Friday, 3 October 2008

Forced Migration and the Politics of the Future: A New Report from Oxford

The migrating geese remind me that humans migrate too, and have done so since our ancestsors began following herds across the savanah or moving wih the seasons into uplands as the berries, seeds and roots ripened. We were part of a wave of migration ourselves, that of the late 1960s and early 1970s which saw Canada welcome thousands of educated Brits and Yanks, arriving to teach and do research in a rapidly expanding system of higher education. As I’ve said before in this blog, we came when Lee got a three year contract at McGill in 1968, and we stayed

But other migrations are neither has happy or as volulntary. The Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford has just published an issue of Forced Migration Review containing 38 articles on climate change, displacement and migration. Available as pdf files or in printed copies, the publication examines the role that global warming and erratic weather patterns have played and will play in the movement of populations. Not only will rising sea levels in the future affect low-lying regions of the world, but drought and floods—amplified by human destruction like deforestation—threaten increasingly to destroy people’s homes and farms, sending them on the road, seeking somewhere else to live.

We in North America may think that we are more or less sheltered from this. The effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 are still viewed as an aberration, an example of bad disaster planning, although we will be affected too. What should be our stance vis à vis the displacement of millions? Do we open our doors to those with money and training? Do we shut down completely? Do we assume our responsibility for what is causing these climate changes? Will the current financial crisis in the US make things that much worse?

These are big questions, which aren’t going to go away. Ask your local candidates about them.

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