Migration forced by climate change: still intangible?


In DES 493 Project 2 students designed an awareness campaign intended to make visible a problem that for most doesn’t exist (yet?) or it is simply non-realistic: human migration due to climate change. “Climate change is today one of the main drivers of forced displacement” –Antonio Gutierres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Directly or indirectly, this has been happening for years. Today, the more connections we can do, the clearer is that serious social, geopolitical and economic problems caused by human driven global warming are just around the corner.

Still, public opinion gets the information fragmented and disconnected from everyday life. The lack of food, water and health that drives to civil wars are still seen as political problems. Privatizing water is seen as a macroeconomic choice. Droughts here and floods there are same old things that have ever happened. Proof of this distorted perception is that every problem is shown as different issues in different sections of any newspaper.

It seems like there is nothing new except for the fact that intensity and frequency of the problems is revealing a new pattern. This pattern, far from natural entropy, is challenging us, species, at a faster rate than natural evolution can bear. Still, some people is discussing if climate change is a natural cycle or if we have something to do with it. What we visual communication designers –as human beings– have to work on is not only on greening our speeches and reducing our paper carbon footprint, but also work on recognize our strongest enemy: denial, and fight against it with our best tools to make reality undeniable.

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Image: Gaby Wong
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    • carlosfiorentino
    • January 4th, 2013

    Thank you for this comment. It has been five years since I posted this and my design students worked with the subject, and still it triggers meaningful discussions. Yet, forced migration due to climate change is not tangible for many people and mainstream media.

    • Anne Jacobsen
    • January 4th, 2013

    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 environmentally displaced people.

    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”.

  1. July 23rd, 2013

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