I read an interesting post over at the NCC Blog. It was about Gustav evacuees, and it called them “climate refugees”. I found this term intriguing. The wikipedia definition (while certainly not definite) describes a climate refugee as, “a displaced person caused by climate change induced environmental disasters. Such disasters are evidence of human-influenced ecological change and disruption to Earth’s climate system, primarily through the emissions of green house gases.”

So, properly speaking. I’m not sure Gustav evacuees qualify as climate refugees. There were hurricanes long before we had human induced climate change.

Ethically, what should we do about these people. Should we attempt to rebuild their homes? I’m not sure. Recently I’ve been thinking that it may be best (financially) for the government to spend money for the displaced people to start a life in a new place which isn’t going to have the same potential for natural disasters.

Christians should seek to meet these people’s needs in one way or another. I’m just not sure what the most responsible way of doing that is. Sending people back into harm’s way may not be the best way of doing that. Of course those people have a right to live there, but in a sense they are taking responsibility for their own problems by going back instead of moving to a safer place.

I have a feeling this question is going to be on my mind in the weeks to come as Hurricane Ike broods in the Gulf of Mexico. We still have Katrina victims living among us in DFW years after that storm. Perhaps that was the best solution…perhaps not…

4 comments on “Climate Refugees

  • 1) Climate refugees: does the cause of the weather (hurricanes in this case) determine if someone can be called a “climate refugee?” Perhaps, if the definition ultimately requires pointing the finger at people (as opposed to a random “act of God.” Somehow that seems a little off to me. The fact of the matter is that the people are displaced, and we should help them meet their needs.

    2) Relocating people: not to exaggerate or be alarmist, but at what point do you stop saying that people should move? What you are saying about relocation comes down to some sort of very powerful federal power of emanate domain. So we move people out of flood plains or hurricane areas (like the entire state of Florida). What about tornados? What about earthquakes? What about social dangers (as opposed to environmental ones)? Should we move people because they are in danger or a perceived threat? Ask any Native American tribe how that has worked out for them. (Ok, maybe that’s an extreme example. But, then again, maybe not…)

  • 1) a climate refugee might be someone who is affected by desertification, or rising sea levels…

    2) I share your thoughts about the relocation. Those are concerns I share with you. I certainly don’t like the idea of government telling me what to do all the time. However, some people make bad choices on their own (i.e. riding out the hurricane in Galveston even after an evacuation order). I just feel like those people have to take some responsibility for their choices. I guess my main concern is that government not spend extra money (causing my taxes to increase). A church should take care of those needy people, at least in my mind.

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