% recycled aggregate. Australia plans to manufacture up to 50,000 metric tons of building materials out of CO2 emissions by 2020.
I’m aware of contaminants. Chromated Copper Arsenic (CCA) and other pressure-treated wood (telephone poles, decks, docks, etc.), freon, asbestos, lead-based paint, hydrogen sulfide gas, PCBs, chemicals, pesticides, flame retardants, and more. One gallon of gasoline can contaminate nearly 1 million gallons of drinking water. That’s equivalent to knee-deep water over two square acres!
Let’s examine what could be done, instead of giving up and simply burning as much debris as quickly as possible – to reduce costs and landfill. Plastic can be recycled into plastic lumber – immune to water damage, humidity, erosion, and termites. Lighter than steel, yet capable of supporting a 120-ton locomotive. What if this could help your preparedness, create jobs, fulfill building material needs, lessen your landfills, and become an economic engine? Without reviewing these types of solutions, no wonder the World Economic Forum projects more plastic than fish in all of the world’s oceans by 2050. A second Great Pacific Garbage Patch was recently discovered off the coast of Chile, 2.5 million square kilometers – that is greater than the size of Greenland!
What region-specific challenges do you face as an isolated and insular island economy?
Food security. An absolute essential. I’m well aware. Puerto Rico importing 85% of its food needs, exporting less than 15% of what’s grown. I live in a similar environment, Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. How can your urgent and dire agricultural needs be resolved, be optimized? … Before some buildings are abandoned by owners – leaving them to blight and disinvestment for years to come. This isn’t about just slapping a zinc or aluminum siding roof on any structures with walls still standing. Consider how they could be re-purposed. Our world is losing farmers, the USDA reports the average age of the American farmer is over 60. Yet, new technologies exist and could incentivize farming to a younger generation. Even some of the world’s top chefs are now using vertically-farmed microgreens and fresh produce. The value proposition of vertical farming and greenhouses should be explored.
Let’s examine the cost-benefit of hydroponics and aquaponics. I recognize the risks of invasive species, like barramundi fish. I’ve met with the experts at NOAA and USDA. The world’s oceans are experiencing temperatures 2°C higher than ‘normal’. Some islands in the Philippines have already lost all of their coral reefs to coral bleaching – entire communities once reliant on fishing revenue have converted to seaweed farming. In New York, students from 54 schools have come together on the Billion Oyster Project to conserve and revitalize the Hudson River. In Costa Rica 12,000 metric tons of orange peels were dumped to help reforest degraded parkland, to great success. Solutions are everywhere.
Do you want to gain utilities independence from water and diesel suppliers, and big oil?
India just showed solar can be cheaper than coal. Elon Musk has developed a solar roof that costs less than some other roofing materials. A vertical-axis wind turbine is being developed that could power all of Japan for 50 years from one typhoon. Countries like Iceland and Costa Rica are already 100% powered by renewable energies. Brazil grows switchgrass for ethanol production at an 8:1 ratio of energy spent to energy produced. Switchgrass, with roots up to ten feet deep, can also help control erosion.
Meanwhile, infrastructure is failing everywhere.
The American Society of Civil Engineering’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card for America: D+ overall grade. We haven’t maintained and improved it fast enough. Around the world, most communities rely on decades-old systems. A water main break left 1.5 million residents in Dublin, Ireland without water. A 93 year-old pipe burst, flooding the UCLA college campus. Gas pipeline explosions in San Bruno and Los Angeles, California led to Elon Musk’s Tesla contract to build the world’s largest battery backup station. A gas leak collapsed buildings in New York. Chicago has the world’s largest water filtration station and could be losing 22 billion gallons of treated water each year to leaky pipes. Experts estimate 2.1 trillion gallons of water are lost each year in the United States due to old, leaky pipes and failing infrastructure. That’s roughly one-sixth of all water treated in the U.S. New Orleans flooded because 100 year-old pumps failed. The Army Corps of Engineers has projected “imminent failure” of many structures like bridges, dams, and levees.
Why aren’t we maintaining and fixing these at a responsible rate?
The costs are too high. New needs demand attention. Short-termism. Complacency.
Consider the difference when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped build the Hoover Dam on-time and under-budget. The Empire State Building was erected at a rate of one floor per week. Now consider the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge span taking 24 years to open after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. A $300 million retrofit proposal became a $1.3 billion project, completed at $6.4 billion in expenditures. Boston’s Big Dig skyrocketed from a $2.4 billion budget into America’s most expensive infrastructure construction project in history at $24 billion.
