The widespread power outages across Texas are highlighting and worsening underlying societal and racial inequities. The outages, primarily caused by the failure of gas, coal, and nuclear plants to cope with the cold weather, are a harbinger of the broad range of unprecedented weather disasters that will become increasingly frequent as the effects of human-caused climate change grow. The state’s 34 gigawatt shortfall has forced widespread blackouts, but whiter, more affluent communities have gotten off relatively easily while socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, and especially communities of color, have been left without power. If history is a guide, they will also be the last to be reconnected, while unhoused people are especially vulnerable.
“Historically, every year we are caught in this scenario, through no fault of our own. Communities of color are doing everything right. But we keep getting dunked on — every single time,” Maya Ford, a resident of Houston’s Third Ward told the Houston Chronicle.
Communities of color have also been disproportionately ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, compounding the danger posed by the cold if households are forced to shelter with family and friends. Between COVID-19, freezing temperatures, and icy roads, families are faced with impossible choices. “My parents have power and we don’t,” Michele Whitebread in Spring Branch told the Chronicle. Whitebread said that, while she did not want to drive her four-week-old daughter several miles on treacherous roads, “The house can’t get too much colder with the newborn.” (Houston Chronicle, New York Times $, Washington Post $, The Guardian; Gas, coal, nuclear failures: Texas Tribune, Vox, Earther, CNN; Climate harbinger: New York Times $)