Home Adaptation Adaptation by Relocation: It's Coming

Adaptation by Relocation: It's Coming


Time to pack your bags?

Humankind has a long history of relocating large populations due to climate change and related factors like failed agriculture, drought, desertification, and/or a general lack of water.

Examples from our history include:
-- The abandonment of the Incan, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations of Central and South America.
-- The abandonment of Greenland by the Vikings.
--The abandonment of parts of the American Southwest by the Pueblo peoples.

And more recently, right here at home:
-- The exodus from areas of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina and disappearing coastal lands.
-- The decision of the Alaskan village of Shishmaref to relocate due to rising sea levels.

So we have plenty of evidence from our past that the relocation of large populations is not outside the realm of possibility; in fact, it has occurred many time before. It's currently happening right now as large populations across the Middle East and North Africa flee lack of access to water and thereby, a sustainable life for their families.

That's why emigration occurs in general: People cannot visualize a sustainable and prosperous life for their families, and so they pack up and leave. Or just leave without packing up, depending on their level of desperation.

Preparedness: One of the five pillars of emergency & disaster management

With all of our history of emigration and immigration, it seems wise, intelligent, prescient, and generally a good idea to begin preparation for migration due to climate change impacts--particularly sea level rise--right here at home. We have enough factual evidence of what's going on around us to know what to do.

So I laud our federal government for beginning the planning process with regard to how to move entire cities threatened by rising seas or extreme weather. It's not a popular thing to think about, but if you go back to why we have political leadership to begin with, it's to protect us as a country from threats. These are bona fide threats that our government would be negligent if it did not consider. Have a look through the article. You may identify as a community that is threatened by the listed hazards, or you may not. You may think that the emigration-immigration process won't affect you, but it will.

You may think that living without a Miami or a New Orleans is far-fetched, but is it really? I think there was probably a lot of denial present when the Viking and Mayan crops started to fail, and what did that get them? Nothing good.

So, in sum, as we've indicated before, when no one else has the ability to visualize threats and figure out how to protect our served population from them, then it's up to us. This federal initiative appears to be a train leaving the station in the right direction that we should all jump aboard in order to accomplish our duties and earn the public trust.

Can you find your part in this? It's there somewhere.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.