The Dust Bowl event in the 1930s made swaths of lands in the US South get covered in dust. What happened when those Americans had to migrate and find refuge in other states? How did fellow Americans treated those who were the equivalents of climate refugees of today? The sad answer: riot police.
Those migrants flocking to the big cities from the dusty South (as well as due to the Great Depression) were seen to do nothing but “stealing jobs” and “school overcrowding.” As such police blockades were set up to keep out the “Okies” (migrants from Oklahoma, generally used for all Dust Bowl migrants).
Why did the Rohingya crisis, where the Buddhist Myanmar government had committed genocide to drive out the Rohingya Muslims, happened? It can be said that it broke out because of the perception that the Muslim population were increasing too quickly, making the Buddhists fear they will soon lose their country. This is partly due to the lack of freshwater in Bangladesh, where many Muslims have had to migrated away into Myanmar.
How did the Syrian civil war break out? Some have traced the increased tension between the government and the people to be due to preceding drought in the country. In addition to bad relations in the political realm, the people also had less food and water due to the drought. There was simply more than enough fuel to fan the flame. The same story applies to the 1917 Bolshelvik revolution in Russia that gave the world its communist superpower.
“I’d rather drink muddy water
Sleep out in a hollow log
Than be in California
Treated like a dirty dog.”
Cities are beacons of hope. When you run out of water and money, big cities are where you go to. When those same cities do not have the capacity to accept you, you will be discriminated. And beaten. Brutalities and genocide have been committed when there isn’t enough resources for everyone. They will happen again. After all, something (someone) has to give if there isn’t enough water and money around.
Cities have a duty to refugees. In order not to be complicit with crimes against humanities, those places where the best thinkers and builders and investors congregate need to prepare redundancies. Surplus capacity of food, water, shelter, and capital must be available when disasters strike elsewhere to help our fellow humans.
Cities need to prepare.