I will be honest, when I hear the word refugee, I tend to think of displaced people from conflict hotspots such as the Middle East and Central Africa. This is the first time that I have actually heard of climate refugees which is probably going to be more and more common given the trajectory of the Earth’s climate. Especially in the case of indigenous people, it seems that their concerns tend to get swept under the mountains problems that society has. With the ever so more warming environment and human destruction, natural habitats such as the Amazon rainforest and the Sahel are ever shrinking. With those losses come the losses of indigenous people’s way of life and homes. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be a concern for most people until it affects them too. It’s already hard enough for war refugees to find sanctuary so how hard would it also be for climate refugees?
The world’s indigenous people population is a sizable amount too. According to a Reuter’s article, there are approximately 900,000 indigenous people living in Brazil. Over the last couple of decades, cattle ranchers have been attempting to take over rainforest land by clearing them to make room for grazing land. Many indigenous people’s effort to formalize landownership has been stagnated while ranchers and palm farmers aggressively wrestling for control of land. In many countries like Brazil, there are significant roadblocks to implementing land conservation and environmental laws. The corruption within governments and limited powers of law enforcement have contributed to the accelerated loss of indigenous land. This is also fueled by a huge emphasis on economic growth too.
Eventually, something has to be done about this. Regulations and strict governmental action are good starts to limiting habitat destruction and climate change. However, we need to think of ourselves as future climate refugees as eventually many of us will have to relocate due to rising sea levels and intensifying natural disasters. For instances, a good chunk of Florida and California will be underwater in the next century or so. It reminds me of the habitat climate change simulation that I did in biology lab; animal populations will eventually try to migrate more North and South as the Earth warms up until there is nowhere to go. I hope that is not the future of humankind.