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Climate and Migration from the Sahel: Causality under Changing Skies

09/20 Friday | 12pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for a talk with Jesse Ribot on climate and migration from the Sahel.

Senegalese farmers are crossing the Sahara toward Europe. They travel through Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Algeria and Libya, and across the Mediterranean to Italy. Along the way many are taken captive and robbed by bandits, rebels or the Libyan Army. They are sold as slave labor, held for ransom, beaten and spit on. Many die in the desert and drown at sea. Yet, knowing the dangers, they choose to go. The media depicts them as ‘climate refugees’. Yet these young men and their families rarely mention the weather as a cause of their plight at home or their decisions to leave. They are fleeing abusive policies, exposure to markets, debt peonage, failures of social services and a sense of hopelessness in a world where they never expect to have a dignified role in their families or communities. Casting them as climate refugees clouds out the many forces that move them. While bringing attention to climate change appears responsible and progressive, it hides the many other causes of vulnerability that must be addressed to treat the roots of a widespread subsistence crisis.

Jesse Ribot is a professor of environmental politics in the School of International Service at American University in DC. He was a 2018-19 Guggenheim Fellow at the NYU Wagner School and CUNY Graduate Center Anthropology Program. He began working on climate crises in preparation for the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development. Ribot is an Africanist studying local democracy, resource access and social vulnerability.

Image credit: USAID Images via Flickr

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