The Great American Climate Migration
A Roundtable Discussion by Grassroots Leaders
The videos and document linked below were the product of a series of roundtable discussions among grassroots leaders from ten low-income, Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. They were convened by Anthropocene Alliance (A2) and The Climigration Network (CN) between February 23rd and August 1st, 2021 to address The Great American Climate Migration, the resettlement of some 30 million Americans over the next half-century due to climate change.
For the undersigned leaders, the crisis is now. They have suffered extreme heat, floods, and fires. Many must also confront racism, just like African Americans did during the Great Northward Migration (1916-1970). It’s well documented that Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities in the U.S. are more likely than white ones to experience climate exacerbated disasters, and receive less government support for recovery.
Migrants are not, however, exclusively Black, Latinx or Indigenous. Anyone who lives in a floodplain (or near one), or in a region impacted by high heat and wildfires is liable to become a climate migrant. Anyone living on the Gulf, Atlantic or Pacific coasts may be forced to abandon their home.
Our goals in publishing these conversations are 1) to create a protocol for communities that decide to migrate; 2) encourage changes to the existing disaster relocation system to make it fairer and more effective; 3) ensure that unscrupulous developers don’t exploit vulnerable communities to profit from The Great American Climate Migration; and 4) suggest the best ways to encourage discussions about migration within communities, and between them and supporting agencies or charitable foundations.
And finally, we ask for the immediate creation of a Climate Migration Agency within a new Department of Climate Change. The crisis of climate change displacement has already reached a level where it needs significant investment of human and financial resources. A robust response now plus sound planning will help us avoid a catastrophic migration later.
Note: This document was edited by the staff of A2 for the sake of succinctness. Edits were approved by discussion participants.
Frontline leaders share their perspectives about the impacts of climate migration on their communities.
When you come into a community, you need to build trust.
People who have lived in their neighborhoods for many years are having to move. Many cities have known about these risks, and they are letting people suffer.
We have an opportunity here to deal with climate migration in a new model and in a new way that doesn't repeat historic inequities and historic problems that are ridden through the history of HUD's blight elimination programs.
There needs to be better coordination of programs, projects and efforts to help the people mitigate these crises.
Illustration at top: Dorothea Lange, Oklahoma farm family on highway between Blythe and Indio, CA after their car broke down, August 1936, Farm Service Administration, Library of Congress