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What is an environmental migrant?

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Simi Bhagwandass

on 19 February 2016

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Transcript of What is an environmental migrant?

What is an environmental migrant?
What's in a name?
Environmental Migrant vs Climate Refugee
The term "climate refugee" is often used interchangeably with "environmental migrant" - the latter being an umbrella term, but they are not entirely the same. Humans have migrated for environmental reasons throughout history - think hunter and gatherers, temporary agricultural worker.
Skeptics vs. Alarmists
The Face of Climate Change
Recommended reading: The making of a climate refugee - Foreign Policy 28/01/2015
Mobility vs. Immobility
Mention of an 'ecological refuge' as early as 1948, 'environmental refugee’ in the 1970s with first official use by UNEP report in 1985.
Three categories:
• temporary displacements due to temporary environmental stress
• permanent displacements due to permanent environmental stress,
• displacements linked to slow onset
Alarmists

200 million people displaced by 2050

Argue that environmental degradation has already displaced millions of people, and more displacement is on the way.

The security perspective, including the work of Homer-Dixon, is generally viewed through this lens - migration as a consequence and cause of environmentally-induced conflicts.

Environmental change is a variable that can contribute to migration

Feels there is insufficient knowledge

"Climate refugee" implies we can easily pinpoint those who have moved solely because of climate change.

Concerned about compassion fatigue - a threat to refugee protection.
Skeptics
Simi Bhagwandass
Climate and Security - 19 February 2016

Environmental change can induce movement, but may also inhibit migration.

We assume that people who migrate due to environmental events are among the most vulnerable populations, but migration requires resources: financial, human, and social capital.

People also need places to move to, which can be reduced in a conflict situation. In reality, the most vulnerable are those who face disasters but are less able to move away from them.

Forced Migration vs. Adaptation
Security Aspects: Threats vs. Victims
4xs more people displaced by the environment than by conflict
Source: TV5 Monde "Demain: des millions de réfugiés climatiques"
Case: South Sudan
Centre for American Progress' report on climate and security, where they describe the Arc of Tension, driving environmental migration towards Europe.

Migration caused by droughts and food insecurity of sub-Saharan Africa, into zones of weakened security in MENA, towards a panicked Global North.
A threat?
A victim?
Since independence in 2011, displacement caused by:
• Natural hazards: including floods, storms, and drought, or a combination, leading to complex and recurrent mass displacement.

• Disrupted livelihoods and severe food insecurity - worst in the world according to UNSC in 2014.

• IDPs further dispersed to locations prone to conflict and floods.

Conflict in 2013, causes:
• Displacement of at least 383,000, plus an additional 115,800 people from floods

• Destroyed infrastructure, markets and trade routes, worsening the lot of IDPs and food insecurity.

• Military and physical obstacles to movement by isolating communities and limiting people’s options in terms of flight.

• Limitations on aid delivery and data collection

"A study by the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank, found that disasters tend to aggravate conflicts, and that conflict increases the impact of disasters by making people more vulnerable to natural hazards" (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, 2014)
Our sedentary logic lends us the view that moving has a negative context - but: migration could form part of the solution.

Disasters = natural hazard + poor management

Facilitating migration away from arid areas or risk zones now could mitigate future disasters.

Migration to reduce vulnerability.
Global North vs. Global South
Do rich, CO2 polluting countries have a responsibility towards environmental migrants forced to move
Who needs to protect those environmental migrants who are forced to move?

Many environmental migrants create a shift from rural to urban areas within the Global South.

Example: A farmer who, faced with land degradation and lost livelihoods, moves to a coastal capital, at risk of rising sea levels.

This could spillover into the North, but environmental migration will largely impact the South.

IDMC reports that 33 of 36 countries affected by armed conflict also experienced natural hazards.

Can lead to a cycle of displacements, putting a stress on the personal security of environmental migrants.
[Source] Photo - Foreign Policy. Quote - BBC
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