Texas conundrum old hat to Californians

Aside from human responsibility, I think our solidarity with Texas comes from shared experience. Anyone who’s questioning reasons to support a state whose leaders mocked us should remember similar struggles with PG&E and the wildfires. 

The emergency in Texas isn’t over yet. Even though power is back on, damage remains. Reports of COVID-19 cases and distributions of vaccines were interrupted. 

As if the situation couldn’t get worse, voices of Texas politicians who gloated over California’s wildfires worsened public outcry.

Mayor Tim Boyd of Colorado City, Texas, resigned after backlash from a controversial Facebook post. Among his pontifications, Boyd asserted that families were owed nothing. “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish,” Boyd wrote, misspelling perish. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, angered many by leaving during a time of crisis. Salting the wound, he fled to Cancún, a popular destination for escaping to good times. Cruz has been widely criticized for blaming his daughters to justify neglect. 

Some may wonder why we should exert anything for a distant situation. Aside from human responsibility, we have solidarity. 

Wearing a red clown nose, Cruz performed his recent stunt about seven months after mocking California’s power outages during last year’s heat wave. The irony bleeds through the page of political incompetence, which he seems to have scribbled. Political mockery toward a community’s endurance of climate change and natural disaster is heartless.

In 2019, PG&E implemented rate hikes to pay for their wildfire claims. Daily dilemmas awaited the following summer. In a packed house, I had to either sweat until bedtime or dig into school funds to at least feel room temperature. Not every house is structurally equal, which increases the rate hike even more.

I’m reminded of our experience with PG&E’s response to the disaster when I look at Texas now. Texas energy provider Griddy is being sued. The state’s oldest electric power cooperative is filing for bankruptcy.

Some of us won’t forget feeling like we were being punished for the mistakes of energy providers. Similarly, some Texans won’t soon forget feeling abandoned by leaders. The feeling of unfair treatment by a response to disaster may be mutual with Texans. The unfair feeling of enduring any disaster is already mutual. Disaster prevention is a major concern. 

Climate change continues to exacerbate natural disasters, spinning once-predictable seasons out of control. Our responsibility to address climate change can build a strong framework for community preparedness. But, irresponsibility will only damage the future of our health and resources.

I sometimes worry that disaster relief and prevention are often addressed only during urgency, when it’s too late. Like Texans, we could’ve been more prepared for potential disasters. Regenerative forest management can make wildfires less chaotic. PG&E should’ve upgraded their equipment and record keeping. Smart grids are another solution. 

We have incredible knowledge that is only as useful as our actions. When leaders miss the mark on disaster relief and prevention, communities should be lucky to have each other.

The winter storm’s aftermath weighs heavy on recovery. Since the tragedy, many sources have suggested ways to show support. We can only do so much from far away, but cash donations remain effective and will help urgent needs. 

  • The global nonprofit Americares is collecting relief funds for bottled water, medicine and other supplies. 
  • The community union LUPE, co-founded by activist César Chávez, is accepting donations. They’re delivering gift cards for hot meals to communities near the southern border.
  • Austin Pets Alive needs to purchase necessary items, such as crates, blankets and tarps, for animals in their shelter.

More supportive resources have been published by PBS, Austin American-Statesman and D Magazine. Right now, anything helps.
Shae Pastrana can be reached at [email protected] and @PastranaShae on Twitter.