Hurricane Season Stirs Up Climate Debate in Houston: Activist Claims ‘Environmental Racism’

Flood evacuees
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Climate change activists held a town hall on hurricane season preparedness on Saturday in Houston, Texas, and the question and answer period quickly devolved into blaming the government for practicing “environmental racism” in its response to last year’s devastating flooding brought on by hurricane Harvey.

The Houston Chronicle reported that about 100 people attended the town hall sponsored by the Houston Climate Movement and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The group applauded Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s announcement that the city would honor the Obama-installed Paris climate agreement after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the accord.

But the atmosphere at the meeting took a more hostile tone during the question and answer portion, according to the Chronicle.

Then, like climate change itself, things heated up.

“I see this whole thing as low-hanging fruit,” declared Sheila Blake, who has been flooded three times in three years and is weary of promises being made to find solutions only to have governmental resolve fade.

But it was Sarahy Garcia who really lit up many in the crowd, much to the visible discomfort of those on the stage. “It’s environmental racism,” she alleged, saying that poor minority neighborhoods had been neglected as the weeks turned into months after Harvey hit.

Garcia, a former nurse, claimed she had seen children with rashes and sores that do not heal, parents with unexplained breathing problems, people with odd neurological symptoms, all popping up after the hurricane.

She also claimed people in Houston, in general, were suffering health problem because of air pollution caused by debris from the storm that still hasn’t been cleaned up.

“What is the city doing to address all those health ramifications? Why are their voices being ignored?” Garcia asked, according to the Chronicle, which noted that she was recording her exchange with city officials on her cellphone.

“The city is not ignoring anyone,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett responded, noting the city’s response was the mayor’s responsibility.

Turner did not attend the event but sent a video message vowing his commitment to the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan that would cap future temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius to allegedly stop damage from climate change.

Gavin Dillingham, program director for clean energy policy at the Houston Advanced Research Institute, chimed in that the city is going to be ‘as inclusive as we can make it,” according to the Chronicle.

The keynote speaker was Shana Udvardy, a climate resilience analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She claimed that in Houston 10,000 homes with a $2.2 billion value could be lost by 2045 because of “chronic flooding.”

Udvardy also said that flooding would affect 17,000 people and have a $3.8 million impact on the city’s tax base.

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