Weekend before last, we were wondering how our favorite show would end it’s season. We had a barbeque. We danced with friends. We attended the ball game (whichever ball it is), and bought lottery tickets. The sun was eclipsed by the moon and we traveled thousands of miles to stare at it through special lenses or to watch it’s gleaming light dance across a page through a pinhole. We protested against hate.

Weekend before last, we knew that hurricane season was here. We knew the rain was coming and, with it, the danger of storms, wind, tornadoes, and high water. We figured, if it comes, it comes. We’ll deal with it. We’ll hope the people we elected to keep us safe and to react to danger have … well, actually done their jobs. Some of us left our lives in the hands of a deity and kept on keeping on. Some of us can’t afford to care, so we ducked our heads and tried to believe that it wouldn’t happen, that we would be safe.

Of course, when the person planning the city doesn’t pay attention to warnings from scientists and engineers because he doesn’t really believe in science and he keeps building sprawling McMansions across the prairie land — land that soaks up the flood waters, it’s not actually an act of heaven, is it? “God helps those who help themselves,” only works if everyone’s paying attention and doing their job … and, as with Katrina, things that were already bad were made worse because someone thought about their pocketbook before they used their common sense. Can’t really replace a dam if no one’s willing to fund it. Can’t really hold flood water back once it’s unleashed.

So, here we are. And the people who need the most help, the people who are least likely to recover from the entire debacle, are the people least able to confront anyone about the damage done to them. They’ll be too busy scrambling to survive — dealing with government loans to fix houses already mortgaged, dealing with grants that could take a decade to be released, dealing with insurance companies that want $1,000 a month for flood insurance. This storm will create homelessness, illness, and poverty — just look at what happened to New Orleans after Katrina — and it will be disproportionately horrible for minority groups who are already suffering.

The people least likely to complain are the ones most able to rebuild, to move, to be on the planning commission for the city, to be the person who has so much privilege they can face the terror of the third historically devastating flood in less than a decade and deny that the environment should guide housing development. Developers will be only too happy to pocket some of the billions of dollars that it will take to rebuild the city, of course — including establishing new development on the abandoned homes of the poor. It’s the people able to rebuild and re-establish themselves who are in the best position to press their representatives and local government to do something about the situation, but are the least likely to say anything at all.

People need to be asking why their local, state, and federal governments let Houston, TX become the #1 place in the nation to die as a result of flooding. Climate Change or not — flooding is a fact of life in Houston that could be ameliorated by proper planning and infrastructure. Researchers, scientists, and engineers have been warning about the danger to Houston for years now — all unheeded.

God saves the rich. The rest of us have to bootstrap it.

Note that several of these were written before Harvey.

Texas Tribune — March 2016







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