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Migrant Justice and Climate Justice Are Inextricably Tied

The climate crisis, fueled by capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, is making many parts of the world inhospitable. Because of this crisis, the climate-fueled movement of people is already well underway.

Climate disaster is fueling more-frequent droughts, flash foods, and food shortages; causing dwindling water supplies; and impacting land that people rely upon. Migration is happening where homelands become inhabitable, often for those with the least amount of resources to adapt to climate change.

In 2018, the fourth-hottest year on record, we saw increases in record-setting wildfires in North America, devastating hurricanes, flash floods in India, a typhoon in the Philippines, and deadly wildfires in Greece and Sweden. And the Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record, with a five-year heat streak, warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world.

A UNHCR report revealed that, by the end of 2016, there were 65.6 million displaced people who had fled their homelands because of violence, human rights violations, and environmental disasters that are intensified by the climate crisis. Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people have been displaced from their homes by extreme weather disasters every year.

“From African migrants choosing to cross by boat from North Africa to Europe to Pacific Islanders losing their homes due to rising sea levels and Central American migrants fleeing their home countries in search of refuge, people around the world are being driven from their homes by droughts, storms, and the political strife and conflict that follow these climate disasters,” 350.org stated in a December press release.

Fighting climate change is about more than emissions and metrics — it’s about fighting for a just world for everyone. Teen Vogue spoke with five climate-justice advocates whose work focuses on the vital intersection of migrant rights and climate action.

4 Activists Explain Why Migrant Justice Is Climate JusticeMichael Yc

Maya Menezes, an organizer for No One Is Illegal and podcast host of Change Everything:

We are past the point of stopping some of the largest impacts of climate change. One of the biggest battles will be over the closing of borders, the decisions of who is deserving of basic humanity and who isn’t.

Under capitalism, goods can go across borders but human beings cannot. It’s not a weird coincidence, it's a violent political strategy to bar people and privilege some over others. We need to envision a borderless world. Imagining a borderless world is one of the ultimate acts of decolonization because colonialism told us arbitrability there are lines here for you to cross, it is connected to capitalism, exploitation and racism, so challenging capitalism and colonization fundamentally challenges borders. If we are trying to challenge capitalistic structures that are destroying this planet, that means challenging the structures that are continuing to dehumanize human beings and designating people as legal bodies. No one is illegal on stolen lands. If we reject colonization and put ourselves in solidarity with indigenous sovereignty, then we reject that someone can be illegal and discarded.

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