Student groups placed signs displaying refugee statistics along the walkways of the Arts Quad to foster discussion about the global refugee crisis, including the plight of climate change refugees.
The South Asian Council installed the signs in collaboration with Cornell Welