The Climate Change | Refugee Connection

The Climate Change | Refugee Connection January 10, 2018

One of the salient features of climate change is how it affects all of life. Here are some connections between climate change and the global refugee crisis, which our congregation has committed to ameliorate through its partnership with Canopy NWA.

In the video series, Years of Living Dangerously, the segments by Thomas Friedman make this connection in the starkest manner. For example, a short segment from Season 1 is particularly on-point for how climate change affects the war in Syria and the refugee crisis that resulted.

Syria was a very advanced country and very rich before the worst drought in more than a millennium changed everything.

Here is a brief segment that Thomas Friedman did on Yemen and a city that is running out of water, which causes a conflict that contributes to the war there.

Here is Thomas Friedman reporting in a longer (28-minute) segment on Sub-Saharan Africa’s climate crisis and the connections to refugees fleeing the region and heading to Europe.

Now, add to these stories the experience that we observe in Springdale among the Marshallese community. The Marshall Islands are being flooded by sea level rise. My Friend, Chris Balos, is dealing with his Grandmother, who makes him promise to bury her in the Marshall Islands, land of her birth (see below the excerpt from a recent graphic novel published by the Weather Channel on the topic of climate change and the Marshallese community in Springdale, Arkansas).

The problem is that his other Grandmother and Grandfather were buried in the Marshall Islands in a historic cemetery. Since their burial a few years ago, their bodies have been washed away by high tides.

So, when I write that climate change exacerbates the current global refugee crisis, I am not exaggerating. These are strong motivations behind the urgency I feel regarding the need to clean up our sources of electricity, including installing solar PV arrays. The Church must be the leader in making these connections between our actions and the suffering of people all over the world.

The church can lead in a manner that demonstrates our faith values and the connections between refugee ministries and problems caused by climate change in exacerbating droughts that drive wars in Syria and Yemen and refugee flight from Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Guest post: Terry Tremwel, ph.D. chairman of the board Picasolar and adjunct instructor of sustainability at the University of Arkansas; Terry coordinates our adult forums Sunday mornings at 10:15 a.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

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