Don't Blame Climate Change for the Hurricane Harvey Disaster, Blame Society

There is an old adage in disaster studies: "there is no such thing as a natural disaster." This article explains that idea clearly by arguing that nature and climate change are not driving causes of crises like Harvey, but instead the causes originate from social and political structures and human decisions. Kelman writes:

A disaster involving a hurricane cannot happen unless people, infrastructure and communities are vulnerable to it. People become vulnerable if they end up lacking knowledge, wisdom, capabilities, social connections, support or finances to deal with a standard environmental event such as a hurricane.

The socionatural disaster in Houston, as well as in New Orleans during Katrina, were largely caused by uncontrolled sub/urbanization, unregulated development of industry and housing, and as Michael Grunwald, writing in Poltico outlines, by Federal flood insurance policy. However, in Katrina we witnessed the failure of the structural, technological mitigation system and the failed political evacuation, rescue, and rebuilding, which all took its heavies toll on African Americans and the poorest residents of New Orleans and surrounding Parishes. We have yet to see the uneven toll that our social order has taken on the people of Southeast Texas. This will become more clear in the days, weeks, and months, and honestly years. 

Flint's Water Crisis Is A Blatant Example of Environmental Injustice

Sociologist Robert Bullard in an interview about the Flint water crisis:

In studying the history of environmental justice, you see over and over that it generally takes longer for poor communities to be heard when they make complaints. Government officials received complaints in April 2014 expressing that something was wrong with the water in Flint. If regulators at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had had to drink that water, or serve it to their children, their response would have been different.

Flint, Michigan's water crisis: what the national media got wrong

Connor Coyne, writing for Vox.com, on the unfolding of the Flint poisoned water crisis:

In October 2015, the state finally confirmed the worst of our fears: There was lead in the water after all. The city switched back to Detroit water, but the damage had already been done. We, and our children, were being poisoned.

The whole article is worth a read. It's part first person narrative and part sociological overview of the crisis. 

Immaculate Conception Theory of Your Neighborhood's Origins

I've long maintained that just about all (sub)urban development is at one point pejorative from someone's view point. The work of time, history, and change makes older neighborhoods appear more authentic, just, valued, and/or sustainable. Yet, all (sub)urban development under capitalism was produced for its exchange value and profit, not just its pretty use values and authentic qualities (in the eye of the beholder of course). Moreover, population shifts and exchange value shift can make a neighborhood once deemed "bad" (i.e., black, immigrant, working class, etc) into the prized authentic sustainable neighborhood of a gentrifying population. The reverse works too (white flight from some suburbs has left areas of poverty and spatial inequality). 

Many people in the central or older areas of towns and cities often feel secure in their idea that their neighborhood wasn't created within the conditions of class and racial inequality. Yet, most were. The old looking houses and the mature trees hide the fact that when the neighborhood was build, say 100 years ago, it looked just as brand new as the shiniest new suburb today. Daniel Hertz pokes a hole in these representations of space and calls these ideas the "immaculate conception theory" of neighborhood creation. He writes:

These assumptions mostly revolve around the idea that older housing was built the right way: ethically, modestly, with an eye to community rather than profit. These older values, in turn, highlight the faults of modern buildings: gaudy and wasteful, disruptive to existing communities, and motivated only by money.

Portland Now Generating Hydro Power in Its Water Pipes

A cool new way to get hydro power right under our cities, and they don't require dams.

The Lucid system taps the power of gravity in the city’s water system. Water flowing through the Portland Water Bureau pipe at 147th and Powell will now flow through four small turbines as well, generating enough electricity to power 150 homes along the way. The turbines are 3.5 feet wide – just big enough to span the diameter of the city’s water pipe.

Can Louisiana Hold Oil Companies Accountable for its Vanishing Coastline?

A great photo essay series would be "The Political Ecologies of the Age of Oil." A great place to start would be coastal Louisiana. The next place to go would be the tar sands of Alberta, Canada.

 Image via thinkprogress.org

Image via thinkprogress.org