“It’s flooding down in Texas, and all of the telephone lines are down…” – Stevie Ray Vaughan
For the second time in a year, Houston — the fourth largest city in the US and the largest in Texas — is under water. While the rainfall was huge, the response was poor. No actual solutions are being discussed in the media. The reason for this blackout brings together troubling issues of race, population, environmentalism and industry.
Contrary to most stereotypes of Texas, Houston is a diverse cosmopolitan city that is 75% non-white — and climbing. Most of these non-whites are Hispanics from Central America, Asians, Indians and African-Americans. The latter group is declining as it is pushed out of its traditional neighborhoods by gentrification and its replacement in traditional sources of income by Hispanics and Asians.
The figures above (from 2013) are almost certainly wrong. Many Hispanics and Asians are here illegally, and many African-Americans have moved out, usually to Louisiana or Florida. In the meantime, a huge influx of temporary labor from California and New York has boosted the population of mixed-race people. It is rare to see what we think of as “white”: someone of North and Western European heritage. Outside of certain neighborhoods, these are rarely seen, and even in the nicer parts of town are often only about every third person that is witnessed.
To the Southwest, a large Asian (Oriental: Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean) community has set down roots such that street signs are doubled, with one sign in English and a larger sign in the Asian language. These communities tend to spring up around existing Hispanic communities and slowly replace them, with many second generation “low Asian” (Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian) hybrids with Mexicans (who are Amerinds, or Siberian Asians) now cropping up among them. These people are visually indistinguishable from Mexicans and only slightly smarter.
There are also Asian communities on the East and Northwest parts of the city, again taking over traditional Hispanic areas, both of which have also been squeezed by gentrification. While gentrification gets a bad rap in New York, here it is beloved by minorities on an individual level and bemoaned on a collective level. Individuals do not mind getting $400,000 for a house they paid $50,000 for only a decade or two ago, but groups notice the “diversity tension” which is that they feel like aliens in their own communities. At a certain crucial threshold, the original group simply moves out en masse.
While white people traditionally possessed the wealth and power in Houston, that changed in the 1980s when oil companies relocated personnel from all over the world to Houston to be near the epicenter of that industry. Arabs and Iranians became commonplace, as did South Americans. It is not uncommon to walk through the city and hear twenty different languages spoken. It also has more restaurants per capita than any other American city, and most of these are ethnic, with Mexican and Vietnamese being the most prevalent.
African-Americans were a high-profile minority under the white power structure. Houston has always had low self-confidence, and so has tried to establish itself as a place that would be pleasing to a New York dwelling NPR listener. As a result, it has had a vigorous affirmative action program, which means that Asians dominate the universities but African-Americans and Hispanics have taken over most roles in government and many in industry. Houston has its second African-American mayor, who was elected earlier this year.
Since the late 1990s, Houston has grown radically, at least doubling in size. This assessment is made difficult by the fact that most statistics from Houston are wrong, since there have always been many illegals here and they tend to avoid being officially noticed. In addition, Asian communities tend to pack dozens into an apartment, but because their landlords and legal regulations demand there be only at most two, the renters report only two people. The Asian and Hispanic population is thus larger, and invisible in plain sight, than what official figures convey.
As a result of its expansion, Houston occupies 627 square miles officially, but many other communities in the metro area are also dependent on the city and commute into it, so it is even larger. During the past decade especially, these areas have been build up with extensive concrete cover. This has had two effects: first, the concrete radiates heat instead of absorbing and neutralizing it as vegetative cover tends to do, and second, runoff is not absorbed but channeled.
Two industries dominate this town, oil and development (construction and land sales). These took over local politics so long ago that no one remembers, but they both support the outward expansion of the city through the building of new suburbs in outlying areas. In these, a person can purchase a house for well under $100,000 and pay very low taxes at first, then commute for an hour each way.
The result of this reckless growth is flooding has become much more common. Where in the past water was channeled to outlying areas and absorbed, and much of it was soaked up by suburban lawns and lots, the prevalence of concrete — and of condominium and new-style suburban construction that uses almost all of each lot, instead of approximately a third as in the past — now there is no place for it to go. The city has responded by building new drainage pipes and runoff areas that try to channel the water out of the city into the bayous and ship channel.
Affirmative action dominates the construction industry where it overlaps with government. Where the private sector is dependent on cheap Hispanic labor to make larger profits, the government agencies give preference to minority- and woman-owned businesses. As a result, public works projects frequently move slowly and involve high costs, as seen with union labor in the past.
In addition, minority standards of construction are more like those one would find in Mexico or Vietnam. The development industry has standardized nearly every form of construction as a result. Homes are made of standard wooden frames designed to fit a pattern, covered in insulation and sheetrock, and then filled with pre-fabricated fixtures, door frames, floors, cabinets, doors and wiring. These are designed to be idiot-proof and quick to install. This enables the industry to use unskilled labor as if it were skilled, saving costs.
Most renovation and much of construction is done through the use of “day laborers,” or mostly Hispanic men who sit at the edges of the parking lots of Home Depot and Loewes and other home construction businesses. Trucks pull up, shout out an offer for the day’s work, and then pick up a half-dozen men to go do a job. These groups follow a kind of “buddy system” where if at least one member of the group has some experience, the rest go along with it and do what he says. A network of mostly white but also Asian and African-American “contractors” make a good living by hiring day laborers, paying them relatively little, and taking the profits which are widened by lower labor costs.
