Author Archives: flaviaisabel

Migrant Farm Workers & Climate Change

(Updated March 2014 by D. Cortez)

Climate Disruption is
Impacting Migrant Farm Workers

By Osvaldo Lopez – Edinburg, Texas

Osvaldo

Sierra Club Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Group

Political Science student at UT-Pan American

The rhythm of the crunching dry soil slowed and eventually came to a halt with a big crash.

The girl’s uncle heard and crossed through three rows of corn stalks to find her motionless body lying there, face-up. It was a calm, still day, but panic surged through air and into the workers as the girl’s uncle cried for help.

At the sound of his desperate voice, several workers began rushing and swatting through the plants only to find the uncle holding the girl up on his knees. Every worker took a limb, and they carried her body out of the cornfield.

Finally away from the stalks, workers swayed their sombreros across her face hoping she would regain consciousness. Her closed eyes and her head hanging with no support instilled fear in her uncle and everyone around her.

That morning she went to the field calm, sleepy, and ready to work. She left unconscious as dozens of fellow workers listened to the fading sounds of wailing sirens.

Data collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that heat-related deaths and fainting among migrant farm workers may be increasing.

I have been a migrant farm worker for eight years. I first started when I was 11 years old. I remember working the fields and being able to finish what the company planned for the day. We began at six in the morning while the crops wore fog as a blanket, and we usually finished tired, sore, and hungry at around 4 or 5 p.m.

Now, the story is different. Hotter temperatures force my co-workers to quit by noon, many of them by 10 a.m., and it is my firm belief that this is a result of global climate disruption caused by increased greenhouse gas pollution.

osvaldo workersSome of my fellow workers stop performing their field work by choosing to avoid heat-related injury, while others who want to keep working to increase their take home pay fall victim to fainting, heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion.

By noon everyone murmured “Esta muy caliente,” meaning it was too hot.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, field labor is ranked among the top three most dangerous occupations. The factors that make field labor dangerous are pesticides, pollen, cancer, and now intolerable heat.

The impacts of climate disruption on migrant farm workers and the farming economy couldn’t be clearer. It is what awaits us in the future that worries me. Who will be willing to risk their lives to tend the fields and make it possible for stores to fill their shelves? Who will make it easier for you to have produce on your plate at dinnertime? How can workers who depend on these operations expect to continue making a living?

We have bigger issues though. Rising temperatures also diminish the amount of produce farmers are able to harvest. With droughts, the dry soil isn’t fertile enough to sustain sufficient crops. According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, prices for agricultural produce doubled from 2005 to 2007 due to drought.

Those most impacted by climate disruption – the poor – are only going to struggle more if we do not develop a plan to deal with our changing climate. With continuing droughts that affect production, the number of migrant workers in Hidalgo County living in poverty will only grow, making it difficult for Hidalgo County to prosper.

I have personally seen many workers faint. I have developed a fever with throbbing headaches while working in the fields in the summers of 2009 and 2010. I have felt the panic when trying to help a co-worker whose body no longer withstood the heat. The fields sometimes seemed like a battlefield where at times two people fainted at the same time.

Not everyone feels the effect of climate disruption as migrant field workers do. It’s hard to feel temperatures rising when the AC in your room or office is running all day. It’s hard to see a decrease in production when all your produce is acquired through your local grocery store.

The impact of climate disruption on the working poor is a clear-cut example of environmental racism and injustice. Just like those most impacted by the flooding up in Austin in 2013, migrant farm workers know firsthand the effects of our changing climate.

We need to change the path that we are on as a society. We need to stop living in the moment and switch to the mitigation lane and prepare for the future. In our current capitalist system, people tend to follow the same patterns they always have—to seek profit for their benefit only. This is unsustainable.

We are traveling down a dead end road, and there are not many exits left that we can take. From now on, let’s make brighter choices, and bold moves that will benefit us all.

Over 1,000 People Pledge to Move Beyond TXU

Just weeks after the public launch of the Beyond TXU campaign in Dallas, the Sierra Club has reached a milestone: more than one thousand people have signed the pledge to move beyond TXU and seek a cleaner, cheaper electric service provider.

1,000 Pledges Graphic

TXU Energy is owned by Energy Future Holdings (EFH), which was formed in 2007 as part of the largest leveraged buy-out in United States history. Energy Future Holdings owns four large and aging coal plants in Texas. These four coal-fired power plants alone generate one quarter of all industrial air pollution in Texas, and include the nation’s single largest source of mercury pollution.

“The Sierra Club launched the Beyond TXU campaign in Dallas just two weeks ago to send the message that Energy Future Holdings cannot ignore the serious problems at their coal-fired power plants any longer,” said Dr. Al Armendariz, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club in Texas.

“We’re seeing a strong response from the public as we work to educate people about TXU Energy’s connection to Energy Future Holdings and their four toxic coal plants. As EFH moves toward bankruptcy, potential creditors should be wary: not only is the Sierra Club challenging the illegal pollution from Energy Future’s coal plants, we’re working to show Dallas area residents that TXU is a bad choice for an electricity provider.”

