Let’s be real – ‘ta caliente. As Latinxs we’re used to bringing the heat. Whether it be in our food, our music, or our passion, we’ve been accustomed to spicy lifestyles and even warmer climates for centuries. Still, nothing could have prepared Texas for the record breaking heat waves this summer…well, aside from our state and nation leaders taking climate change seriously and investing in stronger state infrastructure…nothing else could’ve prepared us. So, how did we get here?
How Did Texas End Up Here?
Drastic temperatures, both hot and cold, wet and dry, have been on the cusp of extremity for years in the making. While the fluctuation of temperatures is nothing new, the climate change caused both directly and indirectly by humans has expedited the effects of it on the world. We see it making its debut this summer in the form of abnormal weather-related phenomena. Think: deadly winter storms, 3-digit heat waves, and tropical-level humidity and flooding.
This comes as a result of decades of neglect, denial, and inaction from federal and state leaders to acknowledge the reality of our rapidly-changing climate.
¡Qué vergüenza Texas Leaders!
And, surprise-surprise, Texas is no exception to this behavior. Texas leaders like Governor Greg Abbott are notorious for denying the existence of climate change. But now they are making the issue worse by continuing to invest in and promote our fossil fuel-dependent economy and by refusing to support legislation that could curb the consequences of climate change.
During winter 2021, for instance, in the midst of extreme winter storms Gov. Abbott and other Republicans attempted to blame Texas’ power failures on green energy. This, despite the fact that the state runs on fossil fuels. That winter, at least 246 people in Texas died from winter storm-related deaths.
To make matters worse, in August 2022 Senators Cornyn and Cruz voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, a major climate and health care bill with “key focuses on climate change, tax reform and healthcare”.
Fast forward to today and not much has changed. Texans have been battling extreme temperatures that are continuing to rise and break records with no end in sight. You’d think that Texas leaders would be quick to make right on their past shortcomings. Unfortunately, Gov. Abbott and his allies continue to make living in harsh conditions even harder. Just last month, Abbott approved a policy that would nullify mandatory water breaks for construction workers. Yes, you read that right… and it was done in the middle of record-high heat waves. And as you may have guessed, this legislature and lack of action isn’t affecting all Texans the same.
Who’s Affected the Most?
The climate crisis is a prime example of how the different struggles and issues we face are connected. We want to be clear: the climate crisis is a Black rights issue. It is a Latinx rights issue. It’s an Indigenous rights issue. It’s an issue for the disabled, elderly, houseless, and more.
Latinxs, for instance, are especially affected by these issues as we make up 6 out of every 10 construction workers. And the consequences of the heat wave and Abbott’s recent bill are proving to be deadly. In Houston, a 46 year-old man, Felipe Pascual, died from hypothermia on June 16th after collapsing at his construction site. Then, in less than 3 weeks, 10 people have died in Laredo, TX due to heat-related illnesses, most who were Latinx and elderly. And in another case, a Black Texas postal worker died from the heat last month while on the job. These are just a few of the many fatal cases we’ve seen this summer amid BIPOC Texans.
Where Does This End?
In the face of all of this entirely preventable suffering and death it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, the fight against climate change is not a solo journey. Climate justice isn’t about individual actions. It’s about coming together as a community and advocating for radical change.
So, what can we do to make a difference and slow the speed of climate change? Here are a few steps from the perspective of a fellow Tejana organizer.
First and foremost, applying pressure on our local and federal governments to take ambitious climate action is something we can do right now, today. (You can start by signing our petition to Abbott to reverse harmful policies!) We can do this by voting for leaders who acknowledge the reality of climate change and who support the legislature to combat it. Community members can also turn up the pressure by organizing or participating in protests. We can mobilize our communities to hold our government officials accountable – and be loud as hell about it until our demands are met.
Second, engaging in consistent and informed climate conversations is vital. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about climate change and its impacts on your everyday life. Sharing knowledge and raising awareness to people you know is powerful and effective. It empowers others to share their story and take action too.
Third is uplifting the voices of marginalized peoples, like Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities and organizations who have been on the frontlines of climate justice. This can also look like learning more about reparations, landback, and environmental justice, and supporting policies around these efforts.
Remember, change begins with us, whether you’re right here in Texas or across the country feeling many of the same impacts of heat waves and climate change. We won’t stand by as leaders like Governor Abbott continue to prioritize profit over human lives.
That’s exactly why Mijente has been throwing down in Texas over the past couple years, through sin, contra, y desde el estado efforts. And you can take action right now by signing our petition to Abbott demanding he take action to address climate change for a cooler Texas!
Siguemos en la lucha, and we hope you’ll stand with us.
Post written by Portia Lopez, Digital Organizer con Mijente.