Clouds of dust rose behind the wheels of the pickup truck as we hurtled over the back road in Palo Verde, El Salvador. When we got to the stone-paved part of the road, the driver slowed as the truck heaved up and down with the uneven terrain. Riding in the back bed of the truck, Ruben (not his real name) and I talked while we held on tight, sitting on sacks of dried beans that he was taking to market.
Land and Livelihood<p>Migration from Central America has gotten a lot of <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2017/12/07/rise-in-u-s-immigrants-from-el-salvador-guatemala-and-honduras-outpaces-growth-from-elsewhere/" target="_blank">attention</a> these days, including the famous migrant <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/root-migration-climate-change-caravan-central-america" target="_blank">caravans</a>. But much of it focuses on the way migrants from this region — especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras — are driven out by <a href="https://academic.oup.com/rsq/article/33/3/34/2797909" target="_blank">gang violence</a>, <a href="https://theglobalamericans.org/2019/04/the-cost-of-systemic-corruption-in-honduras-migration-north/" target="_blank">corruption</a> and <a href="https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/nicaragua" target="_blank">political upheaval</a>.</p><p>These factors are <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/publications/understanding-and-estimating-displacement-in-the-northern-triangle-of-central-america" target="_blank">important</a> and require a response from the <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/claims-from-central-america.html" target="_blank">international community</a>. But displacement <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08072019/climate-change-migration-honduras-drought-crop-failure-farming-deforestation-guatemala-trump" target="_blank">driven by climate change</a> is significant too.</p><p>The link between environmental instability and emigration from the region became apparent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Earthquakes and hurricanes, especially <a href="http://hurricanescience.net/history/storms/1990s/mitch/" target="_blank">Hurricane Mitch</a> in 1998 and its aftermath, were ravaging parts of Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.</p><p>Many people from El Salvador and Honduras lived in the U.S. at the time, and the Bush administration granted them <a href="https://cmsny.org/publications/jmhs-tps-elsalvador-honduras-haiti/" target="_blank">Temporary Protected Status</a>. In this way, the government of the United States recognized the inhumanity of sending people back to places struggling with ecological disaster.</p><p>In the years since those events, both rapid-onset and long-term environmental crises continue to <a href="http://www.internal-displacement.org/sites/default/files/publications/documents/20181213-slow-onset-intro.pdf" target="_blank">displace people</a> from their homes worldwide. Studies show that displacement often happens indirectly through the impact of climate change on <a href="https://www.nri.org/publications/working-paper-series/4-coffee-and-climate-change/file" target="_blank">agricultural livelihoods</a>, with some areas pressured more than others. But some are more dramatic: Both Honduras and Nicaragua are among the top 10 countries <a href="https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202019_2.pdf" target="_blank">most impacted</a> by extreme weather events between 1998 and 2017.</p><p>Since 2014, a serious drought has decimated crops in Central America's so-called <a href="http://www.fao.org/emergencies/crisis/dry-corridor/en/" target="_blank">dry corridor</a> along the Pacific Coast. By impacting smallholder farmers in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-elsalvador-drought/salvadoran-farmers-lament-brutal-drought-hope-for-recovery-idUSKBN1KG2RE" target="_blank">El Salvador</a>, <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/central-america-drying-farmers-face-choice-pray-rain-or-leave-n1027346" target="_blank">Guatemala and Honduras</a>, this drought helps to drive <a href="https://econpapers.repec.org/article/sprclimat/v_3a140_3ay_3a2017_3ai_3a3_3ad_3a10.1007_5fs10584-016-1863-2.htm" target="_blank">higher levels</a> of migration from the region.</p><p>Coffee production, a critical support for these countries' economies, is especially vulnerable and sensitive to weather variations. A recent <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coffee-rust-battle-intensifies/" target="_blank">outbreak of coffee leaf rust</a> in the region was likely <a href="https://2012-2017.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/may-19-2014-usaid-texas-am-invest-5-million-combat-coffee-rust-crisis" target="_blank">exacerbated</a> by climate change.</p><p>The <a href="https://time.com/5346110/guatemala-coffee-escape-migration/" target="_blank">fallout</a> from that plague combines with the recent <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-centralamerica-immigration-coffee/coffee-slump-reaps-bitter-harvest-for-central-american-migrants-idUSKCN1TS2QB" target="_blank">collapse</a> in global coffee prices to spur desperate farmers to give up.</p>
