Climate Change, Urban Issue

Lost children of dying mother Earth

Let’s define climate refugees: lost children of dying mother earth.

One such child, a Bangladeshi boy, who hasn’t seen glaciers, reminds us of those in Marquez’s magically realistic Macondo, where the sight of ice was a rarity – even mythical. Forced to pack his notebooks and two sets of clothes to flee from the ocean scooping out land mass upon which he played, the boy wonders at the Beast that has woken up from a long snore-less sleep.

He would scoff at elderly explanations – chopping down forests, blowing greenhouses gases into the air…has led to rising temperatures.

He has heard about tsunami, the big wave that rushed out of the ocean and hit all lands in its way, flattening constructions and restoring earth’s primordial nature – if only for a while. Soon, the land was bulldozed, dug, trenched, pillared, roofed, and built.

Now, a climate refugee, he hears more stories while walking inland with his parents. Farmers show their flood-affected fields. Further along the path, some more farmers, dig parched and cracked drought-ridden land.

On the journey, the boy sees submerging coasts and drying land, and thinks if a curse has struck his homeland. Half the population in his country lives just under five feet above sea level. By 2050, flooding can devour 17 per cent of his country’s land and displace nearly 20 million people, who like him will become climate refugees.

As the boy and his family scour the country-side for survival, they are called internally displaced persons (IDPs) experiencing environmentally induced population movements (EIPMs). While he saw his father move away from the disappearing wetlands, deeper into the sea, in search of salt water habitats that were fast receding, his identity of a fisherman’s son faded into history. Once he left his home with his parents, he was branded an IDP. He became one of 140 million IDPs from all over the world, who ran in search of safety in the last six years.

Once he reaches Dhaka, the country’s capital, his family’s problems sky-rocket, like the buildings around their slum. Of the 14.5 million people in the fast-growing metropolis, nearly 40 per cent reside in slums. Then, tired of battling for food, water, and jobs, his family will seek the last option and look west – towards India.

Several refugees he leaves behind in Dhaka will suffer, struggle and strive against poverty and sadly fall into those jobs that offer the least respect – drug peddling and flesh trade.

The hostility he faces on the other side of the border is motivated by an intense battle for limited resources. He only moved from one densely populated city to another within one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Bengali forms a shield around him. However, the cozy familiarity doesn’t last long – no documents, no house, no ration card, no entitlements.

International agencies offer no legal protections and thus by default refuse him basic human rights. Since, he doesn’t ‘fear being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a social group or political opinion and are unable, or unwilling to seek protection from their home countries’, he is different from every other kind of refugee. He is a refugee – for namesake. In truth, he is a lost child of dying mother earth.

 

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