[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Climate Destruction will Produce Millions of "Envirogees"

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Thu Jun 5 14:17:10 EDT 2008

Climate Destruction Will Produce Millions of 'Envirogees'

By Scott Thill, AlterNet. Posted May 27, 2008

Chew on this word, jargon lovers. Envirogee.

It carries more 21st century buzz than its semi-official designation climate 
refugee, which is a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate 
because of environmental devastation. Maybe the buzzword will catch on 
faster and shed some much-needed light on what will become a serious 
problem, probably by the end of this or the next decade. That light is 
crucial, because so far envirogees haven't been fully recognized by those 
who certify the civil liberties of Earth's various populations, whether that 
is the United Nations or local and national governments whose people are 
increasingly on the move for a whole new set of devastating reasons.

In short, immigration is about to enter a new phase, which resembles an old 
one with a 21st century twist. For thousands of years, humanity has fled 
across Earth's surface fearing instability and in search of sustainability. 
But that resource war has kicked into overdrive thanks to our current 
climate crisis -- a manufactured war with its own clock.

And the clock is ticking.

>From earthquakes in China to cyclones in Myanmar to water rationing in Los 
Angeles, societies are shifting like their borders. And all the outcry over 
so-called illegal immigration neglects to answer one time-honored question: 
If the borders aren't standing still, why should the people who live in 
their outlines do so? Especially when they're under attack from catastrophic 
floods, fires, droughts and any number of other environmental dangers?
Right now, the 1951 Geneva Convention does not recognize the envirogee 
phenomenon, instead focusing on immigration as a result of political 
persecution. But then again, it was established over five decades ago when 
Earth's climate was anything but a terrorist. But the Geneva Convention, 
like everything that must adapt or die, needs to mutate in time with the 
rest of the world and its hyperconsuming inhabitants in order to remain 
relevant in our still-new millennium.

Here are some startling envirogee numbers to crunch: According to the 
Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Earth's fracturing 
communities will have 150 million envirogees by 2050. According to 
Australian climatologist Dr. Graeme Pearman, coastal flooding resulting from 
a mere two-degree rise in temperature would kick 100 million people out of 
their danger-zone homes by 2100.

Here's more scary data. Desertification is claiming land from China to 
Morocco to Tunisia and beyond at an increasing rate. New Orleans and parts 
of Alaska are slowly sliding into the sea, while the former, as Hurricane 
Katrina ably illustrated, is becoming a reliable target for intensifying 
weather events, human corruption and half-assed infrastructure. Aquifers 
around the world are shrinking, while acidification is claiming cropland in 
Egypt and beyond. Hypoxia has claimed portions of the ocean itself with 
alarming speed, as stretches of the Atlantic and Pacific lose oxygen and, by 
extension, the marine life that not only feeds millions but establishes the 
continuity of the food chain.

No food chain, no food. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

But numbers are fallible, which is another way of saying the above figures 
are most likely best-case scenarios. In other words, the future is now. 
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the IPCC might have taken home a Nobel 
for their statistics and bleeding hearts, but their math was significantly 
off. Worse, the rate at which these things happen is rising exponentially.

"The rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentrations accelerated over 
recent decades along with fossil fuel emissions," explained a report on 
methane and CO2 rises by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National 
Organization for Atmospheric Administration. "Since 2000, annual increases 
of two ppm or more have been common, compared with 1.5 ppm per year in the 
1980s and less than one ppm per year during the 1960s." As for methane, in 
2007 it exploded by 27 million tons after a decade with relatively no rise 
at all. Think about that next time you eat that Happy Meal.

So what's an envirogee to do, other than opt out of wasted fantasies like 
Happy Meals, factory farming, bottled water and Hummers? What else? Move.
Which is what envirogees worldwide are already doing right now, by choice or 
by gunpoint, and will do more often than not as situations on the ground and 
in the air deteriorate.

The conflict raging in Darfur is a sobering example of the complexity of the 
situation. It has so far displaced 2-3 million people, and for all the talk 
of political or religious persecution, the fact remains that it is at its 
root an environmental crisis. An arid desert whose water is drying up by the 
day, Darfur is one of the first flashpoints of our new phase of climate 
conflict, a conflict that U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon explained in 
the Washington Post as one "that grew at least in part from desertification, 
ecological degradation and a scarcity of resources, foremost among them 
water." But this too should have been foreseen: According to remote sensing, 
Darfur sits atop of an underground lake that once used to hold over 600 
cubic miles of water and dried up thousands of years ago.

And like Darfur, we are numbly sitting atop our climatological past while it 
races to catch up with us. Parched by thirst and hungry for fossil fuels 
which, in turn, only exacerbate that thirst and the wars it engenders, 
envirogees are streaming out of these hot zones into less murderous ones, 
whose inhabitants are circling their wagons on the outsiders. Civil wars are 
breaking out. Outsiders, in turn, are becoming invaders. The irony is rich.
It gets richer, or poorer, depending on where you stand on peak oil. The 
planet's shrinking petroleum reserves are now more valuable than ever, and 
the prices for its capture and capitalization show zero sign of returning to 
normal. That expense is also beginning to be measured in lives, as carbon 
concentration exponentially increases and weather events become more 

And you all know what they say about extreme times calling for extreme 

We've been here before, which is to say on the brink of extinction. In one 
instance, drought shrunk our numbers to about 2,000 scattered in a diaspora 
across Africa, a fearsome thought for a 21st century superpower that may be 
entering its own permanent drought. But the wrinkle is different this time 
around the tightrope: We built this coming dystopia with our own hands.

And that's going to reshape not just immigration policy, but the concept of 
immigration altogether. And that's where the envirogee comes in. The 
envirogee, you see, is on the run from himself.

In other words, and no matter how much blowhards like CNN's Lou Dobbs bitch 
and whine, the inconvenient truth of climate change, and its rampant 
resource wars for what's left of the planet's stores, remains a reality. 
Beneath genocide in Darfur lies a desert that used to be a lake. There 
probably isn't a better metaphor for our current hyperhighway to hell in 
existence, if one could argue that it was a metaphor to begin with. But one 
can't, because it is reality, pure and simple. And so are envirogees, 
regardless of the outdated assertions of the Geneva Convention or the staid 
refusals of the insurance industry to wake up and smell the hurricanes.

"If we keep going down this path," French prime minister Nicholas Sarkozy 
argued to the superpowers gathered at the Major Economics Meeting in Paris 
last month, "climate change will encourage the immigration of people with 
nothing towards areas where the population do have something, and the Darfur 
crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others," he stressed.

That is, we won't be worried about Mexicans coming to the U.S. for economic 
reasons, or Africans doing the same in France and England. We will be 
worried about hyperviolent cyclones, floods and droughts destroying what's 
left of our jobs and the people who want them, as we all pack our crap and 
move northward, where temperate weather and more bountiful supplies of 
water, gas and food lie. We will be the ones enduring the hard stares and 
perhaps bullets fired from locals who are circling their wagons against 
victims of their own consumption and apathy.

Whether or not we can settle, literally, with that solution, time will tell. 
But according to the continually underperforming science of climate crisis, 
we won't settle for long. Barring any meaningful sociopolitical or economic 
engagement, to say nothing of much-needed technological revolution, on the 
issue, we'll have turned from territorial citizens into climate nomads, all 
in a cosmological eyeblink. 

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