Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
It’s pretty ironic that among Donald Trump’s first policies in his agenda was a crackdown on immigrant communities, followed by the dismantling of climate and environmental protections. By rolling back the little progress the U.S has made on climate change, as well as slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and lifting a moratorium on federal coal leases, Trump’s administration is sending a global message: the U.S (a country that considers itself a leader) will not meet any commitment to bring down greenhouse gas emissions or invest in clean energy jobs. Meanwhile, the world is warming at an alarming rate, with each year hotter than the last. And while the planet warms and more climate-related disasters take place — droughts get longer, rain patterns shift, land becomes infertile, food and water become scarce, and sea levels rise — more and more people are migrating due to climate change impacts. These are often the world’s poorest people, from regions that have done the least to contribute to the severity of the climate crisis.
By disregarding the necessity for bold action on climate change, the Trump administration and climate deniers everywhere (the United States, China, India, and Russia have the highest emission rates) are ensuring that communities across the globe continue to be displaced and have no choice but to migrate for their own survival.
While Trump and many in his administration throw brown and black immigrants under the bus using hateful and racist isolationist tactics, calling for “Muslim Bans” and empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport millions with little to no due process, his administration’s short-sighted and deliberate decisions to invest in the fossil fuel industry means that he is effectively aiding the process of creating more migrants.
It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 200 million people displaced by climate change-related impacts. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. Climate change causes migration, and people migrate to flee the impacts of climate change on their homelands.
Make no mistake: people should have the right to migrate no matter what. However, the majority of migration happens because people need access to a better life. If there is no way for them to live in their homelands ravaged by climate-change and other socio-economic impacts, they are left with no choice but to move.
We see this all over the world. In the United States, people in the Gulf are already being internally displaced due to rising sea levels. Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, home to the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, has lost 98% of its land and most of its population to coastal erosion and rising sea levels since 1955. The population of the island is now down to less than 85 residents from the previous hundreds. In January 2016, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded The Isle de Jean Charles Resettlement Project, the first allocation of federal dollars to move 400 tribe members struggling with the impacts of climate change to inland locations. (This year, the Trump Administration is proposing to slash the HUD budgetby 6 billion).
In Mexico, farmers have been dealing with severe drought for decades, leading to a loss of agricultural productivity. The outcome? More rural Mexicans are migrating to the United States for better futures. One study found climate change-driven changes to agricultural livelihoods have impacted the rate of emigration to the United States, estimating that by 2080, climate change-induced migration from Mexico could be up to $6.7 million. Another study argues that undocumented migration to the U.S from rural Mexico very much has to do with climate change and the declining livelihoods of farmers facing droughts and lack of rainfall.
And while many factors have led to the conflict in Syria, some argue that severe drought that started in 2006, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger the civil war. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Pentagon, that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying conflict and war. The United Nations estimates that there are over five million Syrian refugees now. Within his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump made two attempts to ban refugee resettlement to the U.S from Syria as part of his “Muslim Ban.”
The climate crisis has been decades in the making, but it’s worsening each day that politicians and their fossil fuel ilk sow doubt about its existence. Meanwhile, many Western nations are seeing a rise in xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment at the same time as displacement of people hits a record high. The road ahead requires that we collectively do what’s right – we must stand up for the rights of migrants everywhere who deserve dignity and respect as they seek better lives for themselves and their families, as we build bold and just solutions to the climate crisis.
That’s why these major actions in the upcoming days are so important. On April 29th, I’ll join tens of thousands in the Peoples Climate March in Washington D.C. There are over 314 sister marches across the United States and around the world. On the 100th day under the Trump administration, we will surround the White House and put forward our vision to build bold solutions for climate, jobs, and justice. Together with a broad spectrum of communities including indigenous peoples, workers, immigrants, and communities of all backgrounds, we understand that mitigating the climate crisis is a matter of social, economic, racial, gender, and immigrant justice.
Then on May 1st, workers and immigrants everywhere will participate in the annual International Workers Day. In light of the assaults on immigrant communities in the United States, this May Day is of particular importance. (Here are just some of the events taking place.) We will harness the energy of the climate march back into our communities to build local solutions and to stand in solidarity with immigrants. We will resoundingly say, “No Ban, No Wall, No Raids,” and push back against a white supremacist and anti-immigrant agenda that aims to divide people, disrespecting the very workers that help uplift America.
There is hope. We’ve seen people fearlessly stand up for justice and it’s imperative that we keep up the momentum. Communities around the world are advocating for more clean energy solutions such as solar paneling and wind power, as well expanding green jobs. We saw the power of inspirational indigenous-led movements like #NoDAPL that called on thousands to push back against destructive pipeline projects. And thousands rose to the occasion to protect and defend immigrants impacted by Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, as well as to continue to push back against unjust deportations through creating sanctuary spaces.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.