Category Archives: Climate refugees

Puerto Rico Relief Effort – NYU

Puerto Rico Relief Effort – NYU

We are a group of NYU Environmental Conservation Education Students and Alumni who are spearheading a relief effort to Puerto Rico along with support from NYU’s Department of Teaching and Learning faculty and staff. We are launching this effort to help alleviate the crisis in some of Puerto Rico’s most remote and hard-hit communities, while promoting sustainability and building resilience. The aftermath of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico has resulted in loss of power to the entire island, leaving 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the dark, without electric power or drinking water and no effective means of communication. As environmental educators, we recognize the importance of fostering human health, environmental protection, and resiliency. Our relief effort will focus on providing high-need communities with solar charging devices and water purification kits. You can support our effort by purchasing any of the items on our Amazon registry. We are working with the following local community organizations identified by our Puerto Rican student body to insure these relief items are distributed in the targeted areas in an equitable manner.

By clicking on the link and buying from the product selection in the registry, you will help us reach our goal of providing urgently needed solar power and clean drinking water to these communities. The items will be shipped to NYU, where we will consolidate them into boxes to be shipped to Puerto Rico.

Relief effort committee members:

Mónica Rivera-Rosado (MA’17), Geovani Caldero (MA’17). Our partners at NYU include the Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education, the Environmental Conservation Education Master’s Program, and the Department of Teaching and Learning.

We hope you will support our effort. To join the relief committee or for more information, contact Mónica at

Dr. Mary J. Leou
Director, Wallerstein Collaborative For Urban Environmental Education
Director, Environmental Conservation Education Program
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture Education and Human Development

239 Greene St. 4th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10003


“Be the change you want to see in the World” – Mahatma Gandhi

Physicist Randall Monroe and

NASA roboticist and physicist turned cartoonist, Randall Munroe has an interesting visualization on what a change of 4℃ represents.

Randall Monroe, Quaker, physicist, NASA alum

Atmospheric CO2

As this post is written we are about 52 ppm above where science indicates we want CO2 concentrations to be.   If this is new news, you might want to give a visit.

Here is the Keeling Curve page from UCSD’s Scripps Laboratory.

Way of the Future (thoughts on global population growth)

Over the past 55 years, the global population has doubled. There were half the people there are now on this planet when my parents were born. At this rate, the population of earth will be over 11 billion by 2060. Terrifying statistics when one considers the strain on our planet’s resources with the population earth has now. In the documentary Climate Refugees  former US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, states that “everything in nature is related, so overpopulation, competition for resources, food, water, energy; all have an impact on each other.”  The founder of Earthday, former  US Senator Gaylord Nelson, shared a similar sentiment, that addresses the severity of consequences :

“The link between population growth and environmental degradation is made often in retrospective studies, which is why they aren’t really considered valid, but clearly more people living better lives is the hallmark of progress.  Activists worried about the environment don’t want better lives unless it means fewer lives too.  More people means more cars, trucks and buses, more air pollution, more parking lots and less green spaces.  In their progressive dystopian future, there are more chemicals, more trash and more runoff cascading down super sewers into our streams, lakes and oceans means more damage to California’s biodiversity hot-spots.  Plus, more people means more pressure on declining water supplies”

-Gaylord Nelson

The current annual global energy consumption rates are only getting higher. We have surpassed the equivalent of 3 billion metric tonnes of oil in global energy needs every year. As we all know, fossil fuels are a finite resource. For our planet to achieve such a massive annual energy quota, it is necessary to switch to renewables. I feel it almost silly to make this argument, because the facts are simple. More people on our planet will require more energy.

As resources dwindle in areas most affected by climate change, large populations will have to move to survive. This is already happening in places like the Marshal Islands and Syria. The modern refugee crisis is only going to grow in the years ahead, as climate issues become more prevalent around the globe. And exacerbating the issue is the chaotic growth of the world’s population. The “refresh rate” of our planet’s resources is not fast enough to support our growing population and the demands of modern civilization.

This has been a hard week. Swallowing this information is very difficult. The mind begins to spiral out of control when trying to absorb the hard statistics. I’ve been depressed thinking about this grave dystopian future that the evidence suggests. Will  my children see the beauty I have seen in the world? Will I be able to SHARE the wonderment in nature I have found, or will it become a history lesson? Could our species’ future lay beyond the stars?

