Catastrophe’s Harvest

Weather events have posed significant challenges to communities around the world this year, and they attest to the magnitude of the climate crisis we’re facing. While these events are certainly not new, the rate at which they’re happening signifies an urgent problem across the country and around the world.

                                                ~ Irene Huhulea

Climate change is causing and will continue to cause significant problems. Ecosystems are being destroyed and human lives endangered. In some ways, the changes we’re seeing are not new, but have occurred on this planet before. However, the speed at which the change is occurring prevents the gradual, evolutionary responses that have occurred in the past. Indeed, much of the prior chaos occurred before humans, as we know ourselves, occupied much of the planet. Our very existence is at stake.

Reporter Abrahm Lustgarten notes, Around the world, climate change is becoming an epochal crisis, a nightmare of drought, desertification, flooding and unbearable heat, threatening to make vast regions less habitable and drive the greatest migration of refugees in history … Human migration, historically, has been driven by the pursuit of prosperity even more so than it has by environmental strife. With climate change, prosperity and habitability — haven and economic opportunity — will soon become one and the same.”

“But for a few nations, climate change will present an unparalleled opportunity, as the planet’s coldest regions become more temperate. There is plenty of reason to think that those places will also receive an extraordinary influx of people displaced from the hottest parts of the world as the climate warms.”

He says, “Draw a line around the planet at the latitude of the northern borders of the United States and China, and just about every place south, across five continents, stands to lose out … The mirror image, meanwhile, tells a different story: Incredible growth could await those places soon to enter their prime. Canada, Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia each could see as much as fivefold bursts in their per capita gross domestic products by the end of the century so long as they have enough people to power their economies at that level.”

By 2070, more than three billion people may find themselves living outside the optimum climate for human life, causing tens of millions of migrants to press northward into the United States and Europe. (Most migrants do move north, where there is the greatest land mass and economic opportunity.) … The optimal niche for human life will eventually move beyond the U.S. and Europe, toward the pole, and people will move with it.

It’s potentially an ideal solution: people from the middle part of the planet will need to move towards the poles to survive, and the countries towards those extremes will need the manpower to fuel their economies. However, as we have seen recently, few countries are prepared to welcome large numbers of immigrants, whether driven by ecologic change, cultural bias, violence, or economic or political upheaval.

Russia has the largest land mass by far of any northern nation. It is positioned farther north than all of its South Asian neighbors, which collectively are home to the largest global population fending off displacement from rising seas, drought and an overheating climate … One of the coldest and most ecologically hostile places on the planet (Siberia) … is fast becoming pleasantly livable.

We humans tend to resist change. However, as Lustgarten notes, “The U.S. itself, the reporting showed, is likely to undergo its own vast demographic transformation as heat, drought and rising sea levels displace millions of Americans …”

Will we feel different about Arizonans migrating to Montana than we do about Latin Americans migrating to Florida?

According to Writer Irene Huhulea, “Addressing climate change starts with understanding that the climate crisis is bigger than all of us. To combat it, we need both adaptation and mitigation. We also need systemic solutions, and we all need to do our part.”

Climate change mitigation and addressing migration seem to be the targets of opportunity for weathering climate change. Huhulea says, “Tree planting is one of the most effective ways for us, as individuals, and collectively, to positively impact climate change … Tree planting offers a simple solution with a far-reaching impact.”

So, plant a tree. And while you’re at it, welcome the strangers. It’s the right thing to do and it worked for Joseph and Mary.

Additional information:

Irene Huhulea, Why Planting Trees is One of the Most Effective Forms of Climate Action, November 16, 2020, TreeHugger

Abrahm Lustgarten, How Russia Wins the Climate Crisis, 12/16/20, New York Times Magazine 

Steve Tarlton, Refuge, 12/3/20, Writes of Nature

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