Calling on Whatcom County officials to protect those exposed to extreme climate impacts/ Letter to Whatcom County Council and Executive Sidhu

Click the screenshot to access a Facebook post by Community to Community Development displaying a video of Skagit Farmworkers out in the pumpkin fields during smoky conditions in early September 2022

September 18, 2022 Dena Jensen

Many of our friends and neighbors are put in a position to feel they have to work, without critical protections under severely smokey or hot conditions. There are currently no sufficiently protective provisions from our local, state, and federal governments for farmworkers and certain groups of people whom we have left to live or work outside during dangerous weather conditions.

I am including below an email I sent to Whatcom County officials today to call on them to take action locally and use their influence to urge state and federal governments to take action, as well.

Keep contacting all your officials. I contacted Governor Inslee earlier in September to call on him to declare a climate emergency to help quickly move forward such protections like amply inclusive heat limits (they are set far too high right now) and masks being provided for workers, cooling and smoke shelters where anyone who finds themselves stuck outside can go for relief and recovery. Plus, there need to be far more educational and enforcement efforts to carry out the implementation of rules and facilities.

Here is the email I sent today:

Subject: Please declare a climate emergency and take protective action to care for those working and living outdoors

Dear Whatcom County Council and Executive Sidhu:

On August 26, 2022, farmworkers, along with advocate organizations and allies, travelled to Olympia, WA to call on Governor Jay Inslee to declare a climate emergency. They were focused on the benefit this would have toward saving farmworkers from working more frequently under intensifying life-threatening conditions. 

I am writing to call on all of you to take whatever local actions you can, such as declaring a climate emergency here in Whatcom County, that will allow you to provide measures that will not only help farmworkers, but anyone who is forced to either work or live outdoors. It is also important that you add and keep  your voices strongly calling to our state and federal governments to do the same.

Despite some small gains last year in state rules aimed at protecting workers from dangerous weather conditions in Washington, the rules did not go far enough, and there are still inadequate educational and enforcement provisions to substantially prevent workers from being harmed and placed in danger of death.

On September 10, 2022 Community to Community Development posted this link, This morning farmworkers walk into fields in Skagit Valley to start work – as smoke drifts in over them. Even as the public health warnings are to avoid… | By Community to Community Development | Facebook, providing a video of workers performing their jobs during the horribly smoky conditions that were going on at that time.  

In their post, C2C had alerted people to the following: “Employers do not provide workers with masks or other protection from hazardous smoke conditions. Farmworkers need to work to pay rent, yet the wages they earn do not allow for access to health care. This is why health disparities in farmworker communities continue.” 

Prior to, and ever since the death of the H-2A worker at Sarabanand Farms, Honesto Silva Ibarra, who died during severe smoke and heat conditions in 2017,  local farmworkers and their advocates continue to urgently alert officials about the perils migrant workers face in their workplaces in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Last November we had another tragic death reminding us about the critical need for climate-related measures when another farmworker, Jose Garcia, was carried away by floodwaters. Beside the need for effective climate-related rules, a robust education program, and provisions for ample rule enforcement on businesses, other protective measures are needed for people who are either temporarily or permanently displaced from residences and are exposed to severe weather conditions. Additionally, our vital emergency services agencies need proper training and staffing to effectively address the crises created by extreme climate events. 

Please demonstrate to local advocacy organizations, who constantly work to provide resources to marginalized communities, that you understand the ways that farmworkers, immigrants, and negatively targeted people of various races, genders, and abilities bear a disproportionate threat from the climate crisis. Help earn their trust and work together with them to empower our entire community to provide their compassion and considerable resources to deliver protection and well-being for all community members. 


Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA

This email was sent to the following addresses:

To: <>; Satpal Sidhu <>; Kaylee Galloway <>; Todd Donovan <>; Barry Buchanan <>; Carol Frazey <>; Tyler Byrd <>; Kathy Kershner <>; Ben Elenbaas <>

Cc: Health <>; <>; <>; <>; <>