The Sierra Club launched the Dallas-based public campaign on April 11 with a telephone press conference, an online ad buy on Dallas-area media sites, and a billboard on John Carpenter Freeway West of downtown Dallas. In addition, Sierra Club volunteers, including student leaders at Southern Methodist University, are presenting information about the campaign to church groups and the public. Beyond TXU activists recently held an information booth at the Dallas Earth Day celebration.

“Once people learn that TXU Energy is connected to Energy Future Holdings, one of the dirtiest companies in Texas, they want to sign the pledge and switch their power provider,” said Flavia de la Fuente, Sierra Club’s organizer on the ground. “Some of our supporters switched because TXU Energy’s prices are higher than clean energy plans and some people pledge to switch as soon as their contract is up. Right now, more than one thousand Texans have already said they don’t want to do business with a company connected to the four dirtiest coal-fired power plants in Texas.”

Action Alert: Make Calls on Key Bills at Legislature

Stand up for your rights! Call your State Legislators TODAY!

We need calls on these 3 bills to be voted on tomorrow and Wed. within Committee, but with no opportunity for comment.

Calling is better as it’s so crazy this week…make sure folks remember to give name, address, for or against, and maybe a sentence on why. It also ties up the phone with our message.

OPPOSE SB 957- KILLING CONTESTED CASE PROCESS in Senate Natural Resources by Fraser (committee chair), to be voted out TUESDAY:

Call on SB 957 before Wed. to ALL Committee Members:

This bill is on its 4th substitute. Basically, it still guts the contested case hearing process with narrow timelines and a very restrictive process. Contested case hearings are a vital process by which citizens/municipalities, etc. can dispute or improve a permit for any dirty industry, be it a landfill, cement kiln, dirty power plant, etc. These cases are only used less than 2% of the time at our environmental agency, the TCEQ, to either kill/or improve a permit. Tell them to leave the process the way it was– leave the process alone– and kill this bill.

On SB 957, calls to these NATURAL RESOURCES members before TUESDAY:
Troy Fraser, Chair, (Horseshoe Bay), 512.463.0124
Craig Estes, Vice Chair (Wichita Falls), 512.463.0130
Kevin Eltife, (Tyler), 512.463.0101
Bob Deuell, 512.463.0102
Robert Duncan, (Lubbock) 512.463.0128
Rodney Ellis, (Houston) 512.463.0113
Glenn Hegar,(Katy), 512.463.0118
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, (McAllen), 512.463.0120
Robert Nichols (Jacksonville), 512.463.0103
Kel Seliger (Amarillo), 512.463.0131
Carlos Uresti (San Antonio), 512.463.0119

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2 BILLS in ENERGY RESOURCES to be VOTED OUT- Support HB 448- Deny HB 2828

A) SUPPORT HB 448 – Aiding Citizens in Right-to-Know on fracking
B) OPPOSE HB 2828– Stripping cities of their right to have drilling/fracing ordinances.

House Bill 448 by Representative Dawnna Dukes is a simple bill about promoting a surrounding landowner’s right to information about hydraulic fracturing. House Bill 448 will require that:

An operator send notice via US mail to all landowners located within 500 feet that will state that the operator has been given a permit to drill and that the operator intends to use the hydraulic fracturing treatment.

The notice must be mailed not later than the 15th day after the date the permit to drill is issued.

The notice will include information that chemicals used to frack the well will be posted on FracFocus website.

House Bill 2828 by Representative Dale would strip our right to pass local fracking regulations.

From Calvin Tillman:

I wanted to make everyone aware of Texas House Bill 2828, which would essentially remove a municipality’s ability to regulate ANY aspect of the natural gas pipeline industry. This would include above ground appurtenances such as compressors and treating equipment. This bill is being labeled as preventing each town from implementing different safety standard on pipelines; however, if you read the bill listed below it clearly states that it will preempt “any ordinance“, “relating to any aspect or phase of the gas pipeline industry“. Furthermore, municipalities have been preempted from implementing safety standards on pipeline companies for decades.

A bank of compressor stations the size of the ones located in DISH, could and would be located wherever the natural gas industry wanted it to be, and there would be nothing that your local government could do to prevent it or even mitigate it.

This would also prevent municipalities from enforcing noise or odor ordinances. Therefore, it is critical that we take action immediately. This bill will be voted on in the Energy Resource Committee by Wednesday April 17, 2013; this has to be stopped. Below are the members of this committee, please make as many phone calls as possible, and share this with as many lists as you can. If you live in the Barnett Shale or any other shale play, your life will be permanently altered if you do not take action on this bill.

Below is the original bill and attached is a committee sub that is a little bit better, but is just as bad. Please call each representative listed below, whether you live in their district or not and tell them you oppose House Bill 2828, if they try to explain that this bill only applies to safety standards, simple ask them what do they define as “all municipal ordinances”. I do not reach out very often like this, so I hope you realize the urgency of this situation. Please call the numbers below, and pass this message on to as many people as possible.