Compounding Factor<p><br>These trends have led experts at the World Bank to claim that around <a href="http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/983921522304806221/pdf/124724-BRI-PUBLIC-NEWSERIES-Groundswell-note-PN3.pdf" target="_blank">2 million people</a> are likely to be <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-refugee" target="_self">displaced</a> from Central America by the year 2050 due to factors related to climate change. Of course, it's hard to tease out the "push factor" of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-change" target="_self">climate change</a> from all of the other reasons that people need to leave. And unfortunately, these phenomena interact and tend to exacerbate each other.</p><p>Scholars are working hard to assess the scale of the problem and study ways people can <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0088463" target="_blank">adapt</a>. But the problem is challenging. The number of displaced could be even higher — up to almost <a href="http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/983921522304806221/pdf/124724-BRI-PUBLIC-NEWSERIES-Groundswell-note-PN3.pdf" target="_blank">4 million</a> — if regional development does not shift to more climate-friendly and <a href="https://ccafs.cgiar.org/news/central-americas-climate-smart-agriculture-strategy-contains-key-recommendations-ccafs-future#.XWUp8pNKgWo" target="_blank">inclusive models</a> of agriculture.</p><p>People who emigrate from Central America may not always fully realize the role climate change plays in their movement, or think of it as the final trigger given all the other reasons they have to flee. But they know that the crops fail too often, and it's harder to get clean water than it used to be.</p>
Seeking a Protected Status<p>Ruben recently contacted me to ask for a reference to a good immigration lawyer. He and his daughter are now in the United States and have an upcoming hearing to determine their status.</p><p>Just as he predicted a few years ago, Ruben couldn't make a living in El Salvador. But he may find it hard to live in the U.S. too, given the mismatch between refugee law and current factors causing displacement.</p><p>For several years now, scholars and legal advocates have been asking <a href="https://www.fmreview.org/peopletrafficking/romer" target="_blank">how to respond</a> to people displaced by environmental conditions. Do <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328261364_Possible_Framework_for_Climate_Change_IDP's_Disaster_and_Development_Induced_Displacement_and_Resettlement_Models_and_their_Integration" target="_blank">existing models</a> of humanitarian response and resettlement work for this new population? Could such persons be recognized as in need of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2008.00290.x" target="_blank">protection under international law</a>, similar to political refugees?</p><p>Among the most complicated political questions is who should step up to deal with the harms of climate change, considering that wealthier countries pollute more but are often shielded from the worst effects. How can <a href="https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/nzjel20&id=112&men_tab=srchresults" target="_blank">responsibility be assigned</a>, and more importantly, what is to be done?</p><p>In the absence of coordinated action on the part of the global community to mitigate ecological instability and recognize the plight of displaced people, there's a risk of what some have called "<a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/06/1041261" target="_blank">climate apartheid</a>." In this scenario — climate change combined with closed borders and few migration pathways — millions of people would be forced to choose between increasingly insecure livelihoods and the perils of unauthorized migration.<em> </em></p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/miranda-cady-hallett-343720" target="_blank">Miranda Cady Hallett</a> is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Rights Center Research Fellow at University of Dayton. </em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from our media associate </em><u><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/how-climate-change-is-driving-emigration-from-central-america-121525" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>.</em></u></p>
- Climate Change Is Already Driving Mass Migration Around the Globe ›
- The Climate Implications of the Migrant Caravan - EcoWatch ›
- Why the Migrant Caravan Story Is a Climate Change Story - EcoWatch ›
- Tropical Storm Amanda Kills 14 in El Salvador, Forces 4,200 to Evacuate - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Cosby Stone
Whenever I am asked what I do for a living, the phrase "I'm an allergist" is almost immediately followed by "So, where are all of these allergies coming from?"
- Soil Health: The Next Agricultural Revolution - EcoWatch ›
- Healthy Soil: Good for the Farmer, Good for the Planet - EcoWatch ›
Cover all open wounds with waterproof bandages before swimming in the ocean. lzf / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Brian Labus
Like humans, many bacteria like to spend time at the beach. The so-called flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, don't just like the beach; they need it, and rely on sea salt for survival. And as with human beachgoers, the warmer the water, the more of them there are.
By Gavin Naylor
Sharks elicit outsized fear, even though the risk of a shark bite is infinitesimally small. As a marine biologist and director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, I oversee the International Shark Attack File — a global record of reported shark bites that has been maintained continuously since 1958.
Micro-Naps for Plants: Flicking the Lights on and off Can Save Energy Without Hurting Indoor Agriculture Harvests
By Kevin M. Folta
A nighttime arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport flies you over the bright pink glow of vegetable production greenhouses. Growing crops under artificial light is gaining momentum, particularly in regions where produce prices can be high during seasons when sunlight is sparse.
A 1931 study by Garner and Allard tracked the growth of Yellow Cosmos flowers under light pulses of various durations.
