HARC is a nonprofit research hub providing independent analysis on energy, air, water and climate issues to people seeking scientific answers. Its research activities support the implementation of policies and technologies that promote sustainability based on scientific principles. HARC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization building a sustainable future in which people thrive and nature flourishes.
More than at any time in the last 150 years, Texans have the tools, resources and opportunity to determine what kind of state we’ll become. Will we haphazardly ride the wave of population and economic growth? Or channel our growth to create a cleaner, healthier and more resilient and equitable future for everyone?
After nearly 40 years of working on environmental and equity issues in Texas, I’m confident we can create the latter. But we have a lot of work ahead of us to create a Texas where people, the economy and the environment can thrive for the next 100 years and beyond. Clean air. Clean and available water. Thriving ecosystems and economies. Responsible energy production. Equal opportunity for everyone.
Almost all economic and population growth in Texas since 2000 has occurred in or between our largest cities, and economists expect that trend to continue. That growth is being fueled by much more diversity than Texas has seen before: Over the next 20 years, the majority of people who will move here or be born here will be people of color.
Jobs are changing, too. Texas is still the energy capital of the world, but that increasingly means more software and hardware and less oil and gas. That makes creating and maintaining a strong K-12 and higher education system, a critical piece of Texas’ competitive advantage.
The changing climate poses direct threats to nearly every corner of Texas: more and stronger hurricanes on the coast, increased drought and heat, drastic flooding in central and east Texas. Subsidence and rising sea level put our coastal communities and economies at risk. And there will be more winter crises for everyone. Texas already leads the country in billion-dollar climate disasters, and that trend is not expected to slow down.
First, we must agree on a common vision for Texas that recognizes these things are connected and central to our long-term success. I’ve been working across the state for decades, and I know that however we describe our politics, we all value the basic tenets of sustainability: clean air and water, clean and reliable energy, preservation of our natural areas, equal opportunity — and a strong economy that values them, too. We must double down on this common ground and work together to ensure that it is hardwired into how our city, county and state leaders prepare for the future. We must find and stick to what unites us and resist the politics that divide us.
Second, we must focus on equitable solutions. All Texans will be affected by how the state moves forward. But we know that poor Texans and Texans of color are normally the first to suffer from bad decisions or inaction.
Third, we must look to science and data — and not to politics — for solutions that will make a sustainable Texas achievable. That’s where my organization plans to play a central role. Science has been at the core of HARC since we were founded nearly 40 years ago. We are driven by science, and we follow the science where it takes us. That allows us to sidestep the usual debates that surround so many policy discussions. We follow the data, we show our work and we focus on solutions.
Finally, we must leverage Texas’ advantages as communities around the world seek solutions to similar challenges. We have been the energy capital of the world for the last century and are uniquely qualified to define what energy leadership means for the next 100 years. We have world-class research universities in every corner of the state. We have one of the world’s largest and most dynamic economies, not to mention all the challenges that presents. In other words, we have the tools to solve these problems and the diversity to show the rest of the world that if we can do it here, anyone can do it anywhere.
Make no mistake, the challenges the nation and Texas face are complicated, multi-dimensional and daunting. Still, I’m optimistic. You can’t work on environmental issues in Texas this long if you’re not an optimist at heart.
My colleagues at HARC are optimists, too. They know there are answers to these pressing challenges because they’ve been developing science-based solutions for years. We look forward to sharing our work with everyone across Texas — and beyond — and to helping forge solutions that ensure a future where people thrive and nature can flourish. Let’s get to work, together, to create the strong, resilient and sustainable Texas we all deserve.