Deathscapes

‘The Day Australians Became Refugees’: Exposing the faultlines 8e - The Climate Change Refugee

Deathscapes

The Climate Change Refugee: In the same canoe

A large crowd fills a city square. A bright orange and pink painted boat sits in the centre with 'Strike' written on the sail and 'Seas R Rising' written on the side of the boat. Surrounding protesters hold various banners and placards.

[imagecaption] School Strike for Climate, Boorloo (Perth), 2019. Photo: Marziya Mohammedali. [/imagecaption]

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Some media sources named the bushfire evacuees Australia’s first ‘climate change refugees,’ inserting them within the emergent global domain of people forced to flee their homes in the face of catastrophic climate change events.

The fact that some members of the Australian government joked about rising sea levels due to climate change at a Pacific Islands Forum  in 2015 underscores the racialised asymmetries of power that inscribe the category of ‘refugees’ and ‘climate change.’ Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, condemned the jocular attitude toward climate change espoused by the Australian ministers and spoke to what was at stake of his island nation: ‘climate change was a “matter of survival” for several low-lying Pacific island nations.’

Farewelling a group of engineers assisting with Australia’s bushfire recovery,  Fijian Prime Minister Frank Banimarama pointed out what should have been evident far earlier to Australia’s leading politicians: ‘I have long said that we are all in the same canoe when it comes to combatting climate change.’

 


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