Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences

Mobility Justice? Entangled Im/Mobilities in Climate and Environmental Change

Chair: Jana Donat (University of Vienna)
Co-Chair: Rachael Diniega (University of Vienna)

David Durand-Delacre (University of Cambridge)
Sarah Louise Nash (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna)
Hanne Wiegel (Wageningen University)
Daniela Paredes Grijalva (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Some Propositions for the Study of Climate Migration as an Im/Mobile Idea

David Durand-Delacre

A growing number of mobilities scholar are turning their attention to environmental and climate mobilities. They challenge simplistic ideas of climate migration as impending mass movement of people across borders. Their work provides a more accurate, nuanced picture of the causal relation between climate change and human im/mobilities. Yet, ›climate migration‹ continues to capture the attention of analysts, policymakers, and activists, who perpetuate problematic victimising and security-oriented narratives. In fact, it seems alarmism is on the rise again. This raises an important question. If the concept of climate migration is so demonstrably flawed, why does it keep returning? How can we explain this idea’s enduring success? To answer these questions, I draw on STS, intellectual history, and work on mobile representations to propose a theoretical approach that focuses on the im/mobilities of climate migration as an idea. I provide an empirical illustration to this theory, combining film analysis, filmmaker interviews, and documentary research to explore the making of and subsequent circulation of 8 sea-level rise documentaries. I show how entanglements between im/mobile people, places, practices, tools, money, and images lead to the filmmakers’ and viewers’ identification of some phenomena (but not others) as instances of climate migration. My analysis is attentive to the power dynamics that suffuse these entanglements, pointing to ways in which differential mobilities affect who controls the form and im/mobility of climate migration representations. I conclude by reviewing potential wider implications for climate mobilities research, representations, and communication practices.

David Durand-Delacre is a PhD student at Cambridge Geography. His PhD investigates how the idea of ›climate migration‹ emerges and circulates across academic, media, and policy-making networks. He uses mixed methods to trace the representations and practices (stories, models, numbers, and images) that contribute to the spread of the climate migration idea. Previously, he worked for the UNSDSN, a global network of universities for the SDGs. He was also engaged with Réfugiés Bienvenue, a Paris-based NGO providing housing to homeless asylum seekers. He holds a BSc Environmental Geography from UCL and a MSc Environment & Development from the LSE.

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Fear of the Other or of the Climate: Human Mobility and Climate Change as Perceived by European Political Parties

Sarah Louise Nash

It is increasingly being recognised that the implications of climate change will include impacts on human mobilities, with people being forced to move away from climate impacts gaining the most visibility. While on the global level these issues are frequently connected on the political stage, this is not often done at the nation-state level in Europe, where these areas of politics and policy overwhelmingly remain siloed. This paper identifies viewpoints on climate change and human mobility held by political party politicians from Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway and distils idealised subjective positions. This is based on a Q-analysis with parliamentarians drawing on content from political party election manifestos from the most recent nation-state legislature elections in the five case study sites. One of the core controversies that this paper addresses is the tension between centre-left parties’ push for more action on climate change, at the same time as they pursue more stringent migration and border policies. In the context of policymaking on human mobility and climate change, this contributes to a humanitarian/securitised discourse of people moving in the context of climate change in which climate change is the means to the end of preventing refugee and migrant movements towards Europe.

Dr. Sarah Louise Nash is a political scientist working on the politics and policy of climate change and human mobilities. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, where she is working in her Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship Project ‘Climate Diplomacy and Uneven Policy Responses on Climate Change and Human Mobility’ (CLIMACY). Her first book Negotiating Migration in the Context of Climate Change. International Policy and Discourse was published in 2019 with Bristol University Press.

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Safe From What? Understanding Environmental Non-Migration Through Ontological Security and Risk Perceptions

Hanne Wiegel

Climate migration scholarship is increasingly attending the importance of non-migration, and its intricate relationship to migration and mobility. Yet our understanding of non-migration in the face of a changing environment so far is limited, with a number of promising approaches having previously focused on place attachment, behavioral migration theories as well as aspirations and abilities approaches. Local interpretations of assumed migration pressures posed by climate change, however, have so far only received minimal attention. We argue that attending to local risk perceptions is central to improving our understanding of decisions not to migrate, particularly when these are conflicting with policies promoting outmigration as a way to cope with environmental dangers. This paper focuses on the village of Villa Santa Lucía in Northern Patagonia, Chile, which is projected to be at risk of climate change-related mudslides and floods. Half-destroyed by a mudslide on December 16, 2017, the remaining residents continue to resist the official policy considering the village as uninhabitable and promoting outmigration. In order to understand resistance of local residents to these policies, in a context of normalized labor and educational mobilities, this paper employs the lens of ontological security to explore local interpretations of the event and future dangers. These are rooted in socio-cultural views on ‘nature’, place identities as independent settlers and past experiences demonstrating the ambiguity of the notion of ‘safety’. Incorporating such analysis of risks perceptions enables an understanding of non-migration as resistance to climate change adaptation discourses in a context of routinized labor and educational mobilities.

Hanne Wiegel’s work is a critical take on the interactions between human (im)mobilities and policy discourses around climate change. She is currently working as a PhD researcher in the Environmental Policy and the Sociology of Development and Change groups at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Her work has been published in WIREs Climate Change, Nature Climate Change, in the Handbook of the Governance and Politics of International Migration with Edgar Elgar, forthcoming), and as a review in Science.

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Regimes of Mobility and Disaster in Indonesia

Daniela Paredes Grijalva

The island of Sulawesi has been formed by tectonic plate movement but also by a vast repertoire of human (im)mobilities. Colonial expansion, local rulers and forced labor shaped the movements of people, plants and animals in the larger Palu-Koro fault area. Deforestation for cash crops since colonial times has transformed the landscape and the relations of people to it. State-led processes in the young republic of Indonesia that include resettlement policies continue to inform (im)mobilities in the region, including those following the earthquake and tsunami of 2018. This paper will look at (legal) categories used to address the rights of the people affected by the disaster, both when they moved and when they did not. This paper will take a look at how Indonesian regimes of mobility enable or limit the movement of different people and how this relates to their ability to exercise rights. With a historical perspective the disaster-displacement relation can be thought of beyond a cause & effect one and move towards an integrated conceptualization of environment and (im)mobility as mutually constitutive.

Daniela Paredes Grijalva is a researcher and DOC Fellow at the Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. For her PhD project in anthropology at the University of Vienna she will investigate how (im)mobilities relate to environmental change in Indonesia. In the past she has worked on social protection, migration, human rights and gender.

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