Sunday, December 13, 2009

Climate Change + Man-made Environmental Disturbance = Environmental Refugees

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is in full swing. Hundreds of protestors are being arrested while figure heads from numerous countries go to meetings, discussing how to slow down global warming and the cascading list of problems already resulting from it: melting ice glaciers, rising sea levels, drought, and climate change refugees.

Louisiana and Iraq are both seeing their marshlands disappear while the indigenous people become refugees. Louisiana’s marshlands have been compromised by the oil and gas industry and water management projects. Iraq’s Marshlands were dried up by eco-terrorism followed by drought. Water management worldwide is always problematic. Long-term effects of changing the natural environment are often ignored until the foreseeable damage occurs. These changes, like land loss due to salt-water intrusion and the exodus of certain species of plants, animals and peoples, are magnified by climate change.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha Indians of Isle de Jean Charles will be forced to move as their Island is erodes away. The island falls outside the levee protection system proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers, who deemed it unsavable. Many of the Island’s residents left after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hammered the island in 2008. Approximately eighty remain, unable or unwilling to relocate just yet.

The Marshland Arabs population in southern Iraq is also being forced off their ancestral land. Saddam Hussein cut off the water to the Iraqi Marshlands by damning it up to punish the indigenous people for rebelling after the first Gulf War. The ecosystem changed from marshlands to desert rapidly. After Saddam’s fall, some of the dams were broken and areas of the marsh were partially restored, but drought has brought further hardship to tribes who remain.

While protestors are arrested in Copenhagen, a football field-worth of land disappears from the marshlands of Louisiana every 15 minutes.

Click here to see photo essay on the Biloxi-Chitimacha Indians of Isle de Jean Charles
Click here to see the newest video on Over – the- Wire films on the Marshland Arabs of Iraq

images on this post were shot on the Isle de Jean Charles and in Pointe- aux-Chene, Louisiana