Resettling the First American "Climate Refugees"- Who's next. The New York Times* just published a good article on the $48 million project that will lead to the resettlement of 60 people from Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. Climate change is wreaking havoc on their land, infrastructure and ability to live a normal and decent life. Recently, while convening a workshop on the Caribbean Island of Dominica on disasters, climate and ecosystems, I witnessed how Petite Savanne, a coastal village of 1200 souls until last year had to be abandoned, and its residents relocated. Tropical Storm Erika deluged the community with floods from the mountains and surge from the sea. Rebuilding would have put people in harms way in a future of climate change. Relocation was the only solution. Today the US prepares to move 60 residents, fortunately with more time, thought and finances to organize. But upheaval and relocation are already the reality for many around the world and it is is going to be a new reality for many communities in the USA. It's a wrenching time. Not everyone wants to leave. Many are being forced out by events they haven't caused. Most notable the consequences of high emissions from countries miles away from communities affected and that have low emissions. It's hard enough to build resilient infrastructure, but even harder to build a human community with all its interwoven and embedded connections. Communities evolve at a rhythm and pace that is driven by the people and their environment, and overtime a deep sense of place is created. We each have a sense of place, and none of us wants to lose it. The UN estimated that, in 2008, 20 million people were displaced by climate change. The UN refugee agency UNHCR cites climate refugees as one of its it as a growing concerns noting that in 2013, 22 million people were displaced by disasters brought on by natural hazard events. Some events were likely exacerbated by climate change. Disaster Risk Reduction must now incorporate climate change mitigation, adaptation, and plan for more displaced people. The world is already witnessing a harrowing refugee crisis in Europe. Climate change is world-wide and we need to prepare communities for harsh decisions with intelligence, thought, and compassionate action now.
* New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/resettling-the-first-american-climate-refugees.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news