"The modern world has long thought of refugees in strictly political terms, victims in a world riven by competing ideologies. But as climate change continues unabated, there is a growing population of displaced men, women and children whose homes have been rendered unlivable thanks to a wide spectrum of environmental disasters."
"Despite their numbers, and their need, most nations refuse to recognize their status.
The 1951 U.N. Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as a person with a genuine fear of being persecuted for membership in a particular social group or class. The environmental refugee – not necessarily persecuted, yet necessarily forced to flee – falls outside this definition.
Where the forest used to be, torrential rains bring barren hills of mud down on villages. Crops wither in the parched earth. Animals die. Melting glaciers and a rising sea swallow islands and low-lying nations, flooding rice fields with salt water. Factories spew toxic chemicals into rivers and oceans, killing fish and the livelihood of generations.
So people flee. Many become internally displaced, others cross any and all borders in order to survive."
Andrew Lam reports for New American Media August 15, 2012.