Climate Change and Human Trafficking

As we listen to the nightly news, tune in on political debates, and read various publications, we can’t help but notice that climate change is a “hot” topic. Those studying climate change and its effects on the earth and its inhabitants are clearly sounding an alarm to all of us and urging each of us to do our part to stop and reverse this crisis.

It has been scientifically proven that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal and, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen,” (thetrafficedhuman.org).

Many people have been displaced due to the effects that climate change has had on their country of origin. Droughts, floods, and severe weather of all kinds have caused death and destruction, often forcing people to migrate to find a new home that can sustain them.

Of course, those already living in poverty are most affected–lack of adequate food, water, shelter, etc. are a few consequences of climate change. But have you ever considered that, because of this crisis, people are much more vulnerable to being trafficked? Dr. Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of the University of Arizona states, “Peer-review research continues to show that climate change underlies poverty and that poverty drives human trafficking. The better we can understand the complex forces that give rise to poverty, the better we’ll be able to truly cut at the roots of all forms of slavery.”

What is the reason for this connection? Climate change causes an increase in migration which makes people more vulnerable to exploitation due to their desperate circumstances. They are more apt to fall prey to traffickers offering false promises for a better life. Desperate for work to help their situation, migrants accept poor working conditions, long hours, and abusive situations thinking that they will have the freedom to move on when they make enough money. This is rarely, if ever, the case.

In a recent article in the UN News, the UN Chief is quoted saying, “Conflict and climate change are among factors that increase desperation that enables human trafficking to flourish.” In his message on the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, he said, “many of those falling prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who have left their country of origin for various reasons.” Climate change is one of those reasons.

Those migrating are not the only ones impacted by climate change. Those who stay behind often face other challenges, including the lack of eligible women to take as wives. For example, in drought-ridden Bundelkhand, many have moved away due to lack of water. Parents of daughters won’t give them into marriage with someone who cannot provide a suitable life for them. This also provides an opportunity for traffickers to lure women from other areas of the village with the promise of a better life. Again, this is not the case and, once the woman arrives, they are trapped into unhappy marriages and a life of hardship.

Climate change is a huge issue that cannot be ignored. It affects all of us, but the most vulnerable in the world suffer the most. Will you do your part to reverse the damage already done to our earth and prevent further damage?

Read more here.

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