“they’ll be moving us to mars”




overpopulation and rising sea levels


Watching Roy Beck‘s videos on immigration in the U.S. made me aware of the dangers of our growing population. In his video, Immigration, World Poverty and GumballsBeck makes some interesting points, drawing my attention to the astounding percentage of people around the world who are poor, sick, and living in impoverished countries all over the world. In his video, Beck also says that  these people are in his words “disconnected” and “unable to make it here as immigrants”.

His video caused me to worry about others around the world as well as our congress. Especially if they are going to be welcoming an unhealthy amount of immigrants into our country next year. So what are we supposed to do about this problem? In my opinion,  I agree with beck that this will be happening, unless we take action with our votes. Our votes can make the difference to ensure that the amount of people we welcome into this country, is lowered to an amount that will make our country stable to live in.

According to the green world post  Arithmetic, Population, and Energy,  we need to make sure our country constantly has a sustainable growth rate. This post taught me that this is important to monitor because more people means an increase in emission greenhouse gases. More people using transportation, electricity, and other means of energy where our environment is negatively affected.

Personally, I believe that there are good intentions when it comes to immigration, seeing as the goal is to take people out of an already impoverished country, and  give them an opportunity to have a future in our country. However, the amount of immigrants that are welcomed into America today is alarming. I believe every place has a limit on the population of people that should be living there. And our votes may be the difference between seeing a sustainable amount of people in our country in a few years or an unsustainable amount. Not to mention the fact that there are people in impoverished countries who aren’t just sick or poor. What I mean is, there are people in other countries who immigrate because their home has become unstable to live in due to climate change.

In the Mother Jones article, What Happens When Your Country Drowns? Morris writes about how people in other countries are dying due to the changing climate. People who are natives of their own countries are suddenly finding their home isn’t sustainable to live in anymore so they have to move. Imagine having to move out a place you’ve lived your entire life, due to an unsustainable climate? The rising sea-levels and destruction of reefs in Tuvalu is a serious problem for the people living there an the sea-life as well. And it worries me that Tuvalu isn’t the only place on the verge of drowning or dying out. What can we do to protect these territories where the sea-levels are rising and tectonic plates are shifting? If we don’t figure it out these places could disappear years from now, and our children and their children’s children won’t be able to experience them.

To Drown in Debt or Water?

For the inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean island chain, The Marshall Islands, climate change is not merely one of the many political issues that their politicians take a stance on. It is not a matter of debating the ‘theory’ of climate change. For them climate change is visible, tangible, and pounding down their sea walls at an alarmingly increasing rate.

10/29/15 DO NOT PUBLISH WITHOUT TALKING TO DAVID FURST. HOLD FOR FOREIGN DESK STORY BY CORAL DAVENPORT ON SEA LEVEL RISE IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS. Ejit (center with buildings on it), an islet in the Majuro atoll. The ocean side is at top, and the lagoon side is behind. Ejit is home to past residents of Bikini atoll who were relocated when the U.S. military decided to detonate test nuclear bombs during the Cold War. Now, under threat of further sea level rise, residents of Ejit are looking to move. Under a 1986 compact between the United States and the Marshall Islands, residents can immigrate freely to the United States. Original Filename: DJI_0007.DNG * CREDIT: Josh Haner/The New York Times NYTCREDIT: Josh Haner/The New York Times
CREDIT: Josh Haner/The New York Times NYTCREDIT: Josh Haner/The New York Times

In a recent New York Times article journalist Coral Davenport explores the issues surrounding sea level rise and The Marshall Islands. She describes the foreign minister Tony deBrum’s struggle to get money from the United Nation’s (UN) in order to cover repairs from industry caused raises in sea level. Though deBrum’s efforts have been going on for awhile, his movement to put a price on climate change damage came to a head during the 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change. Many US officials opposed deBrum’s request for economic repairs, in particular the Times article referenced a document issued by 37 US Republican senators asserting that “Our constituents are worried that the pledges you are committing the United States to will strengthen foreign economies at the expense of American workers”.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 1.08.41 PM

But for the GOP, which has long since encouraged a crackdown on immigration, denying economic aid to the Marshall Islands may not be in their best interest. In his article for Foreign Policy titled The Making of a Climate Refugee journalist Kenneth Weiss explored the issues with new migrants, forced out of their homes by climate change. Weiss discusses the issue that these displaced individuals, while they align with the UN mandated definition for refugees are often not granted asylum. Weiss cites the UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonia Guterres who has stated that “These persons are not truly migrants, in the sense that they did not move voluntarily”. However Guterres also noted that though these individuals may in fact be refugees “As forcibly displaced [and] not covered by any regime—by the refugee protection regime in particular—they find themselves in a legal void.”


