Migrants share lessons with the United States to improve climate resilience
“Part of what we have done at MEI is to educate the community, especially young people, about climate change. This is already impacting our country, our islands,” Maddison said.
Such lessons are being taught across the country – including in Buffalo, New York, where Asian and African immigrants have brought vertical farming techniques that can better withstand high levels of heat and other climate-related impacts. climate.
“It’s really our immigrants and refugees who are able to grow an incredible amount of food in a 10×10 plot,” said Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of PUSH Buffalo, a social justice advocacy group.
“They’re able to harvest three to four times a season and do it using a lot of repurposed materials – it’s a sight to behold,” said Ghirmatzion, who was born in Eritrea in 1976 and whose family fled during the war. civil.
While many cite political instability as a reason for leaving their home countries, Ghirmatzion said climatic stresses like heat waves and drought — and the ripple effects on food supplies and civil strife — are another major factor.
Further south along the U.S. Gulf Coast, the nonprofit Resilience Force has an immigrant-led workforce that responds to extreme weather and disasters by rebuilding homes for people displaced inside the country by hurricanes or floods.
Many of its workers are migrants from Honduras who fled after the impacts of climate change such as worsening hurricanes and drought also hurt the local economy, said the group’s founder, Saket Soni, a native of New Delhi.
He said their efforts had even succeeded in changing the attitudes of skeptical residents toward immigrants in the American South.
This has led to “unlikely” connections between Honduran migrants and people who may have never spoken to an immigrant before, or viewed them as a threat or “undesirable in the community”, Soni added.
These organizations operate amid growing pressures exacerbating climate-related displacement that will only worsen in the future as global temperatures rise.
More than a billion people worldwide are at risk of being uprooted by 2050 due to natural disasters, which could fuel more migration to developed countries such as the United States, according to a 2020 report by the Institute for Economics & Peace.
The Climate Justice Collaborative, an initiative of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), is among the groups ensuring that immigrant voices are at the forefront of preparations to mitigate this kind of upheaval.
Member organizations work to ensure, for example, that early warning systems are disseminated in multiple languages and that there is a “just transition” for immigrant workers in the fossil fuel industry, Stephanie said. NPNA Theater.
“We have seen what is possible when governments and communities see migration as a solution and we can do extraordinary things to welcome people,” she said, referring to goodwill towards people. fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“THEY ARE THE VISIONARIES”
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, California activists are urging governments to increase funding for so-called “resilience centers,” which could help prepare localities for climate-related impacts through immigrant-led initiatives. .
The approach strengthens respected local organizations, such as a church or community center, to help neighborhoods prepare for, respond to and cope with crises – hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest. to put back.
The state recently allocated at least $100 million to resilience centers, with strong input from immigrants from Asia and climate justice groups like the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).
This funding could support the development of 10 to 20 projects across the state to provide, for example, new solar panels and battery storage or emergency response services, developers say.
It’s vital for immigrant and refugee communities “to feel that these places are safe places…that they are the visionaries for designing what these facilities look like,” said Amee Raval, director of policies and research at APEN.
“And that it is for them.”
In Arkansas, Marshallese immigrants have settled for decades due to a variety of factors, including climate change, but gaps still exist in terms of health equity, housing options and warning systems. emergency during weather-related disasters.
For his part, Maddison plans to eventually return to the Marshall Islands – after finishing school – to pursue a political career in a place where he thinks officials are less likely to look away from climate change preparedness.
In the meantime, he intends to continue to raise awareness of the issues that affect his community in Arkansas – whether on a “local or national – even international” level.
“Because these problems happen to us,” he added.