tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 8, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT
>> good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smily, the fallout is happening in washington, tonight, the conversation with the nation's magazine, john walsh, about the political implications of hurricane harvey. and then, we'll talk to a professor of southern texas university. we're glad you have joined us, all of that coming up in just a moment
moment. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. please welcome joann walsh back to the program, a national correspondent, and the writer of the piece "everyone is a socialist after a national disaster." she joins us from washington, great to have you back. >> thank you. >> everybody is a socialist after a disaster, tell me more. >> i was just struck by senator
ted cruz demanding instant hurricane harvey relief, which of course the people of texas and houston deserve that. but you know, ted cruz, he held up our relief for hurricane sandy five years ago here in new york, and continues to basically lie about it saying he opposed the bill because it contains so much pork. that really was not true, the things he thought were pork were things like funding for head start programs but they were programs that were destroyed by hurricane sandy. there were other things like that if he had taken the time to understand the bill he would know they were not pork, so it was as if he didn't care. i was calling oath the hypocrisy for certain republicans like ted cruz, wanting aid for their constituents, but no one else. >> what do you think this aid package will look like when all is said and done for hurricane harvey? >> you know, i think they will get a lot of aid, i don't know
if it will be enough or if it will be distributed. i have concerns about that, but when you have a republican congress and republican president and you know republican leadership of texas, i hate to say it but i think that there will be a little bit of partisan favoritism, while at the same time democrats believe in spending on this stuff so i don't know that any democrats are going to hold it up. people are people you know. and the people of houston and the gulf coast and parts of louisiana very much need the aid. so you know, i think i am more concerned though as i'm sure your audience is with the long-term. you know, i think that people are getting help. people are returning home but some people will not be able to return home at all it looks like. and houston is a really unique place. it's the capital of our petro-chemical industry. it has been developed without a lot of care and attention to the issues of flooding. it has been developed wouithout lot of attention to the issues
of pollution and certainly the issues of environmental justice. and so a lot of the low income residents of color are going to be hard put to return to homes that may be polluted with petro chemicals. we have an ammonia factory that exploded. there is going to be a lot of careful and difficult cleanup. and some of these problems so many years in the developing, tavis, are going to be years in the solving. >> we'll go to houston in just moments when you and i finish talking to dr. robert bullard, who as you know is the father of environmental justice and get his take. as you know what happened. he wrote a book that i'm fascinated about, he wrote that when the government comes in after disasters often times they do more damage than good, certainly to communities of color. i want to hear what he thinks will happen to the indigent, to
the poor, to the color folk of houston, if you will, what he thinks the government will spend and do regarding these communities. you said something a moment ago joan, that i want to ask you about, you can ask a broad palette and give you a brought paint brush on what you mean. and i do mean that apologizicly, the politics we see often played around natural disasters, seems to me it is the last place where you want to play politics, but it seems to me there are so many politics played with relation to money and other issues with regard to natural disasters. >> well, we've certainly seen that over and over when these states tend to be democrat, or blue regions, big cities. so i think that is unfortunate. you know, we had a lot of republicans including paul ryan
wanting to see certain funding cut -- to have sandy aid back in the day five years ago be somehow revenue-neutral so that other programs had to go if we were going to make room to help the people who were out of their homes and needed so much help. that attitude can't prevail. it should just be a basic understanding that we may fight about the levels of education funding or we may fight about tax rates but that basically we should have formulas in place that let us know what people need when -- tragedy like this strikes. but you know, the other part of politics, i have to say it, it has to do with how we prepare for these disasters and the fact that you know, there was an attempt to cut fema's budget -- that president trump proposed an 11% cut to the fema budget before this disaster hit. i hope he will reconsider that. i assume he will. we're also looking at hurricane
irma bearing down on the caribbean and florida perhaps in the next few days. so the idea that we can pinch pennies and under-fund disaster relief, the idea that back in the george w. bush era, the idea you put your buddies in charge and don't hire competent people. you know, that has got to go. you know i think there is a real lack of seriousness about some of this. and then you just add on, you said i could have a wide palette. >> take it, take it. >> i'm going to talk on because we have issues like climate change and the fact that houston has seen three 500-year storms in five years, we can't call them three-year storms, five-year storms. we seem to have a disaster like this every late summer. we're not taking the man made or the person-made threat to the
environment seriously enough. and especially under this president who has put someone who is an ally, scott pruett, a long-time ally of the chemical industry, in charge of the epa, they have gutted the environmental justice program. they are making it real hard for the science to come out of the epa, there are lots of staff positions that have gone unfilled, which are just letting people leave and not carrying whether they're doing good and necessary work. this is a disaster that i think is going to expose a lot of what has happened in the trump administration. and a lot of the republican philosophy toward climate, toward justice. toward the economy, and toward disaster. it's really going to open a lot of eyes. i think it will open the eyes of some of the republicans in texas as well.
