Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mass Media Avoiding the Cause of the Houston Disaster.

Chemical runoff after explosion in Houston. Where do you think that's going?
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Member DSA

Watching TV and all the feel good adds now "Bring it on Harvey" is the sign I just got showed on a house followed by "Texas You are not alone"  and  "To the Lone Star State".

Of course Texas is not alone because people care. The con men in the mega churches exploit this natural human solidarity that is strongest in times of adversity, so do the ruling class through their media. The people that give money, Christians, working people actually do care and the con men preachers like Osteen know this and exploit it for their own benefit.
And as the last post pointed out, they don't cheer us on when we stick together to win a strike, raise wages, stop cuts in social spending or for better social services.

Now they tell me to send money to the Red Cross. Fat chance. But as was pointed out in previous posts on Houston, here and here, they won't talk about why this is happening. No analysis on that although they did touch on the fact that the population has risen so much that the miles of paved roads has covered wetlands that would have absorbed water. The population of Houston has risen 35% since 2000 to over 4 million now a number of these new residents are displaced victims of Katrina, 500,000 of them are undocumented workers. Will they be left out in the cold?  The point is that there are people that would have known about this. This is a hurricane area.  It's like Orville Dam in California that nearly caused a catastrophe when it's spillway failed last winter. People raised the dangers of this a decade earlier but it was ignored. Profits, war expenditure, these all come first. The same with the chemical spill in to the American River some years before or the Flint water crisis or the BP explosion.

And let's remember about the Lone Star State. It's a right to work state where the corporations, mostly energy and chemical, are in control and where regulation is scarce. Remember the explosion in West, Texas? That disaster was a result of lack of regulation.  Texas has a huge incarceration rate and is fond of executing people. It's not the heaven for many that they are portraying now.

Imagine that people who survived Katrina and were displaced are now living through Harvey. Both these disasters were market driven, they are a part of the crisis of capitalism, of the placing of profits above the safety of communities, the nation and the environment. Chemical plants are still on fire and explosions in them still occurring as I write. Like the BP spill, they will do what they can to obscure the actual long-term damage to the environment and human habitat just like the have with the BP catastrophe in the Gulf.

The crisis in Houston was easily avoidable if the building of human habitation and production of social needs from energy to food production was taken out of private hands and the profit motive eliminated.

Without reading a lot I know there have been groups and individuals, unions, academics, environmentalists and urban planners who have warned of the events we are seeing now when it could have been prevented. In our society though, money talks and it did. Profits are put first and politicians and experts are bribed to ensure that is the case.  The destruction in Houston and many others past is the result. Here's a quote from one article:

"One underlying cause of Houston’s suffering is that developers and town officials in Harris County, which contains Houston, have for years advocated the development of the wetlands and prairies around the city—land that had long served to absorb the rainwater that now overwhelms the region’s sewers and streams every year. The flood-absorbent grasslands of the Katy Prairie have been cut by three-quarters over the past few decades as Houston sprawled west. The state played along, funding expansion of I-10, “the Katy Freeway,” and another road, the Grand Parkway, which further opened that land up for development. To make matters worse, money-hungry officials also encouraged development in low-lying, flood-prone areas without regard to future risk. There have been more than 7,000 units built in the hundred-year floodplain since 2010, according to a ProPublica/Texas Tribune analysis. Efforts to reform the city's building codes have been met with strong resistance in an area where homebuilding has been a major economic engine.

Last year, the longtime head of the Harris County flood control district, Mike Talbott, told ProPublica that his agency had no plans to study the impact of climate change on the region’s flooding problems. Here’s a quote from that article, which is well worth reading in full:

Of the astonishing frequency of huge floods the city has been getting, he said, “I don't think it's the new normal.” He also criticized scientists and conservationists for being “anti-development.”

“They have an agenda ... their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense,” he said."  Source
And further evidence that the crisis is not some accidenbt but a result of cosnc=ious poltiical decisions:
"The region was once home to acres of prairie grass whose roots extended far underground, with a capacity to absorb water for days on end or even permanently. Most of that land has now been paved over. The
northwest of Houston was once about 600,000 acres of flood-absorbing land; recent development has reduced it to a quarter of that capacity, according to estimates from the Katy Prairie Conservancy, an advocacy group.
That means the rain is now falling on what are called impervious or impermeable surfaces, like concrete, preventing the ground underneath from absorbing it. So the rainfall becomes “runoff,” traveling to wherever is easiest for it to flow. The water might flow to a nearby stream, but on its way the water could flood homes, cars and businesses, or the stream might be overwhelmed by that water, causing more flooding nearby.
In Harris County alone, research by Texas A&M scientist John Jacob shows, almost 30 percent of freshwater wetlands were lost between 1992 and 2010, a figure he calls “unconscionable.”"

I remember the Saving and Loan Crisis. The US taxpayer was forced to cough up billions of dollars due to activity on the part of bankers and moneylenders made possible by legislatures who passed laws sanctioning their activity. Only one person went to jail for that. The politicians that passed laws that led to it? Many of them are still in the legislatures.

I am not moved by the 1%'s crocodile tears about Houston and their massive propaganda campaign about how we all stick together and how we are all one nation.  The same people directing the orientation of the mass media are the same people who's influence and money ensured that urban planning took the course that it did.

Harvey's destruction was not an accident and the guilty must be rooted out.

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