Millions of humans and many oil refineries were threatened by Rita, just one of many hurricanes that have popped up still early in this hurricane season. Houston avoided the damages we feared -- not because of anything we did, but just for sheer luck of the hurricane's trajectory. Although the roads cleared up Friday, it was not because of a successful evacuation, it was simply because people chilled out when the storm started slowing down and going East. If it had stayed on its earlier trajectory and strength, thousands more would have panicked attempting to get away from the coast, and been trapped in their cars during the storm.

The Mayor continually told people not to go to shelters, and at the same time advocated mutual aid, telling us to help each other. Shelters were not places in our neighborhoods; they were miles away down crowded highways. Lacking community based solutions, Houstonians either tried to evacuate, risking running out of gas twenty miles from their homes, or stayed at a home sitting on the couch, waiting for the television to tell them their fate.

A few newscasters brought up global warming's role, but every time it was written off with a phrase such as "but that's a political question," or "some say it's the cause, others say it isn't." Confronted by an increasing threat, which "some say" is caused by global warming, which in turn "some say" is caused by using too much oil, we expect oil to power our escapes from the coast. But, the number of Houstonians secure in their privileged escape routes was too great for the evacuation capacity. As with the idea that an entire planet of people living gringo lifestyles would collapse, our privilege became mutually exclusive, and we were stuck -- not moving in the fumes of each other's engines, stranded on the sides of the roads, catching fire, and returning home after giving up. Bicyclists could have moved faster.

People living downtown had to make decisions based on crummy information about what they were really up against, and insufficient neighborhood options. Houston is not evacuable in less than a week; it doesn't matter if a nuclear bomb is coming. The alternative, for hurricanes, is for communities to have use of their strongest buildings. During the cold war, Americans were taught to know local fallout shelter, but during the hurricane many of us didn't have access to safer places nearby. The newscasters and the politicians kept repeating that human life is more important than property, but no policy was ever even discussed about Houston schools opening their doors to protect the people who pay for them. By the time we knew exactly what the storm strength and trajectory was, if Houstonians had needed use of our strongest buildings to protect our bodies, it would have been too late. The contingency plan didn't exist. The shopping centers that have replaced our communities don't provide shelter from storms.

As we squeezed back into the space of Houston, hoping again not to run out of gas, we resumed our lifestyles as if oil dependency has been vindicated by the fact that this particular hurricane turned right and slowed down. Not only were human lives saved, but our delicate petroleum corridor along the Gulf survived too. The reckoning that some of us imagined was perhaps finally upon us "wow, we really can't use more and more oil forever without destroying ourselves," was put off again. Cheney's greedy corrupt network will get their short-term non-solution of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and we will get more hurricanes. The corporations profiting off our destruction have consolidated their influence, but we remain isolated, enabling them with our addictions to their oil.