Climate change requires the world to be more culturally sensitive

by Darren Willman

SUNDAY 14 JUNE 2009 – Mass migration as a result of climate change will be an issue of growing importance in the next 40 years.  But as Western Europe and European Union remain conservative and reserved, they reveal a need for cultural empathy and understanding across continents.

SustainabilityThree days ago at the international climate talks in Bonn Germany, Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), the United Nations University and CARE International, tabled a report prepared for the negotiations [1].  By 2050, climate change will cause mass migrations from rising seas, floods and drought.  Here are some startling facts:

  • 40 countries are in danger from rising sea levels
  • The farmlands that support millions in Asia will be devastated by floods, hence compromising food supplies
  • Significant rivers like the Ganges, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow are all fed by glaciers, which are melting away

This is yet another example of the interconnections between the issues of climate change and migration.  Climate change will cause mass migration from Asia, Africa and Latin America towards Western Europe, Australia and North America.

One of the groups at AIESEC's WENA LDS 2009In March, AIESEC put a couple hundred young people together from Western Europe and asked them “what’s the biggest societal issue affecting your country today?”  The Western Europe and North America region of AIESEC ran “Western Europe and North America Leadership Development Seminar”, a six day conference organised by AIESEC Italy in Catania.  The conference brought 200 delegates together from all over Western Europe, split them into groups of 8-10 and asked them this question.  Each group was almost unanimous in response: the biggest societal issue affecting my country is migration.

Cultural diversityIn October the European Union stated “it does not have the resources to decently receive all the migrants hoping to find a better life here” [2].  But developing countries have much less, as the report clearly shows.  The real meaning behind the statement is not that resources are limited, it is that cultural sensitivity and empathy needs to improve.

Thankfully we have an organisation as AIESEC, which was formed to build friendly relations between cultures.  This year AIESEC facilitated almost 5,000 exchanges, many of which were young leaders of Western Europe, Australia and North America, to internship positions in Asia, Africa and Latin America.  These exchanges will bridge the cultural differences and instil the cultural understanding required when environmental migration starts growing.

References:

[1] http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/06/climate-change-migrations-forecast.php

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7667169.stm

AIESEC Web 2.0 links: button_twitterbutton flickr

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