Even those credible experts and leaders, the ones we rely on, that we entrust to budget, allocate, design, and build-out the most complex solutions … Even they sometimes let us down. These challenges aren’t just your own, they’re prevalent everywhere. Actual rocket scientists; the 15 years and $3 billion NASA spent on the Hubble Telescope, another example. A San Francisco city supervisor speaking on homelessness admitted, “There’s no question it has gotten exponentially worse. How the city spends a quarter of a billion [dollars] a year, I have not figured that out. It’s not working.”
Just imagine, if leaders everywhere were “perfect,” there would be no poverty, no crime, no lack of advanced educational attainment. A lot of things. But humans are complex, our solutions are never simple. We need to explore the more complex solutions; not the simplest, cheapest, fastest ones.
For each of these issues, there are solutions. There are successful proof-of-concept models.
Regions are constantly decimated by disaster. Hardly any are rebuilt better, to withstand the next disaster. Not Haiti, not Barbuda, not Dominica, not Puerto Rico, not Florida, not Houston, not Los Angeles, not New Orleans. There is never enough money or resources. We need to find better ways to utilize what limited resources are available. Optimize solutions. Long-term planning. Future-proofing. Explore and analyze the most appropriate solutions, and then implement them.
How does all of this relate to your situation after Hurricanes Irma and Maria?
The status quo doesn’t offer solutions. It isn’t one. Your relief funding will flow out. The “brain drain” of losing some of your most skilled workforce; doctors, educators, business owners – likely to not return after evacuating. The loss of tourism for a prolonged period. The World Travel and Tourism Council reports this accounts for a greater share of the gross domestic product (throughout the Caribbean) than any other region in the world: 2.3 million jobs and more than $35 billion (USD) in 2016. Loss of talent and jobs, loss of tourism, loss of revenue, and relief money all siphoning out. All the while, suffering through truly adverse living conditions and business interruption. Needless to mention, major hurricanes might be the new normal for the Caribbean. This could happen again. Soon.
How can you build it better?
“If I had only one hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.” – Einstein.
“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb.
“Familiarity is the enemy… There is much individuals cannot imagine simply because they are prisoners of their own dogma.” – author Gary Hamel.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – Economist John Maynard Keynes.
What solutions are best for your community? I don’t have all the answers. However much I know, whatever research I do; I do not know your community. You do. I can read about the former sand mining in Barbuda or a family hospitalized in St. John due to methyl bromide exposure from termite-infested wood furniture. I can find building costs per square foot, fiscal year budgets, environmental issues, news, and tons of info on your island communities. But I won’t know anything. I would like to work with you.
The goal is to find optimal solutions. Pair unmet needs with underutilized resources.
Care to discuss how I might help you? Please contact me.
I am prepared to move quickly. To leave most of my (few) belongings behind. I understand what you face, being without power, without access to water, with little working infrastructure and resource support. Limited (or no) permanent housing available. These don’t scare me off. I am truly prepared for the worst.
I know an email, as a one-way conversation, is a terrible introduction. I may come across as arrogant, aggressive, condescending, or whatever else. I hope that isn’t the case. I hope I’ve made clear that I am not motivated by greed. I want to help. To me, challenges are interesting. Difficult is what drives me. I want to tackle the hardest problems and help you solve them. I believe I have unique experience, perspectives, and knowledge to contribute. I ask very little in return. For starters, just a dialogue.
About me: I am 46 years-old, Chinese-American, male, single/unmarried. English is my native language. Long ago, as a fashion designer and event producer, I worked with over 30 of the world’s top design houses and America’s largest luxury/retail stores. I’ve operated several of my own businesses with clients as prominent as the Museum of Natural History (New York), Monterey Bay Aquarium, and SF Jazz. I’ve guest lectured at multiple universities in California: City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State, Fresno City College, and Cal State Monterey Bay.
If your intention is to rebuild to the exacting status quo you lost, you needn’t contact me. If you’re concerned about our climate crisis, rising sea levels, the new normal of catastrophic hurricane seasons… If you want to explore innovative ways to create jobs, retain relief funds within your localized economy, improve infrastructure, recycle debris, conserve the environment, and develop long-term revenue engines – with whatever available resources you have…
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
You may notice the PayPal donate button in the right sidebar. No worries. I’m not really soliciting funds. Virtually none of you know me. I understand you have no reason to trust me. However, if something like 200 people were willing to generously donate $12 each, I’d have roughly $2270 after transaction fees. That would allow me to permanently move – to fly to the Caribbean. And try to help in whatever ways I could in their recovery. I am not trying to mislead or deceive anybody. This would be personal financial assistance. I am not and do not run a currently run a nonprofit. However, I’d very much consider starting one if I get to the Caribbean. Or working with an existing one. Cheers.