Thursday, August 19, 2010

Environmental causes of migration

Yesterday I mentioned my friend Beth who works with a local community on reconstruction projects necessitated by weather disasters. Well worth reading is her thoughtful essay In Search of Shelter and Protection: Environmental Migration and Climate Change. Here is an excerpt:

Disaster patterns in El Salvador are ever increasing, and will continue to do so in the coming years due to unpredictability of El Nino/La Nina cycles. This year, for example, unexpected downpours in August, the month that is normally a mid-summer drought, will threaten to destroy corn crops, which will further indebt farmers who already lost bean crops in Hurricane Ida last November. Increase in sea level rises could wipe out the entire Bajo Lempa region in the next 100 years, and corn may become inviable in the next 50 years depending on temperature increases.

How many Salvadoran will need to migrate within or outside the country due to these changes? How will the Salvadoran government come up with money for adaptation? And should they? (NGOs such as UNES feels that since climate change was caused mainly by the US and Europe, they owe an ecological debt to countries in the global south such as El Salvador). Disaster microinsurance, better river basin management, and new urban planning to handle those internally displaced from Bajo Lempa are among the adaptation options. But undoubtedly some, as many Salvadorans already have done, will look for work abroad to feed their families. How many? And how?

Environmental migration is already a adaptation strategies millions are using to survive- estimates range from 20-200 million globally. Recent studies from Princeton University suggest 1.4 million to 6.7 millio as the amount of Mexicans who may flee to the United States from drought induced by climate change. How many will die along the way? US borders are getting tighter, and climate change is accelerating. (more)

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