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The Natural World: Our Ever-Present Home — Part 1 of 3

Women, walking with what possesions they can carry, arrive in a steady trickle at an IDP camp erected next to an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, Somalia, on November 12. Heavy rains in Somalia, coupled with recent disputes between clans, has resulted in over four thousand IDPs seeking shelter at an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, with more arriving daily. AU UN IST Photo / Tobin Jones
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Nature may bring a sense of familiarity to some, but it can also be ruthless. As the climate changes and the natural environment deters, the relationship between humanity and nature becomes more complicated. Climate refugees face harsh consequences.

In three separate articles, this series will observe Third Culture Kids’ (TCKs) relationship with the natural world. First and foremost, let’s discuss understanding climate refugees, i.e. people displaced or fleeing as a result of the changing climate.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The climate crisis and displacement

The World Bank estimates that not taking action will lead to 140 million people forced to migrate regions by 2050. Meanwhile, this displacement is already underway. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that extreme weather conditions linked to the climate crisis displaced 26.4 million people between 2008 and 2019. People being displaced are climate refugees.

The impacts of the changing climate are underway. According to the U.N., greenhouse gas emissions are at a record high. Billions of tons of CO2 from coal, oil and gas production are releasing into the atmosphere. If global emissions are not reduced, the damage done to ecosystems will be irreversible.

Increasing conflict and mass displacement

Climate change leads to new, more frequent and intense weather extremes. Furthermore, it impacts and worsens food and water insecurity. The U.N. describes the climate crisis as “A Catalyst For Conflict,” and here’s why:

  1. Increased competition for natural resources like land, food, water, fuel, and fuel, leading to mass displacement
  2. Makes existing challenges worse, leading to political unrest and violence

The harsh effects on Africa

The Horn of Africa, including Somalia, is facing a combination of severe droughts and severe flooding. As a result, the dry land in the north and the flooded land in the south and center regions have made the land unfarmable. Above all, food insecurity persists throughout the entire country. The UNHCR says that the price of basic food items has raised 50% in some areas.

Women, walking with what possessions they can carry, arrive in a steady trickle at an IDP camp erected next to an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, Somalia, on November 12. Heavy rains in Somalia, coupled with recent disputes between clans, has resulted in over four thousand IDPs seeking shelter at an AMISOM military base near the town of Jowhar, with more arriving daily. AU UN IST Photo / Tobin Jones
Women, walking with what possessions near the town of Jowhar, Somalia, November 12 AU UN IST Photo / Tobin Jones

“In general climate change, climate-related disaster is affecting Africa majorly,” said Global Climate Policy Lead Nafkote Dabi. “For Somalia just in 2018, there was 7.5% of the population displaced because of climate-fueled disaster.”

Dabi notes that this is equivalent to the populations of Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin being displaced in one year.

On the other hand, some Somali refugees have fled to neighboring countries like Yemen and Ethiopia. According to the UNHCR, over 2.6 Somalis are internally displaced people (IDP). IDP sites are overcrowded, makeshift shelters constructed from sticks, cardboard, and plastic.

The UNHCR says many refugees have lived in these camps their whole lives, in protracted refugee situations. A protracted refugee situation is when “25,000 or more refugees from the same nationality have been in exile for five consecutive years or more in a given host country,” says the UNHCR.

Many Somali children have been born in refugee camps now, not knowing a life other than exile.

Life as a protracted refugee in Dadaab

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is among the largest in the world.

Refugee shelters in the Dadaab camp, northern Kenya, July 2011
Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, 16 July 2011. Photo by Pete Lewis, Department for International Development UK

‘Enter to Learn, Leave to Lead’

This is what the gates to the school reads, but many have not found their way out of the camp.

Teacher Training in Dadaab
Teacher Training in Dadaab, Photo by Globalhealthcsis

Abdirizak arrived at the camp at the age of 16 and began studying upon arrival. “I’m now 25 years old, my strongest wish is to go to university in Canada,” Abdirizak told France24. Similarly, other young adults in Dadaab share the same goal of getting higher education as a means to leave the camp.

“Mentally, I’m there (studying in Canada, but physically I’m stuck here,” Abdirizak said.

Abdirizak’s adoptive mother became worried about him: “I always supported him to go to Canada, but he wasn’t able to, and now it’s making him sick.”

She added: “He thinks about it all the time, at night I hear him speaking to himself, sometimes he stays up several nights at a time, and now I am starting to get depressed here.”

Refugees could be safer within the camp

Somali refugee Rahma came to the camp at 12 years old.

“I did not know how to read and write, now I’m 19 years old, I want to be a chemical engineer,” Rahma said. She returned to Somalia at the age of 18, but the country had no opportunity.

To make matters worse, rape became an issue in Rahma’s home village in Somalia.

Dadaab is the world's largest refugee complex. Somali refugees who arrived here as early as 1991 continue to rely on humanitarian aid for their daily needs.
EU Commissioner Stylianides visits Dadaab, Kenya

As a result, her father tried to marry her off, so Rahma ran away, returning to the only other place she knew as home, Dadaab.

Rahma warns other women of life back in Somalia: “There’s no work there, no school.”

However, the women in the camp did not share Rahma’s concerns.

“We want to return to the land of our ancestors, they want us to leave and we’re ready, we want the U.N. to help us get there, to go home even if our country is burning,” said a woman in response to Rahma’s warning.

According to the UNHCR, Somalia is the land that many refugees consider to be their home, their country. Despite it being an unfamiliar land some have never stepped foot in, many have made it their mission to return to Somalia.

Do refugees have a way out?

Many think there is through education. However, education is only for the elite: If families cannot afford books, the children do not go to school. Children will often begin working, and a parallel economy has been established in Dadaab.

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Somali refugee Sagaro was born in the camp and has known many people within the camp from a young age.

“I want to go and live in another country; we’re locked up here, we don’t have the right to go out, if we try the police can arrest us,” Sagaro said.

He has begun his own business in the camp, but his family hopes to get a U.S. asylum application. If they are not granted asylum, Sagaro’s plan is to illegally flee to Europe.

But, his dad is opposed to the plan to try to make it to Europe. Some refugees have crossed North Africa in boats in hopes of reaching Europe.

Upcoming articles

The changing climate creates a harsh perception of the natural world. For climate refugees, forces of nature have destroyed homes, displaced families, and changed life for good. However, for some cultures, nature heals. Or becomes common ground to resort to in an unfamiliar, ever-changing world.

On the other hand, Audri Murray is a Military B.R.A.T. Accustomed to adapting to change, nature was always there to resort to. No matter the new culture she became immersed in, one thing never changed, there was always the outdoors. Read ‘The Natural World: Our Ever-Present Home – Part 2 of 3′ here tomorrow.

Bianca Acosta grew up in a village in Mexico before moving to Colorado at the age of 15. For her, connecting with nature is more than recreation or a hobby. To Acosta, nature or Mother Earth is a teacher and healer. The food produced by the earth arises as a “global common language” used as a “vehicle for healing and building community,” says Acosta’s profile on Grow Haus. Acosta has witnessed firsthand how nature can heal, and be an anchor for a TCK. Read ‘The Natural World: Our Ever_Present Home – Part 3 of 3’ here the day after.

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