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While some may perceive immigration issues and climate crises as being separate events, they are in fact interlinked, says Science and Global Change Scholars Director Tom Holtz. PHOTO: NASA via Unsplash

3 Theme Questions With... Thomas Holtz

Throughout the year, our Scholars faculty and staff across programs will share their responses to three questions around our 2018–19 annual theme, "Migrations: Populations and Practices on the Move." The questions typically relate to a resource directors are using in class. Following is the second entry in our “3 Questions With…” series. The first entry was with Tim Knight, director of the Environment, Technology and Economy Scholars program.

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Name: Dr. Thomas Holtz

Program: Science and Global Change (SGC)

Resource: Michael Nash & Justin Hogan's 2010 film, "Climate Refugees"


Q1: How do you use this resource in your classroom (if you do), and what led you to choose this as a migrations-oriented item?

Rather than reserving this for only one program, we will instead have a open viewing and discussion about it on Oct. 10. This offers another perspective on migration beyond the Sept. 27 theme event, which discussed the First Year Book, “The Refugees.” (“The Refugees,” a short story collection by Viet Thanh Nguyen, focuses on historical migration due to war and political turmoil.)

Some people think of the immigration problems and climate crises as separate phenomena, but they are linked and will only grow more intense as the 21st century continues. Climate change produces environmental disruptions, which results in food and water insecurity, which can exacerbate social unrest and even lead to war. Such unrest and war is a major cause of people leaving their homelands and seeking security in other parts of the world.

At present, many of these refugees have been from the Global South. But this is going to change as the century progresses, as more parts of the developed world see regional environmental disruption. (The Dust Bowl event of the last century is a good model for the types of disruptions we will encounter.) And as the sea level rises really get going, nations will have to accommodate migrations within their boundaries out of low-lying regions (like Florida and the Gulf Coast).

Q2: What kinds of reactions do you hope for with this documentary?

I hope that students learn the scale of the issue of climate refugees, and how even back in the past decade it was already a big thing. I expect that some students will feel upset and sad and disgusted. These aren't particularly happy topics, and they aren't easily or quickly addressed. But they are things we need to be aware of while planning for the future.

Q3: What does "Migrations" mean to your Scholars program?

Within SGC, we don't only look at the human migrations because of climate changes of the past, present and future. We also consider migrations of wildlife. People have already observed shifts in the migration patterns of birds and insects. Beyond the program itself, we want all students to be aware of the members of our community, whether on campus or beyond, who are immigrants and might need some support and welcoming.

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