Listening to the Wrong Signal: Exploring Climatic Subjectivities, Identities, and Agency among Farmers in New Mexico

Authors: Catherine Day*, Stetson University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: climate change, subjectivity, identity, agency, agriculture, adaptation, transformation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In a year when the Rio Grande and the Pecos hit historically low levels, and heavy tariffs on the export of pecans to China threaten to change the landscape of one of New Mexico’s key exports, farmers in New Mexico might be expected to pay particular attention to their double exposure to climatic and global market vulnerabilities. In a longer-term view, however, these threats are nothing new. Drought that hit its height in 2011-12, and ongoing market shifts that began with the North American Free Trade Agreement have made the Mexican producer market beat out New Mexican markets for dominance in traditional New Mexican crops. In the face of such dual challenges, farmers’ worldviews come to matter deeply. Worldviews that are open to climate information and to facilitating new forms of government assistance to agriculture could offer farmers key means of making anticipatory rather than reactive change in their farm management. My fieldwork suggests, however, that farmers in New Mexico tend to resist subjectivities that would require them to identify with more broadly progressive politics. Given the current political climate, that means that most farmers deny anthropogenic climate change. This paper will explore the rhetoric that farmers employ to distance themselves from acceptance of anthropogenic climate change even in the face of clear evidence of shifting climatic patterns on their farms. I will also assess the farm outcomes that result from farmer resistance to progressive rhetoric on climate change, immigration, and government agricultural assistance.

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