When contagion meets climate crises

Olivia Aguilar, director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, suggests that climate-linked displacement is not just a possibility, but an inevitability and asks how we confront this reality in the age of community contagion.

By Keely Sexton

Climate-change-associated displacements and migrations combined with contagions like the novel coronavirus are a recipe for broad-scale human disaster, says Olivia Aguilar, Leslie and Sarah Miller Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment

In the past, responses to climate emergencies have meant that people — and sometimes whole populations — relocate to shelters and other emergency locations where crowding creates ripe conditions for the spread of communicable diseases. Further, these displacements often result in a strain on the local availability of basic necessities, e.g., food, water and hygienic supplies. 

“We need to start thinking now about how we will prepare and what affected communities will look like,” wrote Aguilar in an essay for Truthout. “Depending on the extent of time needed to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we will almost certainly face an extreme weather event before we are in the clear for gathering in large groups again, and this will derail our attempt to dampen the spread of COVID-19.” 

The specter of such a confluence of events is not all dim, however, said Aguilar, who cited the resolve, kindness and generosity of people in times of extreme need as a reason for hope.

“I have been humbled by the resolve and kindness people show in times of crisis,” Aguilar wrote. “Seeing people on social media call for responsible social distancing and shopping for necessities in as-needed quantities this past month has been comforting.”

Read the whole essay.

Related News

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry (lower right) and Angelis Liriano ’22 (upper right) spoke with Connecting Point about the action plan to ensure the College would be “persistent and uncompromising” in addressing all forms of implicit and explicit racism.

MHC’s anti-racism action plan discussed

Mount Holyoke College’s Kijua Sanders-McMurtry and Angelis Liriano ’22 were on Connecting Point to discuss the College’s anti-racism action plan.  

Jerrine Tan

“Karen” figures and “Three Billboards”

Mount Holyoke’s Jerrine Tan explores toxic white feminism and intersectionality in her essay about “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” 

Darby Dyar, blond white woman in blue sweater seated at desk with three computer monitors and charts on the wall.

Life on Venus?

Mount Holyoke’s Darby Dyar talked to The Wall Street Journal about the recent discovery of phosphine gas in Venus’s atmosphere.

Whitney Stephenson ’22 fights against de facto school segregation.

Time magazine highlights MHC student

Whitney Stephenson ’22 was highlighted by Time magazine for her work fighting against de facto school segregation in New York City.

This is photo of David Hernandez

Trump is “dissolving Congress in plain sight”

David Hernández writes that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump has increased his governmental power grab, especially with respect to immigration.

Find more stories >