The epic disaster in Houston provides important lessons for America’s future.

It was a disaster brought on by rampant, unregulated, sprawling development that ignored the carrying capacity of its landscape setting. The city’s lack of intelligent development and zoning regulations enabled developers to build whatever they wanted.

Over the years, developers encroached into prairies and wetlands that once served as natural sponges. Growth (sprawl) surged over a flat coastal plain with its web of slow-moving bayous and clay soils that resisted easily absorbing water.

Green space that could absorb much of the water from big storms was paved over and made impervious with roads, parking lots, roofs and malls. As a result, when Harvey hit, the city found itself virtually underwater.

In Wisconsin we should heed these lessons. When we weaken environmental regulations for shoreline and wetland development, groundwater pollution, and siting large-scale, environmentally destroying developments such as at Foxconn, the quality of our future environment is in for deep trouble.

One thing is clear, we can defy nature for just so long. As we should learn from Houston, in the end it will push back with unimaginable catastrophic force.

William H. Tishler, Fitchburg, emeritus professor of landscape architecture

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