Too often climate change is seen as a nebulous intellectual theory that may or may not bring some sort of apocalyptic doom in a far-fetched future that never seems to come. The fact is that climate change is having a real impact right now. We are seeing it at our border.
This is worth reflecting on because today, June 30th, has been declared a National Day of Action Against Family Separation by a movement called Family’s Belong Together. The event was called to criticize Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance policy” which led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents.
What does climate change have to do with this? According to Lauren Markham writing in the New York Times, rising temperatures are making it harder for Guatemalan farmer’s to make ends meet. This exacerbates already dangerous conditions in the country and can make the highly risky and undignified journey north seem more attractive.
In fact 22.5 million people have been displaced by climate and weather related causes, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center and the UN. As climate change continues to accelerate, we may see more and more immigrants seeking asylum.
It would do well for the leader of the free world who has said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” to consider that it is perfectly natural for the hungry and desperate to move toward food. And given that the USA is a major polluter on the world stage, we should do more minimize our impact to these people’s plight before we demonize them and rip their children away.
Trump’s immigration policies have led to international outcry and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights rebuked the policy saying, “The American Association of Pediatrics has called this cruel practice “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm,” with “lifelong consequences.” Trump currently seeks to continue a zero-tolerance policy and detain families together.
This is not to say climate change is the only cause of our current immigration crisis, but it is a cause that can’t be ignored. Climate change deniers seek to make so much noise that no decisive action will be taken. Time has officially run out. We needed to get serious about this issue a long time ago. To many people have already paid for our failure to act.
I highly recommend Lauren Markham’s article. In addition to conditions in Guatemala, she discusses other examples from El Salvador and around the world.