Environmental migrants: when the climate and the environment rebel
A very underestimated issue, which becomes increasingly wider, fated to be long-lasting and that seems to be unsolvable, though.
Drought, desertification, deforestation, erosion and other forms of soil degradation, lack of resources, urban habitats’ decline and natural disasters such as cyclones, storms and floods, and thousands of people forced to migrate because safe livelihoods in places they live in can no longer be guaranteed, mainly because of these environmental phenomena of unusual extent due to climate change.
We talk about environmental migrants, also called climate migrants or eco-refugees, or even “environmental refugees”, as Lester Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute defined them.
There is no commonly accepted definition of migration induced by environmental change, which complicates the understanding of the complex interactions between environmental change and human mobility.
A very often underestimated issue, which keeps on becoming increasingly wider, fated to be long-lasting and that seems to be unsolvable, though.
It is gradually evident that these ecosystems alterations, caused by anthropogenic factors, had and will forthcoming have more and more fundamental direct and indirect effects on the society and accrue to the number of people forced to leave their place of birth in order to reconstruct a future elsewhere.
The EU Parliament noted that 17.5 million people have left their country in 2014, as a result of weather-related disasters, and these migrations have affected mainly the southern regions (sub-Saharan Africa), which are now the most exposed to climate change effects. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that by 2050, the environmental refugees could even be from 200 to 250 million people fled from vulnerable areas because of rising sea levels, storms or floods, or agricultural lands too dry to cultivate.
“Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre” ’s 2015 estimations report that about 19.2 million environmental refugees, may come from 113 countries, mainly from Southeast Asia, in particular from India (3.7 million), China (3.6 million ) and Nepal (2.6 million), concerning the two disastrous earthquakes in April and May of 2015.
Nevertheless, there is still no legal recognition of the status of “refugee” for an environmental migrant, even if it is working to evaluate this hypothesis. Under current regulations they often neglect the refugees affected by the consequences of climate change; for instance, immigration laws do not always provide adequate tools to cope with environmental migrants, although this situation is now clear to many, bringing out a strong need to reform. Paradoxically, thinking back to the fact that the current Syrian conflict was partly determined by the dreadful drought that is gripping the country for years and forced to migrate opposite religion populations within the country, resulting in conflicts.
Do not underestimate the “power of water” nor forget that over the last fifty years there have been 32 water conflicts in the Middle East. The world’s south area territories are, in fact, affected by progressive desertification that certainly will not allow people returning to their origin countries.
In fact, the increasing temperatures over the whole terrestrial globe let the water becoming more and more a “blue gold”. The CIA report “Global Water Security” shows that the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra, and Amu Darya reservoirs are planet areas at greater risk.
It is estimated that over the next thirty years, these rivers will suffer a water flow reduction of 25-30%, precisely because of climate change. According to the report the shortage of water will hinder the production of food and energy production in these key countries, thus representing a threat to global food security markets and economic growth. The solution is still very far, both from a structural point of view and from the legislative.
The only hope we can express is beginning to start highlighting our responsibilities as North of the World’s citizens towards the climate change affected populations, in order to overcome the wrong notion of migrants seen as “invaders” and promote instead a culture of respect, acceptance, solidarity and good daily practices to protect the environment.