Who’s Feeling the Burn of Climate Change?

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For the past seven months global temperature records have indicated that 2016 will be the hottest year and for me, climate change doesn’t get any realer than coming home to find out my relatives are getting sent home early and losing work hours due to extreme temperatures. Many farmworkers have lost their lives due to the lack of protective policies but countless others are losing wages making it hard for many to make ends meet. Warmer weather isn’t only making it harder for America’s farmers to keep food in the grocery aisles, it’s making it even more difficult for farmworkers to keep food on their own tables.

The Guardian: “Global land and sea temperature was 1.11C warmer in April 2016 than the average temperature for April during the period 1951–1980.” Photograph: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Living in the fertile and rural valley of Southern Oregon with a mother who knows the location of just about every you-pick and wild tree kept us from ever going to bed hungry. I’m also lucky to say that my mother never hesitated to pull over on the side of the road or to pick wild berries or ask neighbors permission to pick the fruit from their trees. Sadly, other rural farmworker communities aren’t so fortunate. In Yolo county for example, food insecurity is close to three times the national average. How does this happen? How is it that the communities who devote their lives to putting food on the countries table don’t have the assurance that food will make it to their own tables?

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As children we are taught to never bite the hand that feeds you, but our delegates are showing and doing otherwise. Recently, a bill that was introduced to give california farmworkers overtime pay was shut down by the state assembly, continuing the legacy of historically keeping farmworkers out of the protection laws that apply to all other workers. So I ask myself, when very little is being done to protect our country’s most vulnerable and exploited workers, how bad do things have to get before these issues start getting the attention they deserve?

The truth is, I have more questions than I have answers but I know one thing is for sure.

Farmworkers are most certainly feeling the burn more than others and in this climate struggle, fossil fuels aren’t the only thing we need to break free from. Pushing our world leaders to move towards renewable energy is important but we must also push to break free from the capitalist and imperialist epistemology that caused this climate and energy crisis in the first place. We must address the human rights violations that frontline communities experience daily with the same urgency that we are addressing the need for climate action. Let’s be real- although climate change struggle belongs to all of us, it disproportionately impacts some more than others and by failing to bring the needs of those most affected into the conversation this movement will be but another failed attempt at justice.

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