From the Global Lens: Climate Refugees

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Refugees travel in a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos on October 30, 2015.  They were received on a beach near Molyvos by local and international volunteers, then proceeded on their way toward western Europe. The boat was provided by Turkish traffickers to whom the refugees paid huge sums to arrive in Greece. Yet the motor quit during the crossing and the refugees were forced to paddle for several hours.


By the Rev. Paul Jeffrey

The Rev. Paul Jeffrey, photojournalist and missionary shares a few images from around the world that show a glimpse of struggle and purpose as we enter a season of change.

Climate change is making life more difficult for the poor around the world, triggering and exacerbating armed conflicts and driving millions to leave their homes as “climate refugees,” without the legal protections traditionally accorded to political refugees. Humanitarian agencies, including faith-based organizations like UMCOR, struggle to meet these growing needs while also working to make climate justice a priority for their constituencies.

Imelda Balan, a Kakchiquel Maya woman, picks ripe coffee beans in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala. Coffee rust, a terrible plant fungus, has affected coffee farms throughout the region. This farm used heavy spraying of chemicals to control the fungus.

In Central America, warming temperatures have allowed for coffee rust to spread into mountain farms, ruining crops and bankrupting small farmers. When farming no longer supports those who live on the land, they flee for the cities or seek refuge in other countries, including the United States.

Long-term drought in the Fertile Crescent was a major factor in triggering the war in Syria, for example, which has caused millions to flee for safety, often crowding into small rafts to make the dangerous crossing of the Aegean Sea (see cover, top).

A man pours flood water out of his house during November 2014 flooding in Meulaboh in Indonesia’s Aceh province. Flooding in the region has grown worse because of climate change and the proliferation of palm oil plantations.

In Asia, the massive deforestation necessary for the expansion of palm oil plantations, accompanied by rising temperatures, has meant increased flooding across the region, including on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

As science deniers assume new political power in these days, we in the churches must redouble our efforts both to meet the needs of victims of climate change and to heal the wonderful planet for which God appointed us stewards.

The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a United Methodist missionary. Visit his blog at kairosphotos.com.


3 COMMENTS

  1. “As science deniers assume new political power in these days” is a politically provocative statement that unfairly characterizes the nature of the climate change debate and has no place in a UM article. No one is denying science. Rather, scientifically trained people are questioning the models on which some make climate predictions and divine the causes that they attribute to the changes. Science is very unambiguous. Many PhD climatologists would also fit under Jeffery’s unfortunate phrase “science deniers.” Theories have to be generated, tested, and replicated. Climate change always happens. It drives evolution in that it requires species to adapt. Obviously, a populations of 7 billion people puts a strain on the earth’s delicate ecosystem. Still, do we really know as much about cause and effect as some think they do?

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