Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Climate-induced migration creates perils, possibilities

Elizabeth Blunt in IRIN: For Pacific islands like Palau, Tuvalu and Kiribati, the implications of climate change are clear - and devastating. Already, these governments have begun to plan for a future in which entire populations have to relocate as their islands vanish under the rising sea. But climate change also threatens ways of life in subtler ways, leaving families around the world to work out for themselves how to cope.

Octavio Rodriguez, from Sucre, Colombia, said, “Rains recently have been intense - very intense. Years ago, the rainy season lasted two months, November and December, and water levels reached 20 to 30cm. Now, in the last six to seven months, they've reached over 2m. We've never seen this before. We don't want to leave our land: here are our past, our memories, our ancestors. We don't want to move to other parts; we don't know what to do there. We would turn into delinquents. We'd enter into a cycle of poverty which happens in the cities.”

Rodriguez’s was one of many voices captured in Moving Stories, a new compilation of interviews from the Climate Outreach and Information Network, which reveals the discussions taking in climate change-affected areas. For many, the issue is how to modify their way of life without abandoning everything they know.

Pastoralists may be able to change their grazing grounds, or range further from their main base for longer periods each year. But Hindu Oumarou Ibrahim, from Chad, worries that even these strategies may have their limits. “As a means of survival for us and our animals, we are forced to continuously migrate,” he said, “despite all the risks involved. This is our form of adaptation. We have always mastered it, but if nothing is done to ensure the safety of our space and activities, we risk one day being forced to abandon our way of life.”

Meanwhile Miguel, a farmer from Hueyotlipan, Mexico, works away from home to supplement failing harvests. “The rain is coming later now,” he said, “so that we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I am working for three to five months in Wyoming [in the US]. That's my main source of income. But leaving my village forever? No, I was raised here and here I will stay.”...

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