Climate Refugees

© The MIT Press

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.


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2 thoughts on “Climate Refugees

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Bell, hillhurstreview. hillhurstreview said: New book review today :: Climate Refugees […]

  2. Anne Hicks says:

    Hello and thank you for this article. So-called environmentally induced migration is multi-level problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.

    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.

    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.

    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.

    According to Norman Myers environmental refugees are “people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty”.

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