Urban Ecology in the Time of Climate Change: Houston, Flooding, and the Case of Federal Buyouts
Loughran, Kevin; Elliott, James R.; Kennedy, S. Wright
This study proposes a shift in sociology’s approach to urban ecology. Rather than foreground the social ecologies that captivated the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools, we join and extend more recent efforts to engage environmental ecologies that successively intersect with those social ecologies over time. To ground our approach, we focus on areas of urban flooding where federally subsidized buyouts of residential properties have occurred over recent decades. Drawing on data from Houston, Texas, we locate where these buyout zones have emerged and how their social ecologies have changed in ways that feed back to influence the number of local buyouts that occur. Results indicate that Houston’s buyout zones have an identifiable social ecology that has shifted over time, primarily from white to Hispanic working-class settlement as the city has grown and become more racially and ethnically diverse. Results also show that the extent to which this racial succession has occurred powerfully predicts subsequent numbers of buyouts in the area. Implications for developing an enhanced urban ecology for the twenty-first century are discussed.
community and urban sociology; environment and technology; racial and ethnic minorities