In recent decades, the education of girls around the world has increased dramatically. But climate change threatens to reverse some of that progress.
Extreme weather can increase poverty and force families to leave their homes.
In Bangladesh, for example, coastal flooding has forced many poor, rural people to migrate to Dhaka, a crowded megacity.
Saniye Gülser Corat is director of the division for gender equality at UNESCO, a UN agency. She says when families are forced to migrate, girls often take on additional responsibilities.
"They take care of their siblings. They take care of the disabled and the elderly. They are hired out as a help to others," she says. "So in most cases, even when education possibilities exist, girls are not usually the ones who can take advantage."
She says families struggling to survive may also encourage their teenage daughters to get married because "it is one less mouth to feed."
That tends to cut short their education, so she says climate change could be life-altering for women and girls around the globe.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Yale Climate Connections.
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An internal Customs and Border Protection research report obtained by NBC documents how the areas in Guatemala with the most migration to the U.S. are areas where there has been widespread crop failure and a lack of farming jobs. NBC reports that the research, which was sent to senior Homeland Security officials last year, appears to have been ignored, as the Trump administration froze or redirected millions of dollars this spring in foreign aid, including "money used to mitigate the effects of climate change on small farms," to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The administration instead "put that money towards a more militarized approach to stemming migration," NBC's Jacob Soboroff told Chris Hayes.
As reported by NBC:
More than 100,000 Guatemalans headed north last year, and many more followed in fiscal year 2019, making Guatemala the single largest country contributing to undocumented immigration across the U.S. southwest border this year.
Scientists have said the increase in poverty and food insecurity driving migration are due to multiple factors, one of which is climate change.
The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, Kevin McAleenan, has publicly sounded the alarm about Guatemala's food scarcity.
But inside the Trump White House, that message was largely ignored in both policy decisions and messaging around what should be done to stem the flow of migrants.
For a deeper dive:
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Marcello Rossi
As extreme storms, flooding rains and devastating wildfires make some parts of the U.S. more challenging to live in, what Americans consider a nice place to call home is shifting — and with that some Americans are moving, too.
That's why cities like Duluth, Minnesota, Buffalo, New York and Cincinnati, Ohio, are launching efforts to brand themselves as enticing relocation destinations for those seeking to escape the brunt of a warming climate.
Jesse Keenan, a social scientist and lecturer at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, said that Duluth and Buffalo have plenty of advantages in a warming world.
"These cities are well-positioned, as they have a cool climate that will remain relatively mild even as temperatures increase and easy freshwater access via the Great Lakes – and also face minimum risk of wildfires and coastal storms," he said.
Like some other cities in the industrialized northern U.S., often dismissed as "rust belt," all three urban areas have lost jobs in the past few decades as demand for manufacturing collapsed. And their populations declined as people moved on in search of better opportunities.
Keenan, recently the subject of a New York Times article on the issue, said attracting new residents from regions hard-hit by climate change could help the cities regain some lost economic strength.
But such a gambit would come with challenges. The cities have among the lowest in-migration rates in the U.S. And attracting people to a cold and snowy climate is no easy task.
Advertising themselves as "climate resilient" is only the first step, Keenan said. To appeal to those in other regions, the cities need to address major problems like the lack of jobs and affordable housing.
Earlier this year, Duluth hosted a conference where Keenan presented his concept for the city.
To show how vacant buildings and under-used infrastructure might be repurposed — Duluth is home to 86,000 but can accommodate double that — Keenan showed renderings of the city with 45,000 new housing units, an expanded hospital, a new train station, and a light-rail system. He even suggested a new slogan for the city: climate-proof Duluth.
"The idea of Duluth as a climate refuge is so new to us that we wanted to start a conversation dealing with the potential ramifications of being a climate refuge," said Patrick Schoff, a research associate at the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. "I think there's a lot of potential here, including an economic upswing."
But some Duluthians are not convinced. City councilman Gary Anderson sees the potential development as a good thing, but he expresses concerns that inflows of climate migrants may exacerbate the city's struggle to provide affordable housing.
Karen Diver, a faculty fellow at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, points out that the city has struggled in the past to embrace people from diverse backgrounds, and adds that the area still has to make progress to be ready to meet changing needs.
Keenan, who is credited with inventing the phrase "climate gentrification," said those issues were all considered as he crafted his presentation.
"My plan doesn't cater only to those who are financially able to move," he said. "The whole idea is meant to be an opportunity for Duluth to repopulate and redevelop with affordable housing, better access to mass transportation, and other services and amenities."
Buffalo Is Known for Snow
Buffalo's identity is already tightly interwoven with its climate.
