Extractivism imposed by Western nations has disproportionately targeted poor communities of colour through displacement, pollution and environmental destruction: from poisoned water in Flint, Michigan to oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, the emissions from these Western nations contribute most to the climate crisis.
Thus, Canada and other wealthy Western nations must take responsibility for the environmental devastation plaguing communities in the Global South. More frequent droughts, flooding, unpredictable rainfall and subsequent crop failure are compounded by the poverty characterizing communities targeted by extractive industry, exacerbating already existent inequality, violent crime and conflict. These are the forces displacing people around the globe, from Central America to B.C. to Bangladesh. Responding to climate change means tackling emissions and restricting extractivism to prevent further destruction, while also welcoming the millions pushed from their homes through climate-induced violence.
“Welcoming” through a migrant justice framework means confronting the logics of racism and xenophobia that allow corporations, commodities and the rich to move across borders while seeking to deny the same right to the poor. This is also anti-racist work, as the majority of immigrants and refugees in the USA are people of colour. Commitment to this work includes abolishing ICE, stopping deportations, extending protections and decent wages to all workers regardless of status, and advocating for institutions that support and enrich our communities. This may involve investing in and extending better conditions to the low-carbon “care sector” — such as child care, elder care, nursing and domestic labour — whose workers are currently underpaid and disproportionately migrants, especially women of colour.
In fighting for migrant justice, it is also important to recognize that xenophobia (such as anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim rhetoric in the USA), or any narrative that tries to define who is and isn’t an “immigrant on this land” erases a history of colonization and Indigenous caregiving. Xenophobia also perpetuates the idea that we don’t have enough to go around (not enough money, jobs, land or resources). This is scapegoating, and distracts us from the real problem: money, power and resources consolidated by corporate exploitation. We have enough to go around, but it needs to be distributed in a just way; in other words, we need to be limiting the corporate ability to extract from, exploit and disposess communities around the globe, rather than attacking the people who move to escape this violence.
Sources and some sites for further reading:
- Climate Justice and Migration brief (National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights)
- 350.org case study on climate-induced migration from Senegal
- Extractivism (Resilience.org)