Climate Refugees: Beyond Absolute Poverty

Sitting in Harvard Square on a cold day was “Grasshopper.” He has been homeless for 52 years straight! His wisdom hits home: “Our mother earth is drained and breaking. We do not have time to figure out who is right and wrong. We have to do something now. The conscious mind is almost ready….”

Grasshopper is referring to the urgent paradigm shift that is needed to reverse the already catastrophic consequences from human-induced climate change. The science is clear that burning fossil fuels emits CO2 that traps heat and warms the planet. Climate justice organization,, teaches us that earths CO2 levels in the atmosphere were 275 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial age and that we are steadily rising past 392 ppm! Most scientists, including James Hansen, conclude that our atmosphere can only safely hold 350 ppm before the climate begins to alter dramatically.

We cannot just change the chemical composition of the atmosphere and hope for the best. This deliberate imbalance, caused by the profit-driven, capitalistic system, is stressing the global ecosystem and its inhabitants. The world is currently threatened by our reluctance to stop burning fossil fuels.

In fact, we are currently experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, leading from the Holocene period to the Anthropocene Epoch. If current human development patterns are not dramatically altered and climate change is not evaded, the earth will loose up to 75 percent of its species within 300 to 2,000 years.

So-called natural disasters can no longer be looked upon as outside the norm, for climate change is upon us. What used to be nature was a walk in the park. That walk in the park is now a climate roller coaster with no safety bars. The twists and turns include storms with increasing frequency and intensity. No location is off-limits. Many of us did not pay to get on this ride. Yet all of us are paying the price for fossil fuel consumption. Those killed from climate change had it easiest because they are at rest. Climate refugees have the real burden.

According to, “a climate refugee is a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes.”

Millions of climate refugees are currently displaced all over the world. Currently, Displacement Solutions (DS) are working on DS Land Solutions Project to help climate refugees from climate displacement. They have held workshops that are focusing on seven areas disappearing off the map from human-induced climate change. These areas are: Bangladesh, Kiribati, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Remember the aforementioned areas as a testament to all other areas affected. Domestically, we cannot forget those on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, and New York City who were internally displaced by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, respectively. Scientific research demonstrates that the ocean is warming, thereby increasing water vapor levels that contribute to the size, strength, and momentum of hurricanes. No more natural disasters. Humans play their part now. If we turn the lens a little closer we now know from the Boston Harbor Association that 6 percent of Boston could have been underwater if Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge hit Boston at high tide instead of low tide. It is reported that this is a five-and-a-half hour difference. So climate change is now hit or miss. Everyone is a target.

The dilemma is the framework of economic growth that tells us we need to increase our independence from foreign oil. That’s interesting — this is incomplete and dangerous rhetoric that is being used to convince us to get on board with burning more fossil fuels! We needed to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels yesterday. Yet we continue to choose temporary jobs over existence. The United States is upping the fossil fuel ante. Corporations have said yes to off-shore drilling, hydrofracking, and tar sands extraction. The extraction process alone is destroying and eliminating communities. Drive through Pennsylvania and ask why people have the huge containers of water on the side of their homes. Their water source is forever poisoned. The “No Frack Almanac,” Volume 1 Number 4 raises an important question. They ask, “If fracking is essential to America’s energy independence, why aren’t the frackers required to sell their gas in this country?” The answer lies within the intent of those selling it. They sell it for profit. Profiteers through economic design do not like to limit themselves to any one market. Globalization seeks new markets. Energy independence requires an urgent transformation from dirty energy to clean energy.

Grasshopper echoed into the souls of Harvard Square, “Our mother earth is drained and breaking. We do not have time to figure out who is right and wrong. We have to do something now. The conscious mind is almost ready….”

To get involved and inspired by the conscious mind, check out 350 Mass, A Better Future Project, BCAN and Clean Green Music Machine.

350 my relatives…

– Jeffrey Ostrom






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