Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Climate Change, Migration and Public Response

Although there is no direct link between migration and climate change it definitely contributes to it. Since many people are displaced or moving from one region to another scientists and researchers ask the question: why? What is causing these people to move? To answer this question we have to call into question what makes anyone want to up heave their whole way of life, leave their extended family, customs, language, and everything they know. There are very few reasons for such behavior. The talk I attended yesterday centered on migration and how the world reacts to it, as well as what is causing people to migrate and how it all related to climate change and policy. During the talks it was said that the two primary reasons for people to migrate were safety and livelihood. So what's threatening the health, safety and welfare of all of these people? Is it a lack of availability of resources, famine, droughts, flooding, storms, the spread of diseases (like malaria), civil unrest, war, politics,….?  There is no one contributing factor to this kind of decision but climate change has a hand in all of these and more. With our world being so severely affected it's hard for some to survive. So difficult in fact that they decide to uproot their family and try to start a better life somewhere else. Another name for these types of people are refugees.  There are several types of refugees: political, economic, and now climate refugees. As our climate changes we see an increase in the amount of people migrating in certain parts of the world like Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

What does this mean for the world? There needs to be policies enacted for these people but the population reacts to them in several different ways.
  • One of the many reactions the public can have towards refugees is fear.  The public fears migrants because they are new and coming into their home towns. They don’t know the migrants and are afraid of the change they bring with them. National security fears they will bring security risks and threats such as terrorism into the country.
  • Another reaction that the public has is to save and shelter the refugees. I know this seems at odds with the first reaction mentioned but no one really likes to see another group of people go through unnecessary suffering and pain. The urge to help and protect those who are hurt and need aid is in a majority of the population (at least I like to think so). However, some groups need money more than anything so they can afford to move away. It’s hard to move when you have no way to pay for passage anywhere. Without money some people are left to try to survive the harsh changes their homes are going through. The people left behind need this climate policy enacted to help reduce carbon emissions and stop changes from developing further.
  • One last example of a reaction the public could give is indifference. Some say that migration could be considered a normal or rational thing to do in response to climate change because you are adapting in your own way. Indifference is shown when little is done to help these displaced people politically and socially. Indifference can stem from opinions like: Climate change was inevitable, Displacement is normal to survive, or that this could help the migrants practice self-reliance or self-help. While it is true that we can try to turn a blind eye to their plight and let them handle whatever comes on their own is that the right thing to do? Personally, I do not think you should leave anyone to suffer unnecessarily no matter what it’s from. If you can lend a hand, then do so but this issue is much bigger and more complex than my opinion.
With migration being called into question it also makes everyone wonder what and how policy is going to be enacted. It will be interesting to see what policy will come up for this potentially growing issue when there are viewpoints that express one type of refugee is acceptable over another. That is to say it is fine to help those who are political refugees, those who are escaping from war and political abuse but there is a sort of tinged negative view on those who wish to improve their standard of living  and move to more developed nations to do so (economic refugee/immigrant). It seems that unless someone’s life is in imminent danger other nations and populations don’t want to offer help so readily or open their doors to those who are just trying to create a better life for themselves. Yes, people can fill out visas and citizenship forms but immigration as of late has had a negative cast put onto it. With this new type of refugee, which could gain momentum in the coming years, how will governments and policy makers respond? Will these people have opportunities to stay in these nations and try to rebuild their lives with certain rights or will they be further displaced amongst the chaos that climate change causes.

1 comment:

  1. You make some important points about refugees and immigration. Have you written about this in other contexts besides climate disruption?