By: Juliana Hinton, Program Communications Coordinator
We see it every day, “record breaking temperatures”, every month surpasses past records of global temperatures. And keep in mind this is since the beginning of humans even recording temperatures. Likewise, climate change is finally a term that rolls off the tongue with less hesitation in political settings. Whether select groups want to accept the concept of climate change or not, it’s getting marginally hot as hell, quickly. If you want to take the environmentalist approach or the humanist approach, it’s irrelevant, because people and plants are still going to be out there in the elements. We need to consider the future for once.
The agricultural industry will be hit the worst, and first. That is not a menial statement, it is the most essential idea to grasp, for any of us to exist on this floating speck of dust in space. You would think that more research efforts would be put towards planning for our food supply drying up or in some areas, flooding. Rather than solely relying on GMO crops to continue to develop to adapt to the extreme changes in weather. Our fields will wither beneath a smothering heat and they will drown amongst an unmanageable rainfall. That is the complexity of climate change that we are not prepared for as a global, whole society.
So our food is effected, but what else is out there? It doesn’t grow itself does it? Farmworkers, tired hands that groom and pluck every morsel you toss into your mouth. They are out there, risking their health and their lives, just to earn enough to scrape by. The increased heat will put stress on farmworkers bodies, and any person that fills the position after them. As of lately, there has been an exponential increase in kidney disease in outdoor workers. Kidney disease is one that can be fatal if the proper precautions are not taken to avoid heat stress. “…A new study published in Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), warns that climate change is linked to increased cases of chronic kidney diseases caused by dehydration and heat stress.”
What needs to happen? Further regulation of farms, targeting growers as those responsible for providing educational resources to farmworkers on the importance of Water, Rest, Shade as well as providing access to free clean water. This sounds easy to fulfill, but clearly there is a disconnect in this system where heat stress effects the majority of workers and with chronic kidney disease surpassing previous records.
The issues surrounding the future of the agricultural industry (or how we feed ourselves) are complicated and interwoven. But at the very least, we can provide farmworkers their human rights, the right to a safe work environment and to the necessary training. This is why AFOP Health and Safety Programs is working diligently to provide annual heat stress training to farmworkers across the US. As well, each year we are working to train more farmworkers than the previous, so that they can continue to work in a safe manner, even as their environment changes.