J. Agri. Res. 42: National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture., CC BY-ND
One variety of lettuce grew purple when given a 10-second dark period. They look similar to those grown with a five-second dark period, yet use 33% less energy. Extending the dark period to 20 seconds yielded green plants with more biomass.
J. Feng, K. Folta
- Three Simple Steps for Planting a Chaos Garden - EcoWatch ›
- China Says It Has Sprouted Plants on the Moon - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Having Plants at Home ... ›
By Jerome Goddard
When it comes to problems caused by ticks, Lyme disease hogs a lot of the limelight. But various tick species carry and transmit a collection of other pathogens, some of which cause serious, even fatal, conditions.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever usually comes with a rash, as on this child.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), CC BY
A female Ixodes scapularis tick.
Dr. Blake Layton, MSU, CC BY-ND
Tiny larval lone star ticks next to a penny.
- Ticks and Mosquitoes Bringing More Diseases—What Can We Do ... ›
- CDC Official Warns Warmer Earth Means More Insect-Borne Diseases ›
- Lyme Disease Symptoms Could Be Mistaken for COVID-19 ›
By Donald Scavia
Every year in early summer, scientists at universities, research institutions and federal agencies release forecasts for the formation of "dead zones" and harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie. This year the outlook is not good.
Dead zone and harmful algal bloom trends with 2019 forecasts in red.
Nutrient load trends; 2019 loads in red.
Under a worst-case climate change scenario, in which global temperatures rise nearly 5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, very heavy precipitation events in the Midwest, Great Plains and Southeast regions would increase sharply.
A two-stage ditch has a low-ﬂow channel and a vegetated side 'benches' that are ﬂooded during higher ﬂows. The grass slows water flow and allows nutrients to settle out.
Ohio State University Extension, CC BY
AT Kearney, CC BY-ND
- Dead Zones Are a Global Water Pollution Challenge — But With ... ›
- Corporate Food Brands Drive the Massive Dead Zone in the Gulf of ... ›
By Cody Clements
Coral reefs are home to so many species that they often are called "the rainforests of the seas." Today they face a daunting range of threats, including ocean warming and acidification, overfishing and pollution. Worldwide, more than one-third of all coral species are at risk of extinction.
Experimental coral gardens on a degraded reef in Fiji. Gardens with a mix of coral species performed better than gardens containing only one species.
Cody Clements / CC BY-ND
Examples of single- and mixed-species coral gardens through time during our 16-month experiment. At four months, mixed-species gardens were outperforming single-species gardens in multiple ways – growing faster on average than even the best performing single-species gardens (Acropora millepora). By 16 months, growth was comparable between mixed-species and Acropora gardens, but aggregate performance of single-species gardens continued to lag behind their mix-species counterparts.
Clements and Hay, 2019 / CC BY-ND
By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon
The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.
- 5 Earth Conscious Women to Honor on International Women's Day ... ›
- Black Women Shark Scientists Create Network to Encourage People of Color - EcoWatch ›
By Leslie Burger
I heard a local story of a man who, in his excitement to kill a rattlesnake, used the only thing he had available ─ his thermos bottle. The next scene in this drama has the man in the hospital receiving anti-venom to treat a snake bite.
A coyote in Portland, Oregon.
SoulRider.222 / CC BY-ND 2.0
By John R. Platt
Got good eyesight and some time on your hands? Australia needs you.
Zoos Victoria has issued a public appeal to help find a lizard species that hasn't been credibly observed in 50 years. The Victorian grasslands earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) was last seen in 1969 and could possibly be mainland Australia's first reptile extinction — if it isn't just hiding.
By Lotfi Belkhir
Rarely does mention of the pharmaceutical industry conjure up images of smoke stacks, pollution and environmental damage.
Yet our recent study found the global pharmaceutical industry is not only a significant contributor to global warming, but it is also dirtier than the global automotive production sector.
- Superbug Risk Rises as Big Pharma Fails to Disclose Antibiotic ... ›
- Dems Introduce Bill to Prevent Big Pharma Price-Gouging - EcoWatch ›
By Ann Scarborough Bull and Milton Love
Offshore oil and gas drilling has been a contentious issue in California for 50 years, ever since a rig ruptured and spilled 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil off Santa Barbara in 1969. Today it's spurring a new debate: whether to completely dismantle 27 oil and gas platforms scattered along the southern California coast as they end their working lives, or convert the underwater sections into permanent artificial reefs for marine life.
A marine biologist surveys fishes living at Platform A, Santa Barbara Channel, Calif.
Desmond Ho, CC BY-ND
Platform Holly in California's Santa Barbara Channel is one of the rigs scheduled for near-term decommissioning.
State Lands Commission via AP