>> how is it to your mind? humor me for a second. how is it to your mind, joan, that the republicans will continue to deny the science? how will they with a straight face continue to say climate change is a hoax? how will they continue to say that global warming is a hoax? it's one thing to have a political view, and deny science but the reality will be what we continue to see in houston, irma, there is another storm, jose, and they will continue with greater force, how will they i ask again continue to make the argument that these realities are not real? that they're unreal? new i thi >> i think they are so beholden to their donors in the petro chemical industry, and extraction industry, categorically, not admitting the truth or seeing the truth. a lot of them are too smart not
to see it, tavis, but there is a real industry built around climate denialism, and the american people -- a minority of them elected a president last year who insists it's a great chinese hoax and that it's a matter of the chinese trying to put something over on us when in fact, if there is any kind of putting something over on us, it's the fact that the chinese are investing wildly in alternative industry and trying to really corner an industry that should have been ours and creating jobs for americans here, if republicans really cared about jobs. they care about their donors. i don't like to be quite so determinative, and to tie everything to money but i just don't think that there is any other way to explain it. and i think they have a media empire in fox news that has made a joke out of climate change and likes to you know, talk about how much snow we're getting and
oh, there is no global warming. that you know -- depicted former vice president al gore as some kind of a lunatic, for his very correct and insincere warnings. there are a lot of people who share the blame, and not enough americans vote, i think not enough of us look at this with a driving issue. and i think -- they have not really appreciated the work of the environment justice movement, saying oh, the environment is about people who like to go skiing or backpacking, and have the means to enjoy these types of vacations. no, it's a real environmental
justice issue as well. we need to never be told that this is irrelevant or silly or we should not play politics while people are still out of their homes and perhaps we haven't even found all the people victims of this storm. i don't want to play politics, but this is not playing politics. this is talking about what is causing disaster after disaster. and this is it. >> joan walsh, thank you for joining us. thank you. up next, dr. robert bullard from houston, stay with us. dr. dr. robert bullard is known as the father of environmental justice. he is the author of justice, and equity, currently a distinguished professor at texas southern university. joining us from texas, professor bullard, thank you for joining
us on this show, let me start by asking you how are you and your family? >> i'm fine, the family is fine, we had to evacuate on tuesday, but thank goodness i'm back at my home. we did not get any water. the flood only came up to the street. and nothing in the house. so thank goodness i'm okay. >> i'm glad you are well, our hearts of course go out to all of those who have been damaged in any way, lost lives or loved ones in this storm. as hurricane irma is making its way we're told to florida, we start to pray in advance for the families in florida, let me ask a couple of uncomfortable, perhaps politically inconvenient questions. i want to ask them anyway because this is what you do. give me your sense of what happened in houston and whether or not what happened there was avoidable. preventible? >> well, i think the idea that the flood and the rain was so
intense that given this was a flood of biblical proportions, a lot of the design of the city and the way that our flood protection infrastructure is set up, it has been capaciexacerbat not being prepared the address this amount of water. the fact that the entire city is flooded and the communities and -- historically that flooded in the past also flooded. but there are some places that generally don't flood. and so i think we have to plan for making this city when we rebuild and recover to make the entire region and the area much more resilient to these kinds of disasters. >> tell me more about what that means, more expressly about how
that could have been avoided or what ought to happen in the future to make sure that we don't have the same kind of result. >> well, what we have to do is make sure that when we design and rebuild, that we don't rebuild on inequity. if we talk about this -- the city actually not having the same level of protection to avoid the -- not just the flooding, but also the environmental disaster, there are communities right now that not only have to deal with the flood waters but also have to deal with the contamination and the bad air quality. and the sediments and residue that is left from all of the vetting of pollution from the industries. and fires and explosions, but also the contamination in the chemicals that is left in the water. and left in the saediments.
that kind of contamination has to be cleaned up and we have to make sure we don't place certain communities at risk. >> you said communities at risk. one of the titles you wrote comes immediately, entitled that wrong complexion for protection, how government responds to disasters, endangers african-american communities. tell me why you wrote that book and if houston is going to be the next version when you turn out this text. >> well, that book was published in 2012, and what we did is to track government response to disaster disasters dating back to the great mississippi flood of 1927. and brought disasters all the way up to the bps spill.
