FROM MICRO TO MACRO: How our experiences and struggles blur into each other
Being someone that was raised in a tropical environment my whole life, the idea of a storm approaching was not something that scared me . It’s a staple, a permanent presence in where and how I and many others grow up. If ability and resources allow, we get our supplies, board up our place and sit by and let the storm pass. Some are so desensitized to the presence of them, that the idea of partying through it all has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon.
I was living in one of those old Miami buildings when Tropical Storm Eta hit us. The ones that still have cement on certain parts of the model, instead of that hollow, plaster that are on the new units in the city. I was living in one of the buildings that are consistently overlooked by property managers because, let’s be honest, the location is an investment to those that see someones’ home and place of refuge, as property. Although there were tenants and owners still living in the building, the sign that read “new development coming soon” was already up. Sharpie mustaches and devil horns on the sign or not, it was understood that the building’s location next to the Biscayne Bay and the multi-million dollar apartments across the street put us at odds with the people holding the administrative roles within the building.
The days following up to Eta’s trek felt just like any other storm preparation scenario. Reading the updates on the weather channel app and checking in to see what was happening in Central America and the Caribbean. Making sure that we were straight with our supplies, and — as an organizer — making sure that the community was straight as well. But, there was no sense of urgency or havoc, because it wasn’t going to be a hurricane. We were chilling in our apartment when the rain started, our broken hurricane shutters were knocking against the veranda of the balcony. That consistent, howling sound of the wind coming in through that split-up portion of the main door frame reminded us that, despite the fact that we were watching TV, there was still a storm and we had to be on the lookout.
Next thing we know, the apartment feels humid and cold. My roommate says her AC is leaking. The bathroom’s roof is leaking and caving in. My bedroom is flooded. Turns out, that the mismanagement of the roof led to a severe flooding issue that went from the top of the building all the way down to the bottom of the eastern portion of the building. We spent the next few hours calling management(no answers), collecting the pooled water into any bowl that we could find, and hoping that the water didn’t seep into the electrical system that was within the wall. The wall that when pressed on, spit water back into your hand.
As the night progressed, I found myself thinking about how unnecessary and ridiculous our situation was. Us having to set up 30min timers to collect water and dispose of it, before our things got destroyed. The people across the street watching the rain from their indoor porch-swings and hammocks, as if a movie was unfolding before them. The blatant disregard for those who were not an asset, whether it be from economic, social or political standpoints. Even from the angles of privilege that we have: having a job, having expendable income, being a household of organizers, connections to the community and to those who could elevate our voices… it was still a traumatic experience that we couldn’t shake off for a long time.
Now… if this is on the spectrum of best case scenario, given our circumstances, imagine those that don’t have these liberties. Our friends and family members that struggle on a day-to-day basis to make ends meet, which are very well the communities that we serve. Miami is thriving on the backs of working-class people, immigrants who’ve had to get it out the mud while getting pushed down at every corner. My situation is nothing but context into the hostile environment that climate gentrification is posing in a place like Miami. The real story revolves around the group of people that were first hit by this storm.
Those that were impacted by Hurricane Eta, and later on, Iota, will need to move away from the devastation that surrounds them. However, what is it that they are walking into? A predatory housing complex? Where there is barely any accountability for those that enact harm unto others? Or, the fact that there is such a hostile environment towards immigrants? When we’re looking into the questions of climate gentrification, we must look at all the dynamics that come with that conversation. We should be striving for equity. Seeing homes as property removes humanity from the notion that housing is a right that should be given to everyone. Our housing crisis in Miami is not due to lack of units, it’s due to greed. The idea that one can buy a living space and keep it empty while people are living on the streets, should be frowned upon. Instead, it’s put up as an achievement attributed to a competitive housing market. You have entire lives, neighborhoods, well-cemented cultural enclaves being uprooted in the name of profit… and it does not stop there.
We do not live in an isolated bubble. The same storms, floods and rising seas that affect us, also have the same effect on other coastlines around the world. However, what is not the same is the role that the United States has had, historically, in the process of wrecking the environment. Not only within our country, but also internationally. And more often than not it was done by force. The process of industrialization and development, through its many phases (our most recent being neoliberalism), didn’t come without a price. It took people, violence, aggression, abuse and most of all, resources. The degradation of land, the breaking down of local infrastructure in order to benefit corporations, the open use of international institutions to coerce people into trade agreements and loans that ultimately end up making them more dependent on countries like the United States, all have a role to play in creating the context for climate refugees. Those displaced have to leave everything that they know, in order to piece some type of life back together. Regardless of the fact that they probably never had a say on the conditions that lead them to that situation in the first place.
I would hope that with this upcoming year, we expand from our immediate experience. We don’t all experience things in the same manner. We need to move into a radical, intersectional and most of all, humane way of working with each other and for each other. If anything should be remembered from this experience that I shared and the points that followed is that, all of these forms of oppression work hand in hand with each other. Yes what they extract may be different depending on the context, but the methods are not. It is the same violence, the same aggression, the same systems and the same individuals that benefit in pushing to sustain all of it. I want to hold space for the fact that all of us are exhausted and have a hard time processing any more direct actions calls. Instead I want to tap into that little space in your consciousness that lets you question how you go about your day, how you make your decisions and what you do to show up for others. When you step into these climate spaces, do you show up just for yourself? At what point, if ever, do you start to raise your voice to protect others? Does a person have to be similar to you, in nationality, culture, race, etc. for you to see their humanity? Do you do your part in intervening in spaces or decisions where profit is placed over someone's quality of life? Do you see the international as equal to your local community? Sit and question why or why not. What’s missing from your perspective, where you can find it and primarily, how it will help all of us achieve our liberation.
Stay Safe and Stay Tuned,