Barriers and Opportunities
Edited by Rosemary Lyster and Robert R.M. Verchick
Chapter 10: Planning for climate change disaster
In late August 2017, the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey were still wringing out the last of 50 inches of rain on downtown Houston when — with up to a third of the city still under water — an investigative piece in the Washington Post suggested the real target of blame for the deluge that will probably eclipse Katrina as the most expensive storm in U.S. history. Fault not a soulless cosmos, or sinful living, or even the subtle hand of climate change. No, the real villain of this piece was bad planning, or as the paper’s headline put it, “Houston’s ‘Wild West’ Growth.” One can hardly disagree. The largest U.S. city to have no zoning laws indisputably courted fate, steering sprawled-out neighborhoods into flood plains, paving over the last postage-stamp lots of absorbent turf. It’s a common story. That same summer more than 1,400 people were killed across South Asia as sheets of rain drummed ceaselessly upon the Indian subcontinent. Responsible for the most destructive flooding in a decade, the 2017 monsoon revealed the staggering inadequacy of government planning and preparedness that is still all too common in the region. “Most government action in India, where the flooding has hit hardest,” wrote one reporting team, “has been focused on relief, with weak early warning systems and too little focus on prevention.”
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