Have you ever wondered why a certain plant or a certain animal finds itself in a certain place at a certain time? Some places seem so inhospitable, inhabitable, yet you still find life. Some species have evolved individual adaptations to these places, others employ group-behaviours that will make their environment more hospital.
Think of marine species that are semi-stuck on the seabed but rely on food from the water column - they can cooperate into forming spatial patterns that will maximise water movement for maximum filtration capacity. Yet, even then, when conditions are really unfavourable, they will not be able to be the even with these behavioural adaptations. Another example of how animals can use behaviour to survive in hostile places is by finding a better place : so migration. They can be intended as whole population shifts, perhaps driven by larval settlement or survival of juveniles and adults, or for more mobile species, changes in breeding grounds etc. Migrations may also be temporary, seasonal. Which is what we normally associate with such word. The hostile places may in fact be less-hostile in certain time of the year, with benefits outweighing costs during these periods and animals are adapted to move to better areas when conditions worsen. Usually this resolves in having feeding grounds and breeding grounds. But even then, these migration patterns may be changed by changes in climate that we are observing. The feeding grounds may become poor in food, the breeding grounds may become hostile, the feeding grounds may not provide enough energy anymore to reach the breeding grounds, and so on...
When new scientific evidence of species distributions shifts due to climatic changes arises, we don’t seem to be that surprised - I mean it’s obvious that species have upper temperature limits, that some of those may be food for others and that these others may therefore move poleward to cooler climates or decide to eat something else if they can find something suitable, right?
You may wonder what all of this animal talk has to do with sustainability. My next thought should hopefully answer your question.
If we are not so surprised by these animals and plants mass migrations, or by their changes in migration, then why are we so surprised when we are told that climate change is also one of the biggest causes of human migrations? Yes, according to recent reports, climatic changes are even a bigger migration cause than war zones. And no, it’s not necessarily because it’s becoming unbearably warm, but has to do with increased dryness and the consequences of this for agriculture and farming, the main food supply for people inhabiting most of the affected areas, which incidentally are some of the poorest regions in the world ( think Africa...).
And worse of all, we in the more temperate regions, are not only less affected but are also the cause of these climatic shifts, and also the home to people (and politicians) saying that we should send them all back home.
So, my take home message is to think of human migrations in similar terms to the way we think about animal migrations. Then try and find solutions to fight the climate-change-derived hunger (with better adapted crops for example). And of course, keep fighting climate change, both as individuals and as society. Switch off what is not necessary, consume responsibly, reduce fuel consumption, and overall try and live an eco-friendly life...
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