Climate chaos and limited worker protections are killing vulnerable people like farmworker Sebastian Francisco Perez

On June 26, the day 38-year-old farmworker Sebastian Francisco Perez died from extreme heat, the temperature hit 106 degrees in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He had spent his final hours positioning 30-pound irrigation pipes so young trees would have enough water to survive the heat wave. But no one showed the Guatemalan immigrant even a modicum of the same care. In an excoriating piece for Rolling Stone, journalist Jeff Goodell tells the story of Perez’s life and circumstancesagriculture’s two-tiered worker system that exploits undocumented workers, climate chaos, and the failings of state and federal agencies to protect workers from obviously unsafe conditions. A 2015 study found that farmworkers are 35 times more likely to die from a heat-related death than other occupations, yet there are no federal rules related to heat exposure for workers. “This was not an accident, or a tragic result of unforeseen circumstances,” Goodell writes. “It was a kind of murder. Scientists have known for decades that burning fossil fuels are heating up the planet, and that more intense heat waves are one of the clearest manifestations of life on a superheated planet. And we’ve known that people like Perez—poor, vulnerable, living outside the air-conditioned bubble of middle-class privilege—will be the ones who suffer first and suffer most.”