"Buffalo is known nationally and globally for snow," said Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the mayor's office of strategic planning. "This reputation has had an impact on the desire for people and business to relocate to Buffalo."
But though Buffalo's climate has historically been a liability for growth, climate change has the potential to make it an asset for the former steel powerhouse.
"Buffalo and western New York [are] certain to be one of the most livable regions in the country as climate change continues to wreak havoc," said Crystal Surdyk, executive director of Designing to Live Sustainably, a local climate-focused nonprofit.
In February 2019, Mayor Byron W. Brown declared the city "a climate refuge" during his annual state-of-the-city address.
The city has already welcomed some who might be described as climate migrants, providing shelter to thousands of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in fall 2017.
"Many of these families have chosen to remain in Buffalo as they were warmly received and given support that has allowed them to make a life for their families here," Surdyk said.
Still, the prospect of accommodating Americans fleeing climate pressures brings some worries.
Surdyk is concerned that outside developers and investors already are buying-up urban and suburban properties in greater Buffalo. And while housing costs continue to grow — Buffalo ranks No. 7 in the nation for fast-rising rent — household income and the median hourly wage have not kept pace, she said.
"We are already experiencing the negative effects of rising rent levels," said Mike Riegel, the president of Belmont Housing Resources, a housing assistance agency in Buffalo. "Our Section 8 voucher-holders are taking a lot more time than in the past to find suitable housing in which to utilize their rental assistance."
Buffalo's historic building stock — what some consider among the best-preserved architecture in the U.S. — could also prove problematic, Riegel added.
"Energy costs in older housing units are very high, and upgrading to meet energy-efficiency requirements would exacerbate the rent-burden problem for low-income renters," he said.
Surdyk remains confident that encouraging climate migrants would help the city grow, but warns: "If we do not prepare for the potentially massive number of climate migrants and refugees, we will not only miss the opportunity to bounce back but the result could be catastrophic."
Choosing Cincinnati Could Be Savvy
Climate resiliency is also a growing focus for Cincinnati. The city's 2018 Green Plan notes that while Cincinnati isn't immune from climate change, it's "located outside the likely disaster areas" and is therefore "well situated to become a climate haven."
The plan highlights the importance of offering affordable housing, opportunities, and services to individuals who choose to relocate to the city, noting the "economic opportunities if Cincinnati is prepared to market itself" to businesses seeking to move from disaster-prone locations.
Oliver Kroner, Cincinnati's sustainability coordinator, says the idea to promote the city as a climate refuge came about with the recognition that some of the thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had moved there.
Like Buffalo and Duluth, Cincinnati has space for new arrivals. While the worst of its population decline seems to be over, the city has dropped to 300,000 residents, 40 percent less than its population in the 1950s. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are up to 48,000 vacant housing units across the greater metropolitan area.
Yet while climate change is likely to prompt some people living in risky locations to move elsewhere, they will not necessarily end up filling those empty houses. And the same goes for Buffalo and Duluth.
Vivek Shandas, a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, says those with the capacity to move will look to places with strong economic opportunities, presence of family or friends, and high quality of life — consistent with existing mobility patterns.
"These 'Rust Belt' cities are well-situated," he said. "But if they want to attract those who are electing to move, then we need to see empirical evidence – not marketing and general claims – of how they intend to address a surge in population and avert the challenge of higher temperatures and other climate-induced stressors."
Marcello Rossi is a science and freelance writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Smithsonian, Reuters, Quartz, and Outside, among other publications.
By Jeff Turrentine
Given the oversize role that migration plays in our current political discourse, you'd think there would be more emphasis on the one factor military and security experts believe will affect future migration patterns more than any other: .
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that analyzes and audits federal policy to ensure its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, isn't going to let the topic go unaddressed. In a report to Congress last week, the GAO criticized the manner in which the Trump administration has sought to remove any acknowledgement of climate change from our foreign policy and diplomatic strategies, keeping experts in the dark about an issue that's growing only more urgent as a shifting climate—and all that comes with it—displaces millions of people and disrupts societies across the globe.
In the European Union, where the stresses and strains associated with processing large numbers of migrants have already reached crisis proportions, experts predict that the annual stream of those seeking safety within its borders will triple by the end of the century due to climate-related migration. And a 2018 World Bank Group report estimates that the impacts of climate change in three of the world's most densely populated developing regions—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—could result in the displacement and internal migration of more than 140 million people before 2050. That many people on the move could easily lead to massive political and economic strife and significantly stall development in those regions.
