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Human Migration and Sustainability – Types, Effects & Prevention

Aug 25, 2022
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Key Concepts:

  • Natural hazards
  • Human migration
  • Susceptibility

Introduction: 

There is a connection between climatic change, natural disasters, and migration. In recent years, it has gained a lot of attention and is also a quite debated topic. Some people suggest that climate change and its accompanying natural disasters have increased migration. Whereas, some people’s view suggests that climate change may only have minimal effects on migration. Migration is a path to move from one place to another in order to live, work and get a better life. When people move from their home to another city, state or country for a good job, good shelter, or some other reasons such as natural calamities, it is called migration. There are pros and cons to migration.  

Causes of migration: 

There are many reasons for people to migrate. The causes can be categorized as economic, social, political or environmental. 

Economic migration – People move to find work or follow a certain career line. 

Social migration – People move somewhere for a better quality of life or to be nearer to family or friends. 

Political migration – People move to avoid political intimidation or war. 

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Environmental causes of migration consist of natural disasters such as flooding, hurricane, etc. 

There are two factors for migration: Push factor and pull factor 

Push factors are some of the reasons for people to leave their area and migrate. They include lack of services, lack of safety, high crime, crop failure, drought, flooding, poverty, war. 

Pull factors are the reasons for the migration of people to a particular area. They include a high rate of employment, good salary, good services, good climate, safe place to live, less crime, political stability, more fertile land and lower risk from natural hazards. 

Influences of environmental and climate change on human mobility 

Climate and geography determine the growth and the distribution of the world population. Global warming, that is, the rising trend of the normal surface temperature since the early 20th century, and particularly since the late 1970s, has and will go on changing the conditions of life on Earth. While the average annual surface temperature fluctuates slightly around an increasing trend, local changes in climatic conditions like temperature and rain vary immensely. Global warming also causes the possibility of natural hazards and their magnitudes like floods, storms, landslides or droughts. These have very distinct regional patterns, so living conditions change in some parts of the world very quickly. 

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On its own, climate change does not make people move or cause them to move directly, but it creates environmental effects and worsens the current vulnerabilities that make it hard for people to live where they are currently living. Climate change is likely to make the world hotter, more heavy rainfall, and this may result in more life-threatening weather conditions such as droughts, storms, landslides, and floods. These changes may result in further migration. As per the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) – storms, floods, and droughts – have increased threefold over the past 30 years. 

Steady environmental changes, like desertification, coastal erosion, and soil erosion, are not that serious as compared to floods and droughts, and hence, draw less attention than natural disasters. But steady and slow-onset changes in the environment tend to affect a large number of people, and it will continue to do so in the long term. 

 Drought and its effects 1
 Drought and its effects 2

Climate change can affect the movement of people in at least four separate ways:  

  1. The severity of natural disasters;  
  2. Increased heat and drought that causes the production of agriculture and access to clean water;  
  3. Rising sea levels make coastal areas dilapidated, and there will be an increase in the number of sinking island states (At least 44% of the world’s population stays within 150 kilometers of the coastal areas;  
  4. Competition for natural resources may lead to dispute, and it may turn into displacement. 

The environment is an important factor of migration; it is important to consider that there are other factors that lead people to migrate. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, migration can help people to decrease the risks of lives, livelihoods and ecosystems. It add to income diversification and improves the overall capacity of households and people to cope with the unfavorable effects of environmental degradation and change. Events like Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina and Rita in August and September 2005 lashed the Gulf Coast of the USA and left approximately 2 million people homeless; these disasters created thousands of migrations. These hurricanes affected not only the resource base but also social networks, community structures, and much more.  

After effects of Hurricane Katrina 1
After effects of Hurricane Katrina 2
After effects of Hurricane Katrina 3

There are many effects of climate change that may cause displacement and deteriorate living conditions or hamper return for those who have already been migrated. Crops and livestock struggle to survive when conditions become too hot and dry or too cold and wet, threatening livelihoods. In such conditions, climate change can act as a threat multiplier, worsening existing tensions and adding to the potential for conflicts. 

Hazards resulting from the increasing intensity and occurrence of extreme weather events, like heavy rainfall causing floods, continued drought conditions, desertification, degradation of the environment, rise in sea level and cyclones, are causing more than 20 million people to leave their homes and move to other areas in their countries every year. 

Effects of Natural Disasters: 

Following are the effects of natural disasters 

1. Environmental issues 

There are serious effects of natural disasters on the entire environmental system. 

Hurricanes and other storms can devastate the lives and also the employment of many people, especially of those who stay near the coastal line because they are also at risk of tsunamis. 

Furthermore, draughts may lead to a migration of many people like those who cannot live in their countries due to lack of enough water to grow plants or to raise cattle. 

