Obviously, the title isn’t related to any new large scale destructive blockbuster by famous director Roland Emmerich, instead what should have been done to halter these new environmental threats looming over human civilization as we know it. Few months ago, on the introduction of this section (ScienceEco), in the magazine, my thoughts and perspectives for this new and informative section in the L’olivier Magazine were highly intense as I always find myself as a climate and environmental defender.
Personally, I knew this section would be a gigantic task for many reasons and among them I would name two. The first one, as respected as L’olivier Magazine is, it should challenge these global issues, environment and climate change. So to speak, it became a collective decision to challenge ourselves by sharing information, finding new coping mechanisms to climate change as it became more obvious from many evidences. Also, I found it a moral obligation to tackle environmental issues as they’re related to all of us. Though neglected among the first godly imperatives to our primitive parents, taking care of our planet remains an imperative as never before. There are enormous challenges facing us on a near horizon. As I’m writing this article, information keep pouring on the media regarding hurricanes Maria, Jose and prospective tropical storms forming over the Atlantic Ocean. Recently the city of Houston saw one of the most devastating natural disasters in its history. And still after weeks, the Houstonians are still fighting to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately, after Harvey, the damages left by hurricane Irma in Florida were not as tremendous as for Porto Rico as it was savagely hit by Maria. As we are in the hurricane season (from June to November), obviously we expect more to show up along the Atlantic coast of North America. Besides water related diseases and infrastructure damages, one can expect more rows of immediate consequences with the rise of the new threats, the ones like human migration and hunger.
In 2005, on the aftermath of the highly politicized Hurricane Katrina that devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, most of its people migrated to HHHarris, one of the largest counties in Houston, Texas. More than 40 000 people left the jazz prone city for Harris. After more than a decade, one can imagine how populated this city is. It’s obvious that people would eventually leave the devastated area of the city in search of a better tomorrow and Texas with its reaching borders was the perfect destination.
From the 2010 census report, Harris had a population of more than 4 million people and the city still witnesses an unprecedented growth of its population, rapidly just in less a decade. Climate change related migration has been a major contributor to this increasingly demographic growth. And all over the world, the scenario looks familiar.
According to senior military figures, global warming is the greatest threat for the 21st century, because of mass migration. “Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century” said Maj. Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh.
Many conflicts on the world stage are related to climate change at some point. From Europe, to Asia, Middle East and Africa, environmental changes related to climate change have reshaped the map with subsequent social consequences. As mentioned above, Katrina has virtually displaced the entire population of New Orleans after the august 29th 2005 event.
Since 1990, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) had recognized that climate change would be a serious problem for the coming years as coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and drought would be the main driving forces for migration. As known by many scholars, climate change was the main force behind human migration from Africa to other continents. It all started with Homo erectus 2 million years ago, followed by Homo sapiens 100 000 years ago to populate Asia from Africa. As climate change brings countless consequences from erosion, to water, food and crops pollution, populations tend to migrate from one place to another. Africa has seen many rows of migration over the last decades due to climate change. Though unreported and silenced on the global media, the lasting conflicts on the African continent are mostly related to resources, richer spaces being invaded by people from depleted ones. Although poorly contributing to climate change with its annual greenhouse gases emission less than 5%, the continent is the most affected by (it). A changing climate walks along with companions like rising sea levels, droughts, increase water shortages, spread of vector borne and tropical diseases among places already weak when it comes to answering those challenges. According to authors like Nkomo and Al:
Droughts have largely occurred in the Sahel and in some parts of southern Africa. During the Sahelian drought of the early 1970s, about 300,000 people and millions of animals died. Flooding, on the other hand, has also caused havoc particularly in southern and eastern Africa. Floods in Mozambique in 2000 resulted in two million people being displaced with 350,000 jobs lost, impacting the livelihoods of up to 1.5 million people.