According to Steve Trent of the Environmental Justice Foundation, an organization based in the United Kingdom that advocates for environmental causes through a human rights lens, climate change "is the unpredictable ingredient that, when added to existing social, economic, and political tensions, has the potential to ignite violence and conflict with disastrous consequences." Policymakers and business leaders, he says, need to make it a top priority. In the United States, our own military leaders and foreign-policy experts agree, which is why they've worked over the years to incorporate an understanding of climate change and its geopolitical ramifications into our statecraft.
President Obama formally observed the relationship between climate change, migration, and instability in a 2016 Presidential Memorandum, Climate Change and National Security. That memo directed federal departments and agencies "to perform certain functions to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans." It also established a Climate and National Security Working Group, made up of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and many others, whose purpose was to study the issue and make informed recommendations to the national security and intelligence communities.
By breaking climate change down into its component geophysical symptoms, the memo makes a strong case for treating it as a threat multiplier, with the potential to push vulnerable states past the tipping point into chaos. "Extended drought, more frequent and severe weather events, heat waves, warming and acidifying ocean waters, catastrophic wildfires, and rising sea levels all have compounding effects on people's health and well-being," it reads. "Flooding and water scarcity can negatively affect food and energy production. Energy infrastructure, essential for supporting other key sectors, is already vulnerable to extreme weather and may be further compromised." Also listed among the concerns are transportation disruptions, pest outbreaks, the spread of invasive species, and disease. All of these, in the words of the memo, "can lead to population migration within and across international borders, spur crises, and amplify or accelerate conflict in countries or regions already facing instability and fragility."
Obama's memo painted a dire picture. But it wasn't dire enough, apparently, to earn the respect of President Trump, who revoked it in March 2017 in a sweeping executive order that also rescinded a number of other Obama-era memos and executive orders related to climate change. In case anyone misunderstood his rationale for essentially stripping any and all mention of climate change from the executive branch, he spelled it out. "[I]t is the policy of the United States that executive departments and agencies . . . immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law."
Last Thursday the GAO weighed in on Trump's decision—and deemed it seriously shortsighted. At the end of its report, Climate Change: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration, it concludes that State Department missions are less likely now than they were before to recognize climate change "as a risk to their strategic objectives." It recommends reinstating guidance for diplomats and other foreign service workers "that clearly documents the department's process for climate change risk assessments for integrated country strategies." Or, to translate from the GAO's carefully calibrated nonpartisan language into plain English: Enough with the gag order, guys. You're putting our diplomatic corps at a strategic disadvantage and doing a real disservice to American interests abroad.
The sad yet predictable postscript to the report? According to the GAO, the State Department has grudgingly accepted its recommendation and says it will "update its integrated country strategy guidance by June 30" to inform missions that they have the option, at least, to talk about climate resilience officially without fear of punishment. But the administration couldn't let the GAO go without smacking it down for its insolence. In its response, the State Department also hinted that it was strongly considering rescinding yet another Obama-era executive order related to climate resilience and international development.
Meanwhile, new stories continue to come out every day—in Bangladesh, in Syria, in Mexico and Central America—that confirm the worst fears of security experts and foreign aid workers and reveal the administration's blasé attitude for what it actually is: a willful ignorance of the facts, mixed with an utter contempt for those who put facts before ideology.
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
By Bridget B. Baker
While the weather outside may indeed get frightful this winter, a parka, knit hat, wool socks, insulated boots and maybe a roaring fire make things bearable for people who live in cold climates. But what about all the wildlife out there? Won't they be freezing?
Anyone who's walked their dog when temperatures are frigid knows that canines will shiver and favor a cold paw—which partly explains the boom in the pet clothing industry. But chipmunks and cardinals don't get fashionable coats or booties.
In fact, wildlife can succumb to frostbite and hypothermia, just like people and pets. In the northern U.S., the unfurred tails of opossums are a common casualty of cold exposure. Every so often an unusual cold snap in Florida results in iguanas falling from trees and manatees dying from cold stress.
Avoiding the cold is important for preserving life or limb (or, in the opossum's case, tail) and the opportunity to reproduce. These biological imperatives mean that wildlife must be able to feel cold, in order to try to avoid the damaging effects of its extremes. Animal species have their own equivalent to what human beings experience as that unpleasant biting mixed with pins-and-needles sensation that urges us to warm up soon or suffer the consequences. In fact, the nervous system mechanisms for sensing a range of temperatures are pretty much the same among all vertebrates.
One winter challenge for warm-blooded animals, or endotherms, as they're scientifically known, is to maintain their internal body temperature in cold conditions. Interestingly though, temperature-sensing thresholds can vary depending on physiology. For instance, a cold-blooded—that is, ectothermic—frog will sense cold starting at a lower temperature compared to a mouse. Recent research shows that hibernating mammals, like the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, don't sense the cold until lower temperatures than endotherms that don't hibernate.
