The US’ hurricane season was one of the most active in history, destroying lives and leaving victims homeless.
In August 2017, one trillion gallons of water fell on the Houston area over a four-day period – by far the most rainfall in US history.
Hurricane Harvey hit everyone in Houston, Texas, which is one of the most diverse but segregated cities in the US. But now that the water has receded, will there be an equal recovery?
A month after Harvey hit – after the media moved on to new stories – Fault Lines travelled to Houston to see if the storm will deepen the city’s social and economic divide.
We're in a dogfight now, to make sure that resources get distributed in a way that's equitable.
Dr Robert Bullard, who is known as the father of the environmental justice movement, has found that minority neighbourhoods are more at risk of industrial pollution.
“It’s ok to put a landfill, an incinerator, or a garbage dump, a refinery in black and brown communities,” he told Fault Lines. “If you look at and map vulnerability and proximity of these dangerous facilities, they’re not randomly distributed … Race is the most potent factor that determines where these facilities are located.”
Many plants in the Houston area have reported spills or leaks during Harvey, affecting several low-income and minority neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods have fewer resources to help them recover after a natural disaster like Harvey.
If the aftermath of Harvey is anything like that of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, housing prices will go up, low-income residents will be pushed out, and inequality will grow.
Houston is already one of the most segregated cities in America, and it could get worse.
Billions of dollars in recovery aid are headed to Texas to rebuild, but it’s unclear how much of that money will trickle down to those who need it the most.
“We’re in a dogfight now, to make sure that resources get distributed in a way that’s equitable,” says Bullard.
“That’s why I think it’s important that low-income people and people of colour, working-class people, rich people, poor people – we all work on post-Harvey recovery in Houston and get it right.”