The Government's Lack Of Preparedness For Hurricane Harvey Is Inexcusable

The Government's Lack Of Preparedness For Hurricane Harvey Is Inexcusable

We've known for years that Houston was due for a massive storm and yet we did nothing.
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In March, 2016, independent journalism organization ProPublica ran a story in conjunction with Texas Tribune entitled "Hell and High Water" about the state of hurricane preparedness in Texas, and especially in Houston.

The article was heavily researched and included quotes from interviews with public officials from both parties, scientists, businessmen and women, heads of agencies, and other experts. It was focused around Hurricane Ike, which hit in 2008, the potential for a much stronger and worse hurricane than even Ike (which caused the third most damage in US history behind Katrina and Sandy), and the city and state's total lack of preparation and preparedness since Ike hit.

I stumbled upon this article just a few days ago while reading a "Best of 2016 Journalism" list compiled by Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, and was shocked and appalled. I was incredulous at a city and a state's total unwillingness to do something, anything to prepare for something they knew was coming.

In the article, Phil Bedient, the co-director of the Storm Surge Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center was quoted as saying, "We're sitting ducks. We've done nothing. We've done nothing to shore up the coastline, to add resiliency...to do anything."

Later in the article, the authors note, "Six count executives formed a coalition in 2010 to study the issue, but for years it had no funding to do so."

Look, I know that no amount of preparation, preparedness, or precaution could have totally prevented the disaster that Hurricane Harvey is and will continue to be for so many people whose homes and lives have been wrecked. I know that natural disasters are not preventable and that no matter how much preparation Houston could have done, there still would have been massive damages and costs on both an economic and human level. But we could have done so much better.

Seemingly everyone in both the scientific and political community knew that Houston and the state of Texas were at great risk of a dangerously large storm hitting sometime in the foreseeable future and, yet, they did practically nothing.

There has been much politicizing--for better or worse--of certain aspects of this storm, but this lack of regard for the risk to people in communities now devastated by Hurricane Harvey knows no political party. Both Democrats and Republicans alike are to blame for the government's inexcusable lack of action and preparation.

The fact that we knew that this was coming, that we knew the risks of people losing their homes and their lives, that we knew whole communities would be crippled and devastated possibly beyond prepare, that we knew and we did absolutely nothing to try to alleviate the inevitable pain and suffering this storm would cause makes me sick.

America is supposed to be a great country, a country whose government cares for and about its citizens. In Houston, this vision of America failed.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Plastic Straws Are Not The Real Issue

It's a start, but there's more to the story.

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If you've been to a coffee shop, restaurant, or grocery store in the past few years, you can't help but notice the myriad of companies that are trying to ban plastic straws. Many popular chains have vowed to put an end to them, including brands such as Starbucks who claim they will completely eliminate straws from all their locations by the year 2020.

The decision to get rid of straws is an aim to protect marine animals, specifically sea turtles. Due to the size and structure of straws, they can become lodged into a sea turtle's nose or even mistaken for food. Since these creatures have an essential role in maintaining the health of our oceans through sustaining the coral reef system and playing a role in the food web, it's important that we realize our responsibility to protect them.

As someone who strongly advocates for the health and safety of our environment, I'm obviously glad that people are finally starting to take action on pressing issues such as plastic pollution. Any step we take to support the environment is a good step, and I do not want to diminish the great work of many people in helping save the planet.

However, I do feel that some misinformation has been spewed in relation to straws and sea turtles. Straws are not actually the main issue.

Among the millions of tons of waste that enters our oceans, straws realistically only account for .03% of this pollution. The original statistic that gained so much publicity about straw usage in the United States claimed that Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day, but no one mentions that this statement comes from a nine-year-old child who, although may be correct, should not serve as a credible source alone.

In reality, almost fifty percent of plastic pollution in the oceans comes from fishing nets. Many animals, including sea turtles, are caught in fishing nets accidentally. Approximately forty percent of all sea animals caught in nets are deemed by-catch and simply thrown away for dead. Even the few who are released back into the water are usually injured and unable to sustain themselves for long after. This process does not just affect sea turtles, but whales, seals, and dolphins as well.

But these issues are not getting as publicized because these are steps that we as a society may not be willing to take yet. Trying to combat this issue means taking larger steps than simply switching from straw to sippy cup, it means fighting industries that refuse to use sustainable methods, it means perhaps reducing our seafood consumption.

I'm not advocating for everyone to completely boycott fish and attempt to bypass the straw ban that cities such as Seattle have already implemented into law. I'm glad that people are beginning to finally focus on eliminating wasteful plastic that has clogged our waters for decades, but I do not want us to think that leaving behind a straw can fix all of our environmental problems.

There are so many ways we can fight against climate change, but taking that extra step involves educating yourself on the real issues. There are other products we consume on a daily basis that can do considerably more damage. Replacing these everyday items may not result in something as aesthetically pleasing as a metal straw for your brand new mug, but it could be more significant in the grand fight against pollution.

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