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Our First Climate Refugees

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There are a lot of reasons why people are migrating from Central America to the United States, despite our fascist president seeking to demonize them. Most of them have a lot to do with U.S. policy–NAFTA and CAFTA, guns flowing south and drugs flowing north, etc. Of course, the U.S. takes no responsibility for any of this. Adding to all these problems is that of climate change, already heavily impacting the coffee farmers and, when added to everything else in their countries, giving that final shove to the rural poor of Central America to try their hand in the U.S.

Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force — about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank — the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.

Last year, the bank reported that climate change could lead at least 1.4 million people to flee their homes in Mexico and Central America and migrate during the next three decades.

The United States has allocated tens of millions of dollars in aid in recent years for farmers across Central America, including efforts to help them adapt to the changing climate.

But President Trump has vowed to cut off all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of what he calls their failure to curb the flow of migrants north.

Critics contend the punishment is misguided, though, because it could undermine efforts to address the very problems that are driving people to abandon their farms and head to the United States.

“If Donald Trump withdraws all the funds for Honduras, it’s going to generate more unemployment, and that’s going to generate more migration,” said María Esperanza López, the general manager of Copranil, a coffee-growers cooperative here in western Honduras. “And that’s going to result in more abandoned farms.”

Given the racism of Americans, I am not confident that even if we again don’t have a fascist in the Oval Office that we will respond to climate refugees with any shred of humanity. But having that fascist there is definitely not going to help.

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