If, like us, you are struggling to keep your tomatoes alive amidst sweltering temps, the climate crisis is probably looming large on your mind.
The agricultural industry has been scrambling to protect crops, too—for instance, Washington state’s cherry orchards—from drying out and causing major economic losses. And while this is an undeniably tragic effect of the climate crisis, the most urgent reality is: people are dying.
In Oregon and Washington state alone, 180 deaths and counting have been attributed to the recent heat wave (it’s also had a devastating impact on wildlife). Other severe health impacts from the heat are also reported: from heatstroke to breathing difficulties caused by smoke emitted from wildfires to kidney issues that worsen pre-existing conditions like asthma and heart disease.
Those most at risk? Farmworkers and migrants. Humanitarian organizations on the US-Mexico border report dozens of heat-related migrant deaths in the past month—a tragedy likely to worsen “as the world grows hotter, as countries in the Global South become more unstable, and as more folks head north.”
For the largely-immigrant agricultural workforce, very few US states offer heat protections—and dangerous heat is increasing rapidly: June 2021 was the hottest June on record in the United States and farmworkers die of heat at roughly 20 times the national rate, according to the CDC. This has prompted farmworker advocates to redouble efforts to enact state and federal heat protection legislation to guarantee adequate shade, water, and rest breaks for workers.
As another dangerous heat dome is set to descend on parts of the United States, this should be a wake up call to listen to farmworker-led organizations and enact not only heat protection, but broad labor protections, increased wages, access to healthcare, and legal status for frontline food and farm workers (not to mention halting the fossil fuel expansion and industrial ag model causing climate chaos to begin with). Do those who bring food to our tables deserve anything less?
In community and solidarity,
Tanya, Tiffani, Christina, and Anna