Poor People On A Poor Planet
Climate Change and Poverty & the Death of Shannon Marie Bigley
i can’t exactly describe the sound of an aluminum walker being crushed by a Dept of Public Works (DPW) truck – but its a special sound of material violence unlike any other- with each crunch-clap – another unhoused disabled life is metaphorically and actually dismantled, while the truck continues to chew like a dog on a bone- our precious momentos, pictures, medicine and lives are now reduced to trash and our own bodies , no longer awarded the respect of being considered humans swept, cleaned up, removed.. As i witnessed and futilly tried to stop another sweep on thursday, in one of our Bay Area RoofLEss Radio Support/reporst i prayed for Shannon Marie Bigley – a 32 year old woman who was killed by a Cal-trans sweep in Fresno, which was sadly a perfect metaphor for the ongoing attacks on poor people who happen to live without a roof – in the “public” aka occupied indigenous land the land-stealers call America-
I begin this story of Climate change and poverty about Shannon Marie Bigley, because it is the poorest among us, folks like me and my mama, when we spent our lives unhoused, without shelter or protection, our belongings constantly predated, lost, stolen and crushed by scam lords, DPw trucks and Sheriffs, that are and will suffer the most in this time of Mama Earth’s pain
From the indigenous peoples who cross false borders to work in this stolen land to the poor families like me and my mama, we barely have enough to get by when fires, earthquakes, Tsunamis and floods, happen, the wobbly thread we were holding on to before they happened snaps . Folks like Shannon Marie Bigley’s thread already snapped, she was unprotected, un-connected and unsafe in a society already set up on the lie of kkkrapitalist scarcity where US poverty is born.
“I was homeless in Santa Rosa but i was working, after the fire i lost my job, the protected place i went to sleep and my car, “ said Miguel Flores, a day laborer, who was one of thousands of unseen poor people impacted by the climate change fueled fires that rage across Mama Earth increasing in the last two years exponentially.
“Many of us have gone deeper inland in California where the work is more scarce, the heat is worse and we can’t even support ourselves much-less send money home, which is why we came here in the first place,” Miguel concluded. Miguel had moved near to where Shannon Marie was killed, pushed to the poor people suburbs where we he have no work or protection and was now unable to support himself.
“I used to sleep on the beach, but every week more and more of the beach disappears, they aren’t talking about it much cause they don’t want to scare the rich homeowners down here, but the California Coast is already disappearing and land down here is no longer safe to be on for any of us without a roof,” Michael Kong, a Filipino fisherman who was evicted from his longtime home in San Francisco due to rising rents and now sleeps in his car, houselessly in San Francisco. “Those folks will just pack up and move somewhere else, covered by insurance, supported by their families and their extreme wealth,” Michael said waving towards the billion dollar homes that line Ocean Beach, “ I will lose my livelihood, food and place to park.
As reported on by this poverty skola in a previous story the rising numbers of working poor, working class and almost middle class people who have lost their homes through the insane rent increases across the Bay Area are now sleeping in their car in huge numbers across the country and the world.
“More of our extended family members from Puerto Rico had to come live with us after Hurricane Maria because their humble homes were devastated, now we are all getting evicted because they say we have too many people in this apt and its really because they want to make more money on this apt and double the rent, “ said Trinidad T, whose family in Brooklyn is facing gentrification fueled eviction because the new owner of the building is saying they have too many people living in the apt.
“I never got any of that re-housing help after Katrina cause i was homeless before Katrina, so of course I’m still homeless, Ricky E from New Orleans, who lives in a lean to under the bridge explained how the heat sometimes gets so bad he feels like he is going to die right there on the street and as usual no-one will care-, “Actually people will be happy, one less poor person taking up space on the street.” Ricky E tragically concluded.
“I almost died last week, literally right here because the heat was so bad, i didn’t have money to buy more water and there was no shade and they just look my tent, “ John O, Unhoused and living and hiding in an undisclosed location in San Jose.
John O’s story made me think of when me and mama were hiding in our hooptie (old car) when there was the fires of several years back in Oakland and literally had to close the windows with no air conditioner just so we could sleep safely and work up almost dead from suffocation.
While Mama Earth burns, floods, melts, shakes and implodes, losing more and more of her precious surface, we are are still caught in this flagrant and violent system that supports and condones and her buying and selling, stealing and destroying,
Now there are many climate change activists and 1st Nations Land warriors, land water protectors for thousands of years before climate change was sexy that fought, died and prayed for Mama Earth to resist this corporate destruction that has led us to this dangerous place we are in now. But it is rare that people also include the concept of real estate speculation, development, eviction and gentrification this same conversation.
We as homeless and poor people are being pushed out of our homes and residences by the thousands by this ancient colonizer-created scarcity system, rooted in greed and wealth hoarding, considered the ulitmate model of success and yet, our lives are considered not important, our bodies and belongings constantly swept like we are trash and rarely, if ever are our stories included in the conversation on Climate change, similarly, we are pushed out of places and spaces and we are forced to deal with an increasing criminalization of our poor bodies.
It is why us unhoused and formerly unhoused, criminalized and poor folks at POOR Magazine launched a different model of living and thriving- a model truly rooted in sharing not more wealth-hoarding and increased profiting off of Mama Earth- projects like Homefulness- which we see as a global template for land use and housing and healing- which we are legally and spiritually taking off the real estate snaking market to live in actual harmony with Mama Earth and her earth peoples. A model that doesn’t perpetuate this deranged profit model of rent and eviction and gentrification and removal.
In the end this story is meant to lift up our stories and lives like Shannon Marie Bigley who rarely, if ever, are viewed as experts in the conversations on “climate change” – to realize that in many ways us folks who are surviving on the streets are living in the most “harmony” with mama Earth and to make a clear ask as i always do for folks who have more than they need to survive, inherited/stolen wealth or land to consider inviting us Poverty Skolaz in to teach about the concept of Community Reparations – this way of life is not sustainable for Any of us and we are all connected, even if some of us are more easily forgotten-
For more information on Community Reparations and Poverty Scholarship workshops contact me through my website- www.lisatinygraygarcia.com. For more information about Homefulness go to www.poormagazine.org/homefulness (This story is dedicated to my poverty skola-Sista warrior Laure McElroy who worked so hard along with me and other poverty skolaz to realize the dream of Homefulness and joined the ancestors last week )