Race, Poverty & the Environment
Racial and Gender Justice
In Syria, where more than 1.2 million Iraqi refugeesnow live as a result of the United States occupation of Iraq, the women and girls who bear the brunt of sup-porting their families are forced to turn to prostitutionto make a living.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the largestclimate-spawned disaster to hit the United States,180,000 people in Louisiana lost their livelihood. Of these, 103,000 were women. Health, education, andhospitality, all women-dominated industries, were hithardest. Also, households headed by low-income singlemothers in New Orleans has dropped from 18,000 in2005 to 3,000, indicating a significant displacement of these women and their children.
Every time war and climate change erode the livesand rights of women, they further damage the fabric of our families, our culture, and our societies.
No Conclusion without Inclusion of Gender Justice
To effectively end the compounded impacts of climate change and militarism on women domestically and globally, it is imperative that we view the issuethrough a gender and racial justice lens and look to women’s everyday lives for inspiration.“Justice has a history [of] recognizing that womenbring their forces to the table, and they bring their ownsolutions,” noted Michael Dorsey, assistant professor inDartmouth College’s Faculty of Science, at the UnitedNations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) in Poland last year. “…justice isn’t techni-cal, justice is not in the realm of experts only, it’s in therealm of everyday activities of women on the ground.”
Another delegate to the UNFCCC, climate changeactivist Rose Mary Enie, who represented Ghana andCameroon, pointed out that in Africa today, three
Lisa Gray Garcia, a.k.a. Tiny
In the wake of endless corporatemedia reports on whether or not climatechange is real and how many polar icecaps are melting, a 48-page classifiedreport created by Homeland Security wasreleased last year at a special house sub-committee hearing chaired by Representa-tive Anna Eschu on the "security impactof global climate change."This briefing confirmed what many of us poor people already suspected: climatechange is likely to result in the ratchetingup of a police state to “control” us, thecrowded masses, as we riot for food,water, and land.It’s no mystery, what will happen toour poor in a future crisis. Look at what’salready happened to low-income commu-nities in the past. From Haiti to NewOrleans—in extreme cold, we havefrozen to death; in extreme heat anddrought, we’ve died of thirst, hunger, andexposure—with no more crops, livestock,or land.A forecast of the what’s to come canbe seen in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous jail for immigrants. “Poor people havebeen dying of thirst with no access towater or air conditioning in the heat,”reports Michael Woodard, poverty scholarand Poor News Network correspondent.In essence, that’s the risk that climatechange poses. Poor people can’t just moveto higher ground, purchase importedfoods, or upgrade their roofing, windows,and foundation to keep from being dis-placed by the next hurricane.“We are forced to live in poor neigh-borhoods near poisonous industries thatalready are killing us. If you add increasedheat and decrease of land to the sicksoup—we wont last long in a globalwarming reality,” says Ingrid De Leon,with
Voces de Immigrantes en Resistencia
.The surprising thing is, we alreadyknow a lot about how to reorganize oureconomies for moving from “surviving” to“thriving.” Indigenous and poor peoplehave long known that sharing resourceswith each other, practicing interdepend-ence, and building real community are thebest 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 producingand educating so we can stop being talkedabout, researched, reported on, criminal-ized, and legislated against.We have launched an equity campaignfor a project we call “homefulness,” asweat-equity cohousing model for landlessfamilies, which includes a communitygarden for localizing and producing our ownhealthy food, and several micro-businessprojects to build sustainable economicsupport for all of us. So far we have estab-lished a social justice and arts café, a family-friendly project-based school, and a commu-nity media teaching and production center.My mother, Mama Dee as she wascalled, died from complications of hersmog-related asthma and heart condition.As I was growing up she and I talked con-stantly about how to get away from thepoisonous environments where we wereforced to live—near power plants, free-ways, and factories. In the end, Mama Deesuccumbed to the illnesses our povertycaused. But her spirit of resistance lives onin our community and in the mobilizationsto work for climate justice across theplanet.
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
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