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This is one of four summaries I wrote for four pieces which may be selected for publication. I share these with you though the pieces have been available for viewing on my website http://www.greenchicano.com

Buttonwillow

José González, Guernica in the Barrio, multicolor screenprint, 2009.

Guernica in the Barrio is a direct reference to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. As most students of art know, Guernica is the story of a small Spanish Basque town bombarded by German and Italian planes during the Spanish Civil War—bringing attention to, and becoming a symbol for, the tragedies of war upon civilians and the innocent.

Guernica in the Barrio is titled as such because the “Guernica” in this case is the town of Buttonwillow California, which like nearby Kettleman City, California, has Latino populations living near toxic sites and in the vicinity of toxic transport operations. . The residents have claimed that the toxics led to a wide range of health issues and birth defects. In Buttonwillow, the “bombardment” came from trucks that would pass through the town carrying toxic material to a nearby landfill, which led to a series of legal battles that continue to this day.

There is a direct connection and reference to climate change in this piece in that many communities are and will be “Guernicas” suffering the bombardment of climate change. They will be directly affected by our actions increasing carbon emissions and our apathy towards properly responding to climate change through mitigations and adaptions. . It will be the communities of color that will first and hardest hit. In the US, the low-lying coast or island communities such as those devastated by Hurricane Katrina are a prime example.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted how low-income countries are on the frontline over the next century, as those experience experiencing gradual sea-level rises, stronger cyclones, warmer days and nights, more unpredictable rains, and larger and longer heat waves more frequently and more severely than wealthy nations.  The phrase “first and worst-hit” is applicable for places like East Africa and Bangladesh in dealing with the effects of climate change. The similarity to the pattern of a disproportional burden borne by towns and communities of color that are historically situated next to polluting industries, such as oil refineries, transport hubs, incinerators, is striking.

To put human faces, especially those from communities of color, into the discussions about climate change, is important we should be paying attention tothe slow bombardments of these “Guernicas” that are currently in progress.

More information on the Buttonwillow case can be found on the site http://www.Invisible5.org and in the book From the Ground Up, by Luke W. Cole and Sheila R. Foster (NYU Press, 2000).

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