Thursday, January 15, 2009

An environmental exodus

Guelph Mercury (Canada): A growing number of journalists, scholars, military analysts, and others warn that over the horizon lurks something to make the present financial crisis seem like small potatoes indeed: global scale population displacements and waves of environmental refugees.

The causes include collapsing fisheries, diminishing fresh water, wide-scale land degradation and soil erosion, chemical pollutants, and biodiversity loss. Climate change promises to worsen their combined impacts. All are linked to the ever-expanding human population and its ever-growing levels of consumption.

The scale of the predictions is frightening. British ecologist Norman Myers forecasts 200 million environmental refugees by the end of this century. Christian Aid, a well-respected refugee assistance organization, predicts up to one billion environmental refugees by the year 2050. Other authors and organizations have offered similar forecasts.

…Many fear the current global financial situation may come to rival the 1930s Depression; let's hope climate does not also revert to 1930s form. That decade saw a half-million North Americans leave their homes when severe droughts hit the Canadian Prairies and U.S. Great Plains.

…Strong communities, where people have good jobs, good schools and health care, and where the social and cultural opportunities are rich, can withstand severe environmental stresses. When these are eroded, distress migration can and will ensue.

Building such adaptive capacity at a global scale requires a sustained, worldwide effort to implement the New Deal-type infrastructure and social programs currently being discussed by U.S. president-elect Barack Obama. For Canadian politicians, who would do well to emulate him, this means two simple imperatives....

A poster for Gojira, 1954

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