NAFCON Stands with Harvey-Affected Communities

For Immediate Release

 

September 1, 2017

Reference: Terrence Valen, NAFCON President, president@nafconusa.org

 

NAFCON Stands with Harvey-Affected Communities

HOUSTON, TX- On August 25, Texas and other surrounding Gulf Coast communities were hit by the worst rainstorm in U.S. history, Hurricane Harvey.  In just the first three days since landfall, Harvey has already doubled Houston’s previous record for the wettest month in city history set in June 2001. It has been estimated that approximately twenty trillion gallons of water flooded Texas over the first five days. The death toll has reached 45 and authorities expect this number to grow. Currently there are over forty thousand people in shelters, and this number will certainly rise.

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) stands in solidarity with the storm victims in Houston and other affected areas.  NAFCON is concerned with not only the immediate, but also the long term impacts of any environmental disaster.  Almost exactly 12 years later, Americans remember August 29 as the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina that impacted millions of people in New Orleans and nearby areas in Louisiana. Similar to Tacloban, Philippines and other disaster prone areas, Louisiana has yet to fully recover.  

Climate Change

Hurricane Harvey is an indicator that more severe storms will come as climate change patterns intensify. While Houston, TX and other surrounding areas in the Gulf Coast generally experience hurricanes in the month of August, the intensity and frequency of natural disasters globally is directly attributed to many man-made and corporate actions.

Globally, disasters similar to Hurricane Harvey are also on the rise. In the past month more than 1,200 people died in Bangladesh, India and Nepal due to monsoons.  Tens of thousands of homes and communities were submerged affecting 40 million people.  People of this region are demanding food, clean water and shelter. Aid organizations report this as one of the worst regional humanitarian crises with millions of people facing severe food shortages and disease.  Bangladesh, India, and Nepal are home to many industrial garment factories, mostly American and British owned, that contributes greatly to water pollution.  Livelihood and health of the people in these areas are often compromised.

Back in 2013, the Philippines experienced the most powerful typhoon in recorded history.  Though this region experiences an average of twenty-five typhoons annually, the impact of Typhoon Haiyan was never seen before in the Philippines.  Large corporate mining and illegal logging companies exacerbated the impact of these typhoons, as landslides and long-term flooding, coupled with ineffective governmental responses, are often the cause of unnecessary deaths and the much-delayed recovery of the country’s residents.

Whether it is here in the U.S., the Philippines, or other areas damaged by climate change disasters, the people most impacted are often from the poorest and most marginalized communities.  Relief and rehabilitation always becomes a challenge when catastrophe upon catastrophe hits the country with lack of systematic disaster-preparedness, true people’s development, or any effective response from its government.

Corporate Interests and Trump’s Responsibility

In the initial stages of his presidency, Trump already refused to acknowledge the impact of climate change.  As the Trump administration took control of the White House website, references on climate change were deleted.  To further exemplify his commitment to corporate causes and not protecting the environment and the people, Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord just this past May.  Although it may not have gone far enough, the Paris Climate Accord aimed to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow down the effect of global warming.

Global challenges affecting Houston are also exacerbated when both Trump and local officials fail to regulate companies that historically and today continue to pollute local communities, especially in black and brown, low-income neighborhoods.  Since Harvey hit, strong chemical odors were already detected in parts of Houston and throughout the region.  Houston’s superfund sites are underwater and continue to release carcinogenic chemicals while prior to Hurricane Harvey, these areas were already experiencing increased rates of childhood leukemia and other chronic diseases.

Just 10 days before Harvey struck, President Trump signed an executive order that rescinded federal flood protection standards. FEMA or the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Housing and Urban Development Department, the two federal agencies that will handle most of the funds expected for the rebuilding of Houston, would have been forced to require any rebuilding to conform to new, safer codes.  Revoking these federal regulations means that infrastructure going forward will not have to meet flood protection standards that could prevent future damage from hurricanes like Harvey.

Trump also haughtily refused Mexico’s offer for permanent help and cooperation to Hurricane Harvey victims.  Mexico played a role in aiding affected areas during the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.  The expected cost to fully rebuild Harvey’s hardest-hit communities is approximately $190 billion, exceeding the cost from both Storm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.  Trump has yet to present a full recovery and rehabilitation plan for the affected areas of Hurricane Harvey.

Call to Action

With its Environmental Justice campaign, NAFCON encourages everyone to join efforts calling attention to climate change, demanding respective governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to empower affected communities.  NAFCON also urges those seeking to help through monetary funds to ensure that they donate to people-led organizations doing humanitarian aid on the ground. United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is one of the trusted organizations collecting donations for recovery response.  Please make your checks payable to the:

“California-Nevada Conference,” with the “UMCOR Advance Number 901670” in the memo line.

Church Treasurers, please send your church’s offering for this appeal to the attention of Conference Treasurer, at P.O. Box 980250, West Sacramento, CA 95798-0250.  By sending, offerings through the Conference Treasurer, UMCOR will be able to track community and grassroots efforts to support the people of Houston and Texas.

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