So animals know when it's cold, just at varying temperatures. When the mercury plummets, are wildlife suffering or just going with the icy flow?
One Solution: Slow Down and Check Out
Many cold-climate endotherms exhibit torpor: a state of decreased activity. They look like they are sleeping. Because animals capable of torpor alternate between internally regulating their body temperature and allowing the environment to influence it, scientists consider them "heterotherms." During harsh conditions, this flexibility offers the advantage of a lower body temperature—remarkably in some species, even below the 32 degrees Fahrenheit freezing point—that is not compatible with many physiologic functions. The result is a lower metabolic rate, and thus lower energy and food demand. Hibernation is a prolonged version of torpor.
Torpor has energy conservation benefits for smaller-bodied wildlife in particular—think bats, songbirds and rodents. They naturally lose heat faster because the surface area of their body is large compared to their overall size. To maintain their body temperature within normal range, they must expend more energy compared to a larger-bodied animal. This is especially true for birds who maintain higher average body temperatures compared to mammals.
Unfortunately, torpor is not a perfect solution to surviving frigid conditions since it comes with trade-offs, such as a higher risk of becoming another animal's lunch.
Adaptations That Help
Unsurprisingly, animals have evolved other adaptations for weathering the winter months.
The large ears of a fennec fox would be a liability in a cold climate like where the Arctic fox lives. Jonatan Pie / Unsplash and Kkonstan / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0
Wildlife species at northern latitudes tend be larger-bodied with smaller appendages than their close relatives closer to the tropics. Many animals have evolved behaviors to help them beat the cold: herding, denning, burrowing and roosting in cavities are all good defenses. And some animals experience physiological changes as winter approaches, building fat reserves, growing thicker fur and trapping an insulating layer of air against the skin beneath the fur or feathers.
Nature has devised other neat tricks to help various animals deal with conditions that people, for instance, would be unable to endure.
Have you ever wondered how geese can appear to stand comfortably on ice or squirrels in snow in their bare feet? The secret is the close proximity of the arteries and veins in their extremities that creates a gradient of warming and cooling. As blood from the heart travels to the toes, the warmth from the artery transfers to the vein carrying cold blood from the toes back to the heart. This countercurrent heat exchange allows the core of the body to remain warm while limiting heat loss when the extremities are cold, but not so cold that tissue damage occurs. This efficient system is used by many terrestrial and aquatic birds and mammals, and even explains how oxygen exchange occurs in the gills of fish.
An animal standing in cold water or on ice benefits from countercurrent heat exchange (1). Warm arterial blood (2) flowing away from the heart warms up the cooler venous blood (3) heading toward the heart. Ekann, CC BY-SA 4.0
Speaking of fish, how do they not freeze from the inside out in icy waters? Luckily, ice floats because water is most dense as a liquid, allowing fish to swim freely in not-quite-freezing temperatures below the solidified surface. Additionally, fish may lack the cold-sensing receptor shared by other vertebrates. They do, however, have unique enzymes that allow physiologic functions to continue at colder temperatures. In polar regions, fish even have special "antifreeze proteins" that bind to ice crystals in their blood to prevent widespread crystallization.
Another secret weapon in mammals and birds during long periods of cold exposure is brown adipose tissue or "brown fat," which is rich in mitochondria. Even in people, these cellular structures can release energy as heat, generating warmth without the muscle contractions and energy inefficiency involved in shivering, another way the body tries to heat up. This non-shivering heat production probably explains why people in Anchorage can contentedly wear shorts and t-shirts on a 40 degrees Fahrenheit spring day.
Of course, migration can be an option—though it's expensive in terms of energetic costs for wildlife, and financially for people who want to head closer to the equator.
As a species, human beings have the ability to acclimate to an extent—some of us more than others—but we're not particularly cold-adapted. Maybe that's why it's hard to look out the window on a frigid day and not feel bad for a squirrel hunkered down as the winter wind whips through its fur. We may never know if animals dread winter—it's difficult to gauge their subjective experience. But wildlife do have a variety of strategies that improve their ability to withstand the cold, making sure they live to see another spring.
"The Earth simply can't take the punishment of relentless over-exploitation of its natural resources, poisoning of… https://t.co/7ekGBV0Hi8— Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders of Wildlife)1547078406.0
Bridget B. Baker is a clinical veterinarian and deputy director of the Warrior Aquatic, Translational and Environmental Research (WATER) Lab at Wayne State University.
Disclosure statement: Bridget B. Baker does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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