Call these House Energy Resources before WEDNESDAY’s vote in Committee:
Committee Chair, Jim Keffer, (Eastland), 512.463-0656
Myra Crownover, (Denton), 512.463.0582
Lon Burnam, (Ft. Worth) 512. 463.0740
Terry Canales, (Edinburg), 512.463.0426
Tony Dale- author, (Cedar Park), 512.463.0696 (where no drilling happens)
Phil King (Bill Co-Sponsor-Weatherford), (512) 463-0738
J.M. Lozano (Kingsville), 512.463.0463
Chris Paddie (Marshall),512.463.0556
Ralph Sheffield, (Temple), 512.463.0630
Gene Wu, (Houston), 512.463.0492

You do not need to call Lon Burnam or Gene Wu on HB 448 as they support it already.

Use the Power to Choose

Want to switch retail electric providers? Want to move Beyond TXU? Do you want a 100% renewable plan?

Take our basic guided tour of www.powertochoose.org, a state run website for residents of Texas.

Protect Our Air & Our Teachers

For Immediate Release (Wednesday, April 3, 2013):

For More Information: Lone Star Chapter Director Scheleen Walker – 512-477-1729 (office), 512-481-1448 (cell)

Sierra Club Calls on Texas Legislature to Protect

Vital Clean Air, Teacher Retirement Programs

Environmental Group Says Proposed House Amendments to Appropriations Bill Unnecessarily Pit Retired Teachers against Clean Air Advocates and Student Health

In a move of clear political grandstanding, Texas state legislators are attempting to force a political fight between clean air advocates – including families with younger students – and Texas’ teachers.

A proposed amendment to Senate Bill 1, the appropriations bill that is set for Texas House floor action on Thursday, would eliminate $6.4 million from clean air programs at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in FY 2014-FY 2015 and transfer that money to the Teachers’ Retirement Program. The amendment was filed by Representative Craig Goldman of Fort Worth. Other amendments filed by Representative Jonathan Stickland of Bedford recommend a similar approach.

“We have an opportunity to invest our surging state revenues into programs that will drastically improve air quality that directly impacts school childrens’ health in polluted areas and provide our teachers with much-needed retirement security,” said Scheleen Walker, Director of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter. “The right to clean air and the right to a secure retirement are not mutually exclusive. We strongly encourage Texas House members to invest in a cleaner, more secure future for all Texans.”

Under the House Appropriations Committee version of SB 1, the total dollar amount of TCEQ’s air quality grants available under the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) would be less than half – only $65 million of the roughly $190 million generated per year by clean air fees dedicated to the program. The Senate included $90 million per year for TERP.  The program was created over a decade ago to clean up old, air-polluting diesel equipment in Texas’ major urban areas in violation and near violation of air quality standards for human health protection.  Proposed TERP cutbacks are being pursued despite expected tougher EPA rules in 2014 that will likely increase the number of areas that do not attain those air quality standards (primarily San Antonio, Austin, Waco, and Tyler-Longview).

Similarly, both the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill would shortchange the Drive a Clean Machine (LIRAP) program designed to help working Texans clean up their cars or purchase newer ones to meet emissions standards. Currently the programs would continue to be funded with only $7 million per year, despite auto emission inspection fees that raise nearly $40 million per year for the program.

“Public education, our Teacher’s Retirement System, and vital clean air programs in Texas are all drastically underfunded,” said Walker. “But we won’t solve that problem by forcing Texans to choose between clean air or a more secure retirement.”

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Fort Worth Green Movie Night

The First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church is hosting Green Movie night this Friday from 7-9pm, followed by a presentation from the Sierra Club on local climate issues and how to stop the warming.

Where: First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1959 Sandy Ln Fort Worth, TX 76112
When: 7pm-9pm

See a preview of “Extreme Ice” here:

Green Sanctuary Movie Night

The Green Sanctuary Team along with the Sierra Club will host a Movie Night on March 22 at 7pm in Coleman Hall, featuring the documentary Extreme Ice and a presentation by a Sierra Club Member. All ages are welcome!

Extreme Ice focuses on climate change shown through time-lapse cameras set by internationally acclaimed photojournalist James Balog, who has placed equipment in more than two dozen glacial locations around the world in order to assess the impact of global warming. Cameras shoot once an hour during daylight. The endeavor will build an archive of some 300,000 images over two years and is one of the most comprehensive photographic studies undertaken on shrinking glaciers and rising sea levels.

For Information on joining us, call Nancy Hynes (682) 552-0968,nkhynes@gmail.com.

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ABC Town Hall Presentations

For those Austinites who joined us on Tuesday, September 11th to learn about moving Austin Beyond Coal and the relationship between water and energy generation, here are the presentations you’ve been waiting for!

Dr._Al’s_Town_Hall_Presentation

Dr. Lauren Ross’s Presentation