The trailer for Michael Nash’s documentary Climate Refugees (2010) which explains and exemplifies the growing issue of individuals forced out of their home by climate related damages.

But for the residents of The Marshall Islands the future may not be as bleak. Though the rise in sea level caused by rising global temperatures and ice caps melting may indeed force them to abandon their homes the inhabitants of the Pacific Island chain could in fact be saved by an old diplomatic tie to their homeland and the United States. By signing the Compact of Free Association the United States has formally agreed to assist the Marshall Islands by “supporting health, education, and infrastructure in the Marshall Islands, as well as the RMI’s ability to perform maritime security functions and strengthen climate resilience through disaster preparedness.” This contract also states that the US is required to  provide refuge for those Marshall Island inhabitants that will inevitably become displaced by rising sea levels.

So what does this mean for a country that is already riddled with overpopulation and immigration issues? The United States government has already been divided on refugee cases such a granting asylum to Syrian war refugees. Imagine the debate that would incur over granting asylum to the 70,000 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands.

Immigration Author/Journalist Roy Beck demonstrates the projected population for the United States with a comically large graph. 

As the global and national population continue to rise our resources become more and more strained. Issues such as conservation, immigration, and distribution of resources take the forefront and our nation seems to become less and less willing to let in refugees. As shown in Roy Beck’s video above, our population is growing at an unsustainable rate. But this statistical prediction shouldn’t just be examined in terms of the States, the global population is increasing at an alarmingly exponential rate as well. Our global population is projected to reach 11 billion by 2100 and it seems that if we don’t drastically rethink our rate of reproduction, use of climate resources, and laws on immigration, the world as we know it will not be able to withstand the growth.


The United Nation’s recent projection for global population growth as published in their 2015 World Population Prospects report. 


“A Climate System Spiraling Out of Control”: A Future We Choose not To See

The future is coming, and it’s coming fast.

The majority of people choose to either ignore it, or do not know the devastating consequences of that future. The statistic that the population in predicted to be 11 billion in 2100 probably doesn’t register for many because they can’t visualize such a large number or cannot see that far in the future. To assist people here is a website that counts, in realtime, the growth of our population, the exhaustion of our resources, the state of government, and the quality of our health.

It makes me feel like this :

Joking aside, the constant worry that we are running out of time is real one. The pattern of most environmental videos, articles and case studies is that we are causing irreversible damage, and we are running out of time and options to fix this damage. This was one of the closing messages of Naomi Oreskes herself in Merchants of Doubts. She emphasized that we don’t have the luxury of 50 years (the time it took the government to try and charge the tobacco industry) for us to start making a change to prevent natural disaster.

Backing up this idea of having a small window of time for change with science, is James Hansen’s Tedtalk, which we viewed in class. He compares our future with “a gigantic asteroid on a collision path for earth” that we are doing nothing to avoid. He explains the longer we wait the more difficult and expansive it becomes” and reveals that if we started in 2005 it would take a 3% reduction in total emissions to restore energy imbalance, if we started in 2013 (one year after the TedTalk was filmed) it would be 6%, and in 2022 it would be 15%, an incredibly expensive and most likely impossible change. Now in 2016, it seems like our window for change is shrinking and it’s showing.

Flood-affected local residents move to safer places on a boat next to their damaged huts after heavy rains at Jajimukh village in the northeastern Indian state of Assam June 27, 2012. Incessant heavy rains in northeast India have caused massive flooding and landslides, killing at least 10 people, local media reported on Wednesday. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER)

The disasters that Oreskes and Hansen predicted in their studies are coming to life and in the most horrible ways. In many cases, the most susceptible are the first to pay. Flooding and drought, are displacing thousands in places such as Syria, where water supplies have been exhausted and major drought has occurred, or in Bangladesh, with it’s coastline and Ganges river and Brahmaputra river, where extreme flooding has displaced thousands…and this is just the tip of the already melting iceberg.

Soon, if not already, we will see complications such as these regularly within our own country. The numbers say it all, and if you see the broad strokes of it all, or just the line moving in continuous upward direction, its clear to see that the things we are doing to pollute and destroy our environment are increasing, while are resources are decreasing. We are getting to the point, where Earth’s annual resources can no longer support a year of our current consumption. So where does that leave us?

It tells us that trying to figure out and predict how fast the seas will rise and how much do we now need to generate to support our growing need are the wrong questions. For when you see the numbers adding up before your eyes, and look at the trend of the graphs, and feel the unusual warmth of the winter wind, you realize the future is now, and there is no time left.