Environmental Injustice in the Disaster Cycle: Hurricane Harvey and the Texas Gulf Coast
This article applies an environmental justice lens to synthesize knowledge of disparities experienced by Hurricane Harvey survivors based on race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES). It focuses on Texas’ Gulf Coast, which hosts the largest petrochemical industrial complex in the United States and experienced Harvey-induced flooding in 2017, precipitating a natural-technological (na-tech) disaster. Before Harvey, racial/ethnic minority and low SES populations had constrained access to resources for mitigating hazards and exhibited less disaster preparedness relative to White and higher SES populations. The impacts associated with Harvey disproportionately affected minority and low SES groups. In addition, minority and low SES populations experienced heightened challenges in responding to and recovering from Harvey. Patterns of na-tech disaster injustice in Harvey reflect racial/economic segregation and inequality along the Texas Gulf Coast and mirror patterns observed in Hurricane Katrina. Ameliorating regional disaster injustices requires tackling those root causes, while simultaneously improving organizational capabilities for disaster mitigation.