Natural disasters can also destroy the homes of many animals and plants, and, in worst case, they can even become extinct.     

2. Humanitarian crisis 

Natural crisis leads to humanitarian disasters all over the world. Humanitarian crises include an increase in food shortage and the spread of diseases, especially in poor developing countries as they will not be able to fight the effects of natural disasters in an efficient way due to a shortage of resources and lack of scientific and technical knowledge. 

Natural disasters may possibly force many people to migrate to other countries because their livelihood has been affected, and hence, they will struggle to search for a better job in other places on Earth. 

3. Damages to infrastructure 

Generally, natural disasters also involve great damage to the affected infrastructure, such as the destruction of important buildings like hospitals, offices, schools, bus stands or airports. 

Furthermore, roads may be blocked through fallen trees, and hence, the transportation system may stop due to natural disasters. 

Effects of natural disaster 

4. Public health issues and diseases 

Often natural disasters ruin many essential facilities that are meant to keep living conditions stable. 

If these facilities are damaged, then there are chances of an increase in diseases as the sanitary conditions decline due to the natural disaster. 

Sometimes natural disasters makes things worse by destroying hospitals and other medical facilities. This affects not only the possibility of an increase in diseases due to lower hygienic conditions but also the supply of medicines becomes more difficult. Due to this, there is a possibility that people will not be able to recover from their ailments. 

5. Food scarcity 

Another impact of natural disasters can be a shortage of food supply. When large areas of land get destroyed by natural disasters, farmers can not harvest sufficient crops or get enough cattle in order to meet up the requirement. So, there is a possibility that the local population can suffer from starvation. 

Effects of natural disaster 

6. Water scarcity 

Another issue is water scarcity. Due to natural disasters, natural water sources such as rivers or lakes may get contaminated, and this causes a decrease in the water supply. Especially water scarcity will be severe when for a long period of time, areas will be hit by droughts. In this situation, farmers will not be able to grow sufficient crops. Furthermore, even the drinking water will become a limited source which may ultimately lead to migration as water is vital for all life on the Earth. 

7. Displaced population 

Due to natural disasters, many people often lose all their belongings, including their house, jobs, etc. In such worst situation, depending on the financial capacity, people may be able to rebuild all of it or they may look for a better chance to move to other countries to find a better future there. In future, there will be an increase in the number of migrants due to global warming that will significantly reduce the fertility of the soil. Due to this, there will not be enough water for growing crops or raising cattle. Hence, many people will be forced to leave their homes and migrate to other countries. 

8. Injuries 

Many people will suffer from injuries that are caused by natural disasters. Due to natural disasters, medical treatment in the disaster affected areas will be very restricted as many medical services may  also be destroyed. Hence, there will be no possibility to treat injuries in an efficient way. Eventually, this may cause harmful long-term health effects. 

9. Fatalities 

Many people lose their lives as a result of natural disasters. In developing countries, warning systems are not good enough to save the lives of many people, and also medical facilities are not sufficiently developed to deal with a large number of seriously injured people at a time. This leads to increased mortality. 

10. Emotional shocks 

Apart from physical injuries, many people also suffer from mental illnesses as they will not be able to cope with the effects of natural disasters properly.  

Effects of natural disaster 

11. Economic impact 

Many people face great adverse financial effects from natural disasters. For example, an earthquake can lead to the destruction of the land. People may not be able to make their living from agriculture in these areas. So, they will lose their livelihood due to natural disasters.  

All these effects of natural disasters sometimes makes people migrate to other states or countries. 

Prevention of Natural Disasters 

Awareness, education, preparedness, and forecast and warning systems can decrease the disruptive effects of a natural disaster on populations. 

Preparedness for natural disaster 

Nature-based solutions like preserving forests, wetlands and coral reefs can help communities to prepare, manage, and recover from disasters, including slowly developing disasters like drought. They can also reduce the secondary effects of non-climate-related disasters like landslides after an earthquake. 

We should have a habit of sustainable use of natural resources. It is the appropriate management of natural resources for the use of the entire human community. 

Preparedness for natural disaster 

Summary:

  • There is a connection between climatic change, natural disasters, and migration.
  • Migration is a path to move from one place to another in order to live, work and get a better life.
  • When people move from their home to another city, state or country for a good job, good shelter, or some other reasons such as natural calamities, it is called migration.
  • There are many reasons for people to migrate. The causes can be categorized as economic, social, political or environmental.
  • There are two factors for migration: Push factor and pull factor
  • There are many effects of climate change and may cause displacement and deteriorate living conditions or hamper return for those who have already been migrated
  • There are many effects of natural disasters on human activity.
  • Awareness, education, preparedness, and forecast and warning systems can decrease the disruptive effects of a natural disaster on populations.

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