Climate Refugees, Collectif Argos (The MIT Press) $29.95
Collectif Argos brings together a team of ten journalist and photographers to capture the stories of communities engaged in losing battles with their local environments. They call these people—and have so entitled their book—climate refugees. First hand accounts of sand storms in China and the increasing disappearance of Lake Chad (which authors tell us was once bordered by three countries and now by only two) are almost as riveting as accompanying photographs—brilliant both in their portrayal of human experience and in their artistry.
The authors claim that our experience with climate change varies vastly based on our location. And it’s true, for those of us who can afford safe, clean homes in cities where we can fulfill our basic needs, understanding and preventing global warming is ancillary. But for the Kigiqtaamuit of Shishmaref, Alaska the problem is much more immediate. Their homes are literally falling into the ocean as icy coastlines creep closer and closer to their front doorsteps. The thinning ice has also hindered their ability to hunt effectively for their traditional food, seals. They fear that, along with the loss of their land and livelihood, their traditional culture (which includes sharing food and other resources with the sick and elderly of the community) will soon sink into that of ever-seductive North American mainstream. They’ve seen it happen to other villages.
Climate Refugees presents a compelling portrait of the first to be affected by climate change, a call to action for those of us fortunate to not be affected—yet.