the idea that all communities are created equal, we know that is not true. there are some that are more equal than others, particularly when it comes to being in the pathways of natural and man made disasters. and the idea of how -- well will government respond to. how well will resources that flow to disaster areas be spent in a way that will make communities whole, and not just follow the power -- follow the money. we have to make sure that government does not exacerbate pre existing inequalities by rebuilding on inequality. now that is what that book dealt with, and the lessons, including the examples from hurricane katrina in 2005 that we have not learned.
and i'm hoping that we can do it right this time. >> give me your sense of how -- how hopeful you are that it can be done right this time. >> well, i think the fact if you look at the -- the television screens, you see all kinds of people being evacuated. you see all parts of the city and the county and the region being impacted by this flood. and i think the -- the message is, is that there has to be a concern for insuring that we build healthy liveable, sustainable, and resilient communities that are just. and not just allow the money to flow to where the power is. and money following money. we have to make sure that those communities that were experiencing economic and
environmental inequality before the storm are also rebuilt in a way that can make them whole and make them better than harvey, than the pre-storm conditions that harvey impacted. now that's going to be a challenge, particularly when you have state officials and federal officials who somehow -- that deny you know, the conditions that may have contributed to the worsening condition of the flooding. namely, climate change. and even if we don't you know, call it climate change, but the fact is that we have to make our cities more climate resilient. we have to make them much more equal in terms of being able to bounce back. and i think this is a great opportunity to do the right thing and to be inclusive as
opposed to allowing those communities that are still in shelters, those residents that are still in shelters, somehow to fall further behind because of lack of resources. >> there are two questions that come to mind, let me ask them in this order. the first question i suspect, professor bullard is how i should respond tomorrow when i start getting nasty e-mails that tavis smily did it again last night, he had a guy on his show, and once again they were turning this show into race, these negroes can't resist turning everything into a racial issue. now when i get hit with that tomorrow how do i respond to that criticism? >> well, i think you have to tell your detractors that what we're talking about is real. and if you're on the ground you can see how communities that are
impacted are struggling to rebuild and come back and historically there are communities that were struggling to rebuild and come back before the storm. you know, i wrote a book called invisible houston, the black experience in boom and bust, that this month is 30 years old. and there are so many invisible communities right now that are still trying to make themselves visible and heard so that government officials will listen to them. and to insure that their communities are able to bounce back, rebuild, and to enjoy some of the kinds of new birth that will come with houston coming back, and the other cities in texas coming back and louisiana coming back. this is real. this is not made up by some
random constantly socialologi - sociologist. >> how can you come to terms with those that deny climate change, and wanting the best of a bad situation, and others knowing so well that these factors don't contribute to it in the first place? >> what we have to do is work hard. we have to be determined that this is not a sprint. this is a marathon. the issues in houston and texas and louisiana impacted bizary hy will not be something that we will resolve next year or maybe in the next four years. so that we have to commit ourselves and get young people involved and make sure that people historically that have not been in the room when decisions are made we have to make sure that they're in the
room. so we are a very diverse city when it comes to our demographics. we have to make sure that we are diverse when it comes to policy and decision-making. that is how i think we can make what happens in houston work. and not -- have to look back and say what were the mistakes we made, and how we should learn from those mistakes? i think there is a great opportunity for us to do it right. >> not to make you political, but houston has an african-american mayor named sylvester turner, not that they didn't have an african-american mayor in new orleans, didn't have an african-american mayor when katrina hit them. since you talked so much about politics, can having the right people in the right positions make a difference in these issues? >> it makes a world of difference, having somebody out front, an individual that takes charge and takes leadership and
the communication information that is being sent out in terms of daily briefings, in some cases every two hours we're getting information. it makes a difference, when people are in the dark, they don't dmo whknow what is going think that having individuals that are in positions to take responsibility and to share the -- the responsibility of working with all kinds of organizations and groups and stakeholders and respecting the wishes and desires and priorities of communities. the community leaders and organization leaders have a great responsibility of -- insuring that this experiment that we're embarking on will work. so it doesn't need to be talked
down, and the people who definitely need to be in the room when they talk about where we need to rebuild and where we concentrate resources and those kinds of important decisions in terms of planning. >> dr. robert bullard of texas southern is known and respected by many of us in this country and around the world as the father of environmental justice. and we're honored to have him on the program from houston, all the best to you sir. you stay strong. >> thank you for having me. >> that is our show tonight from los angeles. and as always, keep the faith. ♪ ♪ ♪ for more information on today's show visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. >> hi, i'm tavis smily, join us next time, we'll see you then.
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