Consequently standards of construction have plummeted. Homes fall apart; doors hang at odd angles; mysterious fires are more frequent. Since government is now also minority-dominated, each group represents itself. If the workers at a home that falls down are Hispanic, and the government officials investigating are Hispanic, the event is more likely to be classified as mysterious instead of a solution found.
In addition, general incompetence of the third world variety is common among government inspectors. They can be bribed, often forget to check vital details, are late, or simply ignore problems. Many of them seem to know little about the fields in which they work, but because they have educational certifications — often aided by affirmative action — they are “qualified” and never second-guessed. A whole second string of industry has sprung up with pale Asian and white experts who are called in at high cost to fix what the contractors and city inspectors missed.
The lowering of standards has turned construction simpler. Houses are now boxes; condominiums are three-story boxes built according to very similar floor plans, then covered with a facade made of pre-fabricated items from Home Depot. Since the people buying these homes are usually unaware and unmotivated for home repair or yard work, yard have been replaced by small lawns and larger driveways, contributing to the concreting of the city.
To accommodate the vast numbers of people with long commutes, the city has constructed more parking lots and freeways. Every time they build a new freeway, the developers take advantage of this and begin building suburbs farther out from the city center. The concrete spreads like algae covering the surface of a lake. For every suburb, a “wallpaper” of the same businesses rolls out as well: a home repair store, a Wal-mart, hotels, fast food, and endless strip malls for the small businesses like hair care, nail care, massage parlors, convenience stores and cell phone shops.
One can drive seventy miles in any direction and be in a place that visually resembles the place of origin. The home designs are the same, licensed by the same developers. The stores are the same. The roads are the same. The street signs use a recombinant language of naturalistic terms (“green,” “forest,” “sunny”) and geographical terms (“hollow,” “valley,” “creek”) that make navigation difficult because of the similarity of names.
The result is that a city with little infrastructure has more than doubled its population, changed its character and abilities from that of a mostly English-German city to a mostly Hispanic-Asian one, and has paved itself in roads, parking lots and driveways. The resulting changes have been vast. Air currents now move far to the north of the concrete wasteland, changing weather patterns and resulting in hotter temperatures; here, summer begins in April and ends in mid-September. Water runoff has become a large problem but the public works are not up to the task, so it floods.
Where have environmental groups been in this whole process? Environmental groups are staffed by trust fund kids from the dying white establishment and the diversity/affirmative action hires who accept the lower pay for shorter hours. This pairs people with no sense of reality with people who could care less about being effective. The trust fund kids go to high schools where they attend accelerated classes and meet few minorities, then go off to college, and then straight into the non-profit world without ever having worked a “real” job or lived among the normal parts of the city. Instead, with some parental help, they get apartments or condominiums in midtown and live among the mostly-white group there.
Environmental groups have followed a strategy of trying to save species rather than trying to save land. They have set up a number of wildlife refuges across the city and tend to swoop in on new construction, delay it if they can (these losses are deductible to the developers), and then capture whatever rare species they can find and take them back to these refuges. As a result, the species there are overpopulated and dying off, and very little land is set aside for nature.
The city will point to its park system, which is extensive but cut through with bike trails and used as drainage overflow (“flood plain”) and so is hostile to natural species. These parks are filled with people all day who are riding bikes, jogging, and having picnics. Small clumps of forest are trimmed by mostly-Hispanic gardeners. The result is a paradise for a few generalized species but drives away anything more complex. In addition, the carnage on the roads is massive as animals try to escape one overpopulated forest refuge for another.
To fix the problems of Houston and its flooding would require interventions that are politically unsustainable. Some developments would have to be removed to make way for more open land, which would not be park land and so would anger local residents. These communities would likely be either traditional minority communities in the process of gentrification, at which point the remaining minority residents would be rallied to protest “racism,” or new communities which minority groups hope to move into to live the American Dream™. Any action to cut down on concrete and over-development would also anger the oil and development industries.
In Houston, we see a microcosm of the problem in the West: incompetent and morally rotten whites exploiting the situation for personal gain, including the importation of cheap third-world labor to make those profits fatter, paired up with a community more like that of Mexico or Vietnam where people simply do not care and cannot fix these problems. For all it is like winning the lottery: money pouring through the door for easy work, so enjoy it and forget about tomorrow.
As many lottery winners have discovered to their chagrin however, feast today means famine tomorrow. Houston gets glimpses of its future during these floods (May 2015 and April 2016): a vast concrete jungle, staffed by incompetents, filled with the apathetic, in which the white-maintained services and institutions on which its citizens were induced to rely have been replaced by third-world versions. The illusion of easy money holds up until the system is challenged, and then its fundamental bankruptcy is laid bare, but there is no one left who cares.
CvdP’s analysis confirmed by experts:
Experts have warned that flooding may become a regular sight in Houston where the fast-growing population and building boom makes it vulnerable to high waters.
Philip Bedient, an engineering professor at Rice University, says the flooding problem can’t be solved. He says, ‘All we can do is a better job warning.’