Xiye’s Climate Story
San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico 52030
How are you sensing climate change?
On August 2nd, 2015 I invited my best friend to my house in San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico. We had a great time: we went to get dinner, we had long conversations in the car, we talked about our elementary school days, and we took dozens of pictures. When it was time for her to leave we encountered a great problem: we couldn’t exit my town because it had flooded. We drove as close as we could to the edge of the town, but the water was too high for the car. We got out. The water was cold, dirty, and up to our knees. The view was shocking– all of the businesses that are usually opened and full of people were closed. Vendors were trying to save their goods and stack them up. Little kids were clinging on to their moms. We had to walk through the water to drop off my friend and thankfully succeed. On our way back to the car all I could think of was how bizarre this scenario was. I had never seen anything like it and it made me feel part of a plot of a story of a dystopian world. I took out my phone and took pictures of it without knowing what to do or what to think– I was in shock. A few months later, when my family and I had moved to New York for their job, I had some realizations when my friends at school spoke about Hurricane Sandy. They said they couldn’t go to school for days, there were power outages, and worst of all, it was only the beginning of “climate change.” I had heard my parents talk about climate change and “global warming” my whole life. My parents met at the first Earth Summit in 1992 and have been involved in local and international climate policy for as long as I can remember. But even growing up, they talked about climate change as something abstract and not connected to the pollution and flooding that we saw in my town. This is when I started to connect the dots and realized that I had lived through a climate disaster. My grandma had never seen flooding in my town in her 80+ years of life. My town had no infrastructure or support systems for flooding. It was so unexpected that people became paralyzed. Going to New York and hearing the story of Hurricane Sandy made the issue global for me. It made me realize that the climate crisis hits every single palace in the world: just in different ways and magnitudes. And most importantly, it is often towns like my own –the low income, Indigenous, and sidelined areas– that see the brunt of the pollution and the brunt of detrimental climate disasters. I realized that the fact that we had one of the most contaminated rivers in the country was not accidental, the fact that we have countless factories dumping their waste in our waterways was not accidental, the fact that we didn’t have any assistance for recovery was structural, and the fact that no one was educated about it was part of the lack of infrastructure and community support. From that point on I decided that I wouldn’t let my town’s story become the norm. I started speaking up about climate justice as social justice, because the climate crisis is unequal and requires structural injustices to be corrected to build a truly better world.
How do these changes make you feel?
The changes make me feel frustrated because I know that a lot of the environmental injustice is rooted in seeing some people as inferior to others, so that our communities end up bearing pollution, lack of infrastructure, and other faults. Nevertheless, I have seen that community mobilizing is incredibly powerful, and that type of movement and solidarity brings me hope. I know we can get our communities protected, locally and globally.
San Pedro Tultepec, Mexico 52030
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