Galveston Bids for Darwin Award

Urban planning at its least foresightful:

Leaders of this fast-eroding barrier island — the scene of the deadliest hurricane in American history — are about to approve nearly 4,000 new homes and two midrise hotels despite geologists’ warnings that the massive development would sever a ridge that serves as the island’s natural storm shield.

Geology involves an awful lot of doomsaying – when you are accustomed to thinking in 10,000-year eyeblinks, rare disasters become ubiquitous threats. But I can understand how people might not be impressed when I tell them that Yellowstone is going to explode or a chunk of the Canary Islands is going to fall off and send a tsunami to New York – when I say “soon” I mean “in the next several thousand years” and really, who thinks that far ahead? Even if we do think that far ahead, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from a supervolcano? We can’t, really.

Hurricanes, though, happen several times per year and cause serious damage several times per decade, which is well within the 30-year timeframes used by planners and mortgage brokers. I expect people to be able to wrap their heads around that. And it’s not so hard to require that a ridge be left intact rather than turned into a decorative lake, or that new developments include a seawall. So the only excuse left is… utter stupidity? Or money and petty corruption?

[story via Shakesville and LJ geology]


  1. gengar wrote:

    Hah. Of course, everyone on my fair isle is currently learning the hard way that flood plains were not named whimsically. Not that it’s going to stop them building all over them in the future, it seems….

  2. yami wrote:

    Of course not! Why, that would just be letting the floods win.

    My hometown put a bunch of new stuff on the flood plain right after an exceptionally wet year. “500 year flood means it won’t be this bad for another 495 years, right?”

  3. Sabine wrote:

    The same kind of stupidity is happening here on Mustang Island with the recent opening of Packery Channel.

    Not that I am Christian or anything, but even the bible says not to build your house on sand. :) (My home is on sand, but at least I’m behind the barrier island and at a high enough elevation to only get flooded out by a cat 3+)

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