As we approach 2022 World Environment Day, it is important to reflect not only on the earth - but those living on it. Especially those affected by climate change. Today, there are more than 80 million climate refugees around the world. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), we will have about 1.2 billion refugees by 2050, and about 200 million of those refugees are climate related.
Climate refugees, or environmental refugees, are those who fled out of their homes and countries due to extreme weather. Often, their cities and towns become uninhabitable as they degenerate due to climate warming and pollution. Global warming is causing ice caps to melt and which in turn is causing flooding while rising temperatures are causing droughts and desertification.
At the center of this crisis is water and the inequity of how water is used. The truth is climate refugees are just victims of exploitation, whether from unfair regulations or from companies who use local resources.
Some examples are how food companies use water. One of the largest food producers in the world, Nestlé, have been unlawfully extracting water from aquifers in places like Colorado. While Coca Cola was unlawfully pumping 1.5 million additional liters of water a day from local reserves in a small Indian town.
Food companies are not the only guilty ones. In fact, 20% of industrial water pollution comes from the textile industry. The main cause is textile dyeing, which uses harsh chemicals that use 43 million tons of chemicals each year. More than 20% of water in Turkey, Indonesia and China are affected by pollution from the textile industry
It is long thought that our own actions as individuals have large consequences, but the reality is that large corporations are the backbone of global warming. Just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of pollution. For sustainable development to be achieved, every industry must take action to reduce pollution.
We have to push for legislation that protects resources and to limit company use. But most importantly, protect migrant rights. Climate refugees are subjected to unsecure situations, “drown at sea, dehydrate during desert or sea crossings, fall victim to kidnapping and extortion, torture and rape, and are beaten, shot, and killed by criminals or border officials” according to Our World. So, as we think what can we do for the environment, let’s remember all those fleeing degenerating environments.
You might be interested in learning about the California Green Business Network: