J500 Media and the Environment

The Heat is On by denzylj

Mention the word “migrants” and it usually conjures negative stereotypes – of desperate people fleeing dire poverty and genocide in some godforsaken country where the prospect of a better life in the West brings with it all the promise of congratulatory welcome by xenophobic zealots. Short shrift is given to aspects of economic growth brought about by economic migrants, their cultural diversity and a heritage that has spawned the founding of the New World by European migrants. Nowadays, migrants are largely treated with contempt – out to steal jobs meant for hardworking and upstanding citizens, responsible for escalating crime patterns and, heaven forbid, can’t even speak English.

And so reading the European Union report this week filled me with a sense of trepidation – that global warming is presenting a new set of problems for society – environmental migration. The report warns that Africa will be hard hit by the effects of climate change that is likely to witness the mass exodus of millions of people to Europe. Water shortages, diminishing food stocks and reduction of arable land are some of the consequences of climate change that are considered threat multipliers to climate change. Coupled with domestic instability and weak governance, countries may find it difficult to adapt to the changes, prompting a massive south-north migration unrivaled in history.

Darfur, coming to terms with civil strife now faces the consequences of climate change

Just how will Europe cope and is it willing to absorb millions of environmental migrants, given that it’s the industrialized powerhouses that have principally contributed to global warming, further compounding the woes of poorer countries? Could migrants be considered under a broader definition of “refugees,” which encompasses grounds for international protection based on threats of persecution over identity? The UNHCR, says it’s a debate that’s taking place in a complex world of global migration, but one hopes that the issues don’t become clouded in semantics, but that meaningful solutions are forthcoming and eclipse the kind of responses shown to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Too many times the world has stood idly by as human rights abuses have been enacted upon defenseless citizens, from the brutality witnessed during the Chinese cultural revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution, the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust, Cambodia under Pol Pot, to the atrocities committed in Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia. Global warming is a phenomenon created by humans and since we’ve not learned lessons from the past, at least the future, as gloomy as the fate of millions of the world poor sounds, should serve as a guide for immediate action.

– Denzyl


3 Comments so far
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You are absolutely right. Thank you for this illuminating post. As I have said in class, climate change has no boundaries. The countries that will be hardest hit are ones that are agrarian-based. And I was surprised to learn that the largest group of refugees are environmental refugees fleeing natural disasters. Refugees are displaced for an average of 13 years. That means 13 years in which people do not get a steady education or have steady work. The implications are staggering.


Comment by j500

This post was brilliant! I never thought about climate change causing such a frenzy that would cause masses of people to move away in search of greener pastures. And who’s to blame? Who should be “putting up” with these migrants? Is it really Europe’s job to provide space and company to people who have nothing else to do but try to survive?

Comment by Danae DeShazer

Thank you Simran and Danae and yes I think at times we forget the vast potential impact climate change has on our lives, and the tendency is to look at it from our own relative comfort as a problem that’s occurring elsewhere. I still don’t fully comprehend the likely consequences of our actions and each time some gloomy prediction is made, I’m shocked that yet more disaster is being added to an already troubling scenario.


Comment by denzylj

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