Migrants from the US Marshall Islands may be the first people that we can really think about as climate change refugees, although they do not claim that status. The reasons for leaving the islands in many cases have more to do with lack of economic opportunity than climate change specifically, but part of that lack of opportunity comes from increasing flooding and other climate related problems that are literally unavoidable on these tiny islands. Due to the US’ atomic testing in the Marshall Islands decades ago, those who wish to relocate to the US can do so without much paperwork, and thousands have taken the decades-old deal.
What are their lives like now? What does it mean for a culture predicated on life on the oceans when mass relocation is to a landlocked state with no seafood? What does this tell us about the inevitable climate change refugees that will be coming?
From the website: “The amount of water is incomprehensible. We’ve been flying for hours, and just when we’re about as far from a landmass as you can possibly get—a spot where the curving, wave-flecked Pacific Ocean stretches thousands of kilometers in every direction—an island slides into view. It’s no more than a snippet of sand and palm trees, a snake winding through the blue plain of the Pacific….”