Krystian Woznicki: You have researched climate change-induced migration from within the Sahel region in Africa. What are the current causes related to climate change, and how do they differ from previous forms of flight, migration, and displacement triggered by, say, rather conventional environmental disaster?A
Sara Vigil: The main difference between environmental hazards at other moments in history and those that are occurring today under the impacts of climate change is that today we know that environmental and climate hazards are clearly attributable to certain human activities. This adds very important dimensions of justice and responsibility into the equation, while challenging the very notion of ‘environmental’ or ‘natural’ disasters. Disasters are not ‘natural’ for two main reasons: anthropogenic (or human-made) climate change has made environmental hazards more acute and intense than they have ever been before, and those hazards are combined with socio-politically constructed inequalities and vulnerabilities, which are the ones that turn hazards into disasters. In other words, both the storms and droughts and the inequalities and vulnerabilities that people experience are socially and politically created and constructed.
“Environmental factors cannot be isolated from all the other social, political, economic, and demographic factors that together shape migration. Today, more than ever, all of these diverse migration drivers are interlinked, making it particularly difficult to speak of so-called climate migrants.”
— Sara Vigil, Research Fellow