In the wake of endless corporate media reports on whether or not climate change is real and how many polar ice caps are melting, a 48-page classified report created by Homeland Security was released last year at a special house subcommittee hearing chaired by Representative Anna Eschu on the "security impact of global climate change."
This briefing confirmed what many of us poor people already suspected: climate change is likely to result in the ratcheting up of a police state to “control” us, the crowded masses, as we riot for food, water, and land.
It’s no mystery, what will happen to our poor in a future crisis. Look at what’s already happened to low-income communities in the past. From Haiti to New Orleans—in extreme cold, we have frozen to death; in extreme heat and drought, we’ve died of thirst, hunger, and exposure—with no more crops, livestock, or land.
A forecast of the what’s to come can be seen in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous jail for immigrants. “Poor people have been dying of thirst with no access to water or air conditioning in the heat,” reports Michael Woodard, poverty scholar and Poor News Network correspondent.
In essence, that’s the risk that climate change poses. Poor people can’t just move to higher ground, purchase imported foods, or upgrade their roofing, windows, and foundation to keep from being displaced by the next hurricane.
“We are forced to live in poor neighborhoods near poisonous industries that already are killing us. If you add increased heat and decrease of land to the sick soup—we wont last long in a global warming reality,” says Ingrid De Leon, with Voces de Immigrantes en Resistencia.
The surprising thing is, we already know a lot about how to reorganize our economies for moving from “surviving” to “thriving.” Indigenous and poor people have long known that sharing resources with each other, practicing interdependence, and building real community are the best route to independence.
POOR is an indigenous and poor people-led organization of revolutionary poets, art-makers, multimedia producers, educators, and poverty scholars (as we call ourselves) who see the urgent need to be producing and educating so we can stop being talked about, researched, reported on, criminalized, and legislated against.
We have launched an equity campaign for a project we call “homefulness,” a sweat-equity cohousing model for landless families, which includes a community garden for localizing and producing our own healthy food, and several micro-business projects to build sustainable economic support for all of us. So far we have established a social justice and arts café, a family-friendly project-based school, and a community media teaching and production center.
My mother, Mama Dee as she was called, died from complications of her smog-related asthma and heart condition. As I was growing up she and I talked constantly about how to get away from the poisonous environments where we were forced to live—near power plants, freeways, and factories. In the end, Mama Dee succumbed to the illnesses our poverty caused. But her spirit of resistance lives on in our community and in the mobilizations to work for climate justice across the planet.
Lisa Gray-Garcia a.k.a. Tiny is a de-colonized Taina poverty scholar, the single mother of her son Tiburcio, the daughter of Dee, and coeditor of POOR Magazine.