Our climate is changing, and our approaches to politics and activism have to change with it. That’s why The Nation, in partnership with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, is launching Taking Heat, a series of dispatches from the front lines of the climate-justice movement, by journalist Audrea Lim.
In Taking Heat, Lim will explore the ways in which the communities that stand to lose the most from climate change are also becoming leaders in the climate resistance. From the farms of Puerto Rico to the tar sands of Canada, from the streets of Los Angeles to Kentucky’s coal country, communities are coming together to fight for a just transition to a greener and more equitable economy. At a time when extreme-weather events and climate-policy impasse are increasingly dominating environmental news, Taking Heat will focus on the intersection of climate change with other social and political issues, showcasing the ingenious and inventive ways in which people are already reworking our economy and society. There will be new dispatches every few weeks (follow along here).
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Hurricane Maria sent Magha Garcia back to the beginning. In 2010, a brigade of 18 farmers had helped her cut trees, open roads, build a cistern, and start to plant a nursery for her new farm, Bosque Jardín Pachamama, on 13 acres of land in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Five years earlier, Garcia had been living in the city of Corozol when mass layoffs hit. She lost her job as a social researcher, and wondered what to do next.
Garcia was 45, an age at which capitalism “doesn’t consider you a person who’s producing anymore,” she says, unless you’re someone with knowledge capital, “a consultant or adviser.” That was not Garcia’s case, and so her future in the city looked grim. She had been raised on a farm, in a family of farmers. “Better start growing my own food,” she decided.
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria dumped more than 30 inches of rain on parts of Puerto Rico, destroyed about 80 percent of the islands’ crop value, and left some towns without power for more than six months. Most distressingly, an accurate death toll remains elusive; though the government’s official toll lists 64 people as having died from Maria, some studies have come up with counts of more than 4,600.
Garcia’s root vegetables—ginger, cassava, taro, yams—survived the deluge, but most of her fruit trees were ruined.