Last December, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica collaborated on a story that detailed how climate change was causing more frequent and heavier storms to hit the Houston area. The series also showed that unchecked and unregulated housing development was paving over tens of thousands of acres of prairie that had in the past soaked up huge amounts of water during storms, ameliorating or averting floods.
It's worth remembering, as we see Houston drowning, that this is not entirely an unpreventable act of nature, but the scope of the disaster has been enlarged by human foolishness. Political leaders in Texas -- and ultimately, Texans themselves -- have made choices over the years to favor the short-term profits from unregulated development instead of choosing slower, less profitable but safer growth.
It's human nature to favor money in hand today even it comes at the risk of losing much more at some unknown date in the future. The money from development now is a sure thing; the loss from a flood might happen or might not. So we see the same pattern play out in at-risk areas around the country, and we see the general resistance to taking steps to prevent climate change damage. Meanwhile, inevitably, storms hit, and the flooding is even more calamitous than it would have been had some foresight been exercised.