Until 2005, August 29th meant–at least for me–remembrance of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. This tremendous show of strength by the Chicano movement that was then repressed by the police became an historic moment. Every August 29th I would send out a note or post something celebrating that day.
And then came Katrina. The hurricane that was both a natural disaster and a reminder of all that is toxic in this racist, neo-liberal world. We watched a devastating storm followed by the displacement of thousands, followed by the restructuring of New Orleans into what started to feel like a neo-liberal laboratory. Instead of restoring the life and dignity to the people of New Orleans–and other locations on the Gulf Coast–their lives were changed fundamentally.
Today, on August 29. 2017, we find ourselves witnessing what many scientists are calling the greatest disaster to ever hit the state of Texas. Hurricane Harvey, yet another example of climate change-based extreme weather, is wreaking havoc. And while that is happening we discover that Trump had recently issued an executive order to undermine federal infrastructure work explicitly designed to address flooding. We also hear Texas Republicans who have regularly challenged the role of government, demand governmental assistance and completely distort the nature of the aid that was set aside in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The charlatanism is nothing short of astounding.
August 29th must remind us of resilience. There was the resilience of the Chicano movement in the face of repression in 1970. There was the resilience of the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And, certainly, we should expect as much after Hurricane Harvey.
But having said that, here are my concerns–in addition to my concerns for the victims of this storm. First, we should assume that the work of repair and reconstruction will be slotted along a privatization route. There will be all sorts of contracts for bid, rather than this being a public undertaking, for which the government assumes responsibility. Second, we should also assume that maniacal minds will be at work suggesting further means to undermine the public space and introduce neo-liberal programs and projects. This may include the clearing out of entire areas, that is, the clearing out of populations. Third, we should NOT expect the Trump administration to concede that Hurricane Harvey is part of what climate scientists have repeatedly warned us, i.e., extreme weather as a result of climate change. Instead we will most likely be treated to one Republican after another telling us of the horrors of this storm but not making the connection to what is happening in the environment.
And then they–the Republican climate deniers–will wait for the next disaster to unfold.
Which is why progressive environmental movements must speak out and make “Harvey” every bit the political issue that it is, in addition to obviously being an environmental catastrophe. Nature, with the active assistance of amoral capitalism, has made “Harvey” a natural disaster. The Republicans will make it a political and economic catastrophe.