In hot, dry New Mexico, climate change is already playing out. And it’s hitting people of color especially hard, say climate change experts.

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In Albuquerque, New Mexico’s biggest city, the International District, where many families of color live, is a heat sink. Too much concrete and not enough vegetation traps heat. Several organizations are planting trees in lower-income areas of the city, but it will be a while before saplings can provide shade.

Related: Environmental racism in America

“As it gets hotter, heat sinks will affect mental and emotional health,” said Joan Brown, executive director of climate justice organization New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, as reported by NM Political Report. “You get really depressed if there’s no shade, no beauty or coolness. It really impacts children and their well being. Trees are really important to children for that green and that beauty.”

As the climate changes, it will be harder and harder for lower-income people to endure the heat if they can’t afford air conditioning, good insulation and evaporative coolers. And people who work outside will have no relief at all. Already, this year’s heatwave has impacted workers in dairies and copper mines and people harvesting New Mexico’s signature green chile. 

Around the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico, oil and gas are big businesses. Lower-income families living near these extractive industries are more likely to suffer from asthma and other pollution-related health problems.

Go even farther south, and you reach the Mexican border. Johanna Bencomo, executive director for New Mexico CAFé, said climate refugees are of concern to southern New Mexico. “We are a border community,” she said, as reported by NM Political Report. “We will be seeing more immigrants coming to our borders because of environmental issues, because of climate change.”

Some indigenous residents of New Mexico have already left their traditional homeland due to a changing climate. “Even now, people are selling their cows,” said Mario Atencio, a board member of Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, as reported by NM Political Report. “It’s kind of happening. There are no jobs, you can’t raise and sustain a herd of cows, what else are you going to do? You’ve got to go work. It’s not going to be a mass migration. It’s happening very slowly, a climate change diaspora.”

Via NM Political Report

Lead image via Pixabay