At our International Day of Climate Action event yesterday in my small community (15 people showed up! I was shocked ... only expected 3 or 4, and we had a learn-in and lament and a rich discussion of the future we can create), we talked about the fact that climate change is already happening, so how can people deny its existence?
Though many of us lucky ones still haven't been impacted by the changing climate — at least not in any way that we can see or complain about — Brown relates the stories of would-be refugees found dead in their small boats, or in the deserts. In some cases, poverty drove these people to seek a new home. In some cases, the poverty was caused by desertification of their croplands. Let us be frightened by the numbers and shed a tear for these people. They could soon be our own children or grandchildren.
Here are snippets of his article to, I hope, evoke empathy and compassion for these refugees. There but for the grace of God....
Measured by the biologically productive land area that can support human habitation, the earth is shrinking.Desert expansion in sub-Saharan Africa, principally in the Sahelian countries, is displacing millions of people.We do not know whether they [these refugees] were political, economic, or environmental refugees. Failed states like Somalia produce all three. We do know that Somalia is an ecological disaster, with overpopulation, overgrazing, and the resulting desertification destroying its pastoral economy.Today, bodies washing ashore in Italy, Spain, and Turkey are a daily occurrence, the result of desperate acts by desperate people.Many of those who try to cross the Arizona desert [from Mexico] perish in its punishing heat. Since 2001, some 200 bodies have been found along the Arizona border each year.With the vast majority of the 2.4 billion people to be added to the world by 2050 coming in countries where water tables are already falling, water refugees are likely to become commonplace.Whereas the U.S. Dust Bowl displaced 3 million people, the advancing desert in China's Dust Bowl provinces could displace tens of millions.While desert expansion and water shortages are now displacing millions of people, rising seas promise to displace far greater numbers in the future, given the concentration of the world's population in low-lying coastal cities and rice-growing river deltas. The numbers could eventually reach the hundreds of millions, offering yet another powerful reason for stabilizing both climate and population.
According to Brown, "During this century we must deal with the effects of trends—rapid population growth, advancing deserts, and rising seas—that we set in motion during the last century." He suggests that our choice is a simple one: "reverse these trends or risk being overwhelmed by them."
With thanks to Hermann Josef Hack for the artwork.