This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

America's First Climate Change Migrants

As climates change around the globe, the ability of people to stay where they are is clearly threatened. We tend to think of this mainly in terms of developing countries, but today's NYTimes has the story about the first "official" environmental migrants in the U.S. The story's headline uses the term "refugee" but the story itself notes that the whole idea behind a planned resettlement of several dozen people in Louisiana is to keep them from becoming refugees.
Louisiana officials have been coping with some of the fastest rates of land loss in the world — an area the size of Delaware has disappeared from south Louisiana since the 1930s. A master plan that is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars envisions a giant wall of levees and flood walls along the coast.
Now, to be fair, the problem is due both to direct climate change (more weather volatility) and the very human activities that have been contributing to climate change.
For over a century, the American Indians on the island fished, hunted, trapped and farmed among the lush banana and pecan trees that once spread out for acres. But since 1955, more than 90 percent of the island’s original land mass has washed away. Channels cut by loggers and oil companies eroded much of the island, and decades of flood control efforts have kept once free-flowing rivers from replenishing the wetlands’ sediments. Some of the island was swept away by hurricanes.
What little remains will eventually be inundated as burning fossil fuels melt polar ice sheets and drive up sea levels, projected the National Climate Assessment, a report of 13 federal agencies that highlighted the Isle de Jean Charles and its tribal residents as among the nation’s most vulnerable.
The U.S. government has set aside $48 million to move people, but so far a new location has not been finalized, and not everyone wants to move. Eventually, those who choose not to migrate will likely wind up as refugees rescued from the swamp. There is obviously no easy solution here. Younger people will clearly benefit by the move, whereas the resistance comes largely from the older generation.

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