The problem has been similar on many Asian and pacific territories. Great amount of people has migrated from places to places. Many countries in Asia, already rooted with conflicts, have seen enormous numbers of migrants entering their borders. Even though such continental movements are related to many reasons among which, cultural, family (re) unification, labor mobility… climate change can be added to the list.
It is obvious that the Asian and Pacific have seen prolific economic and social growths in post-world war era. The Asian workforce represents billions of dollars worldwide. Flirting with poverty, the continent also became at the same time a luxurious spot for big corporations. And with a population of more than 4.4 billion people (60% of the world population), its demographic growth has also increased its impacts on greenhouse gases emissions and its related impacts.
On the American continent, people tend to migrate to North America for many reasons as well. From economic, cultural to environmental related reasons. Still climate change represents one big factor for migration on the world stage.
With 2050 on the horizon, world population will reach 9 billion. And more people will migrate as climate change related consequences still put pressure on many. With territories being colonized by migrants, new and diverse forms of conflicts tend to rise from economic, cultural, and racial. One can argue that many populations from coastal lands have migrated to other places as rising sea levels continue to be a serious threat. According to the 2011 vulnerability index, done by the firm Maplecroft, 6 out of the 10 most vulnerable countries worldwide are in Asia and the pacific. A country like Bangladesh tops the list, followed by India (2nd), Nepal (4th), Philippines (6th), Afghanistan (8th), and Myanmar (10th). It’s pretty understandable that climate change has devastated many lands’ agricultural capacities. Crops production has declined in many parts of the world due to climate related effects. And this plays an important role, forcing people to go looking for better places.
It tends to be the same for the Caribbean region as fragile states like Haiti, Dominican republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and some French islands…to see their people leaving coastal regions for urban ones or going further more to destinations like Brazil, Chile, United States, Mexico or Canada. These ruthless and unstoppable migrations tend and will create more and serious conflicts as seen in the US and other places like Europe. Migrants face tougher situations once inside the new territories as they have to adapt or disappear. From lack of habitats to social and psychological challenges, these are among the vast majority of obstacles they face. This kind of challenge will for sure pressure them to the edge. The recent propositions adopted by the new US administration toward migrants are evident proofs how climate change creates retaliation among native and new comers. The firsts tend to protect their resources as they oversee the seconds as threats and predators.
As we’re writing and debating about some environmental related issues worldwide, 4 countries are actually facing hunger and 3 of them located on the African continent. South Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Yemen are facing humanitarian disasters related to hunger.
Even though the 2014-2016 report by the FAO (food and agriculture organization) claims that 795 million people face hunger worldwide, these numbers obviously take into consideration states with malnourished population, including people getting food but not quality ones to sustain a healthy active life. Putting aside these numbers, we know for sure more than 20 million among these four countries cited are facing severe food shortages associated to droughts, erosion, and other climate induced problems. As the tendency to migrate from one place to another became the sole solution for populations from environmental threatened areas, the resources tend to decrease as the demographic toll rises. The situation shapes itself as a vicious circle increasing in intensity, affecting more and more people.
Facing such reality, the landscape of government’s decisions really has to emerge with different prospective and deeper understanding regarding climate change and subsequent consequences.
What can we do to prevent catastrophic scenarios like those? Inform the population to be more prepared to natural disasters as they became part of our daily lives. There’s absolutely no reason to believe we can prevent climate change. It’s already there. It’s more than evident.
So, governments and local authorities have to be more involved in climate decisions, not leaving the issue for activists all over the world, but being more prone to tackle them. It’s unfortunate that most actual leaders tend to ignore them as they’ve settled their spot in the political arena. Though, the impacts of a changing climate and world don’t discriminate.
We can start by creating more food stores in case of out of proportion disasters, especially for vulnerable communities. Authorities have to put more efforts in renewable energies for emerging developed countries as they mostly fail on planning for switching to greener energy solutions. We surely have to ensure that we educate more people on the relationship between demography, depletion of natural resources and subsequent impacts.
(To be continued)