Some people have asked why I chose climate migration as a study topic for my 2019 sabbatical. Climate migration is one of the most serious issues of our time, but also an emerging field with room for hope and inspiration.

The current path isn’t enough

Looking back, I’ve had the joy of working on some groundbreaking projects that are dramatically reducing greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions across the U.S. Unfortunately, all that mitigation has not been enough. Climate change is here. In response, Brendle Group expanded our services several years ago to help businesses and communities be more resilient in the face of an already changing climate. Resilient Cities strive to be integrated, inclusive, resourceful, and flexible with effective safeguards to human health and life. And yet climate change is making some area less habitable from more frequent and severe environmental disasters and the increased poverty, food scarcity and conflict that may follow.

Many researchers and policy makers are voicing climate migration as perhaps the most serious outcome of climate change, calling for the right for people to choose one’s adaptation strategy and the need for policies and plans for host communities to prepare. From decades of professional experience applying climate models to community action planning, what strikes me is that some communities will be limited in their resilience strategy when they’re under water from sea level rise or uninhabitable due to extreme heat, water and food scarcity.

An emerging field with room for hope and inspiration

Therefore, in addition to preventing further climate change (i.e., mitigation) and preparing for climate change (i.e., resilience), now we need to be protecting people by bringing sustainability, especially systems thinking to the challenges of climate migration and human resettlement. With that backdrop, I started researching the topics of climate migration and sustainable resettlement and couldn’t stop – I had found my passion topic. Not only is climate migration a hidden threat to sustainability, but from comparing the literature and talking with professionals across disciplines, there appear to be some important knowledge gaps to address this threat. Gaps are common for such a nascent topic where first we need to define the problem, find the language and legal landscape to protect people affected, then put together protocols and practices to address globally. The good news is such a nascent space is fertile ground for innovation. Practitioners on the ground are building out solutions that will become best practice and models for scaling. I’ve found many inspiring examples of innovative practitioners already, from refugee settlements in East Africa to resettled refugees building new lives in Salt Lake City. I’m excited to collaborate with new colleagues and visit some of these places that are practicing sustainability in resettlement communities.  I’m eager to learn, grow and hopefully contribute to this emerging field, sharing back into my professional practice at Brendle Group.