Megadrought Threatens Navajo Lifeways, Drives Up Food Prices

Southwest Faces Worsening Drought Conditions
A member of the Navajo Nation fills a water tank intended for drought-affected livestock from a community rancher's well on the Navajo Nation on July 4, 2021 south of Tuba City, Arizona. David McNew / Getty Images
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The 23-year megadrought across what is now the Southwestern U.S. is driving up food prices, and threatening lifeways across the Navajo Nation.

European colonizers took 99% of Indigenous nations’ lands since arriving on the continent more than 500 years ago, and climate change, caused mainly by the industrialized world’s extraction and combustion of fossil fuels — in some cases inflicting disproportionate harm directly on Indigenous populations — is further undermining traditional practices.

Growing up, raising sheep, corn, beans, and squash on her family’s ancestral lands, “We did not want for anything,” Candice Mendez told The Guardian. Once drought hit in the early 1990s, however, “All of sudden we were eating canned food … [t]he land could no longer provide for us.” Mendez, who now has to drive more than 100 miles per week to get water for her animals, worries, “At some point it may just get to be too hard and too expensive,” but even more, “If we lose these animals, we lose a big part of our identity.”

For a deeper dive:

Megadrought: NPRCNN; Navajo Nation: The Guardian; Food prices: AxiosReutersThe Gazette; Water shortages: Washington PostThe Independent; Climate Signals background: Western megadrought

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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