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A Miami Author On The Region's Hurricanes


And now back to our coverage of Hurricane Irma in Florida. Mario Alejandro Ariza is a freelance journalist and poet. Much of his work focuses on climate change. He's lived in the Dominican Republic and now Miami, which is where I spoke to him before the storm hit.

MARIO ALEJANDRO ARIZA: Miami, the city that I grew up in, is a uniquely vulnerable place to climate change. So is all of southeast Florida. And when I moved back here a couple years ago, I started investigating. And I realized that this place is on the razor's edge. So I've been trying to get the message out, founded a poetry journal at the MFA program at the University of Miami called "Sinking City Magazine" just to get people talking about it, to get people thinking about it and to get people understanding how their city works and how just dangerous it is here when a storm like this approaches. But also at the same time, how many days of sunny day flooding and how difficult it is going to be for the city to function 20-30 years from now. So people who are, for instance, buying homes - if anybody's buying a home at the moment - you know, they're issuing mortgages that may physically be underwater soon.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What don't we know - those of us who don't live in Miami - about this city? I mean, I'm from here. But many people come here on vacation. And they see a beautiful, sunny place with a nice beach.

ARIZA: So Miami is an incredibly difficult place to live if you are not well off. You don't see Miami and see poverty. "Moonlight" did a great job of showing that side of Miami. Well, 1.5 million people in this city live at the poverty line. And that's the uniquely vulnerable population. There is an incredible amount of movement happening right now from people who live in traditionally high areas - Liberty City, Little Haiti. These are Miami neighborhoods that were 10-15 feet above sea level and are traditionally low median income. They're going to places where they're going to be much more vulnerable to sea level rise. This is a city that, if it doesn't get it right, you're not going to be able to be middle class here. You're not going to be able to be poor here. And it just shows that today, when we've got a lot of people who have the means - getting out of town. But if you don't have that means, you're stuck here. And there's a lot of people who can't afford the gas, who can't afford the extra food, who can't afford absolutely any of the essential hurricane supplies. And there's good people getting it to them, but it's not enough. It's not enough, and it's going to get harder.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Seeing Hurricane Irma come here right now, what is the message of how the city's prepared and how the Caribbean's also has been pummelled?

ARIZA: Yeah. Today's a day - and then this week, this is kind of one of those weeks where all the Caribbean is hurting, you know? So this is a tough week for the Caribe. But the D.R. is a place where, not only do we have incredible storms, but we have such income disparity between the very richest and the very poorest. And on that border, for instance, I mean, you wouldn't think that climate change is displacing people on the border between D.R. and Haiti. But I've been there, and I've seen how race, how class and how drought displaces the most vulnerable there. So if there's a message today about what is happening with climate change, it's that it - everywhere you go, it's going to increase the inequalities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was writer Mario Alejandro Ariza speaking to me Friday here in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.