Hurricane Harvey has laid bare the truth about Houston. Doug Saunders writes:
It is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States: Its north, east and south are at least 90 per cent non-white, while its centre and west are mostly white. These non-white neighbourhoods are home to 81 per cent of the city's open drainage ditches, 78 per cent of closed landfills, 84 per cent of carcinogen emitters and 88 per cent of hazardous waste sites, as well as 94 per cent of its worst schools. In January, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development found Houston in violation of the Civil Rights Act for its discriminatory housing policies.
It is America's most economically segregated city, with chasms of asphalt between the upwardly mobile and the 600,000 undocumented residents making $20 (U.S.) a day. And its sprawl and isolation prevent Houston from building efficient mass-transportation and energy solutions, making it one of the least ecological cities – a problem that, if not fixed, will contribute to a rise in the size and intensity of future hurricanes.
Houston's underlying problem, as with Hurricane Harvey's underlying problem, is its lack of a plan. It is an unplanned, randomly sprawling city whose oceans of asphalt have exposed it to the worst ravages of nature and the worst human responses. It needs to be built back better.
Time will tell if the city will be built back better. But, to do that, there has to be a plan. And, up until now, Houston -- like much of the United States -- has been fighting against developing a plan. The red flags signalling the dangers of climate change should be flying in the United States and around the world.
To date, they're hard to find.
Image: Houston Chronicle