Climate Change Driving Mass Migration

[Content Note: Climate change; food insecurity; animal harm.]

Two things I just read back-to-back add important context to our understanding of the migrant caravans heading from South and Central America toward the United States.

1. Damian Carrington at the Guardian: Humanity Has Wiped Out 60% of Animal Populations Since 1970, Report Finds. This is an absolutely devastating article, and I encourage you to read the whole thing in its entirety, but this is the passage I want to highlight for its relevance to mass migration: "The worst affected region is South and Central America, which has seen an 89% drop in vertebrate populations, largely driven by the felling of vast areas of wildlife-rich forest."

South and Central America are suffering the worst fate in a tremendously precarious situation for the whole of humanity. Said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF: "We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff. ...This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is. This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a 'nice to have' — it is our life-support system."

2. Oliver Milman, Emily Holden, and David Agren at the Guardian: The Unseen Driver Behind the Migrant Caravan: Climate Change. Although the violence in migrants' home countries is a significant reason they are forced to leave their homes, the failure of crops due to climate change is causing massive problems, too — because it's causing both widespread unemployment in agricultural economies and leaving lots of people without adequate food resources.
"The focus on violence is eclipsing the big picture — which is that people are saying they are moving because of some version of food insecurity," said Robert Albro, a researcher at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University.

"The main reason people are moving is because they don't have anything to eat. This has a strong link to climate change — we are seeing tremendous climate instability that is radically changing food security in the region."

...An indigenous Ch'orti' Maya, Jesús Canan abandoned his lands this year after repeated crop failures — which he attributed to drought and changing weather patterns.

"It didn't rain this year. Last year it didn't rain," he said softly. "My maize field didn't produce a thing. With my expenses, everything we invested, we didn't have any earnings. There was no harvest."

Desperate and dreaming of the United States, Canan hit the road in early October and joined the migrant caravan. He left behind a wife and three children — ages 16, 14, and 11 — who were forced to abandon school because Canan couldn't afford to pay for their supplies.

"It wasn't the same before. This is forcing us to emigrate," he said. "In past years, it rained on time. My plants produced, but there's no longer any pattern [to the weather]."
Canan is hardly alone: "A third of all employment in Central America is linked to agriculture, so any disruption to farming practices can have devastating consequences."

We are destroying the planet. And the people who are suffering the worst effects of that human-made harm are struggling to feed themselves as a result.

And in the land of plenty, the president who refuses to address climate change is sending military to the border, to tell starving people there is neither help nor hope for them here.

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