Houston: Economic & Environmental Issues for the Future


September 26, 2017

houstonnightJim Blackburn, Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University, is offering a unique course about the future of our city in the wake of recent events and issues. Blackburn’s course, “Full World: Houston’s Economic And Ecologic Future” explores where where we are heading as a local and global community, from the perspective of economics, ecology, eco-play, eco-spirituality; and, the implications that these changes will have on business, on city and regional form, and on each of us. We visited with him to find out more.

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your upcoming class?

Blackburn: This class is about understanding and addressing the challenges of a world that is now full of humans and human impacts, a world that is changed from the world we grew up in, a world that is moving from “empty world” thinking  to “full world” thinking.  This class is about “full world” thinking and action.

It is about the future of Houston, the United States, and the world, and the challenges and adaptations necessary to succeed in the future.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions do we have about Houston?

Blackburn: Perhaps the biggest mistaken impression about Houston and the Texas coast is that contrary to popular belief, it is an ecological wonderland – a place with biological diversity and tremendous outdoor recreation potential for kayaking and birding specifically.

WIH Reporter: What else might surprise us to know about Houston and Houstonians?

Blackburn: Another mistaken impression is that good Houstonians do not talk about climate change when in fact, good Houstonians are necessary to help the oil and gas industry into understanding, discussing and addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

WIH Reporter: Speaking of climate issues, how will Hurricane Harvey, in your estimation, affect the future of this city?

Blackburn: The economic future of the city of Houston is dependent upon our response to these floods.  We are at a crossroads and inaction or business as usual will be the beginning of the end of Houston as an economic powerhouse.

WIH Reporter: Can you elaborate on what we can do to keep Houston viable as an economic and environmental leader in the future?

Blackburn: The “full world” that I refer to is a world where the climate is changing, and Harvey was a climate-change storm.  We as a society do not know how to address these changing storms.  We also do not know how to address the cause of climate change.  The course will have specific lectures about the transition to the full world, hurricanes and flooding in Houston, climate change and addressing climate change.  I will likely devote a portion of at least one class to the 15 points concerning Hurricane Harvey and Houston that were first published by the  Baker Institute at Rice.

Professor Jim Blackburn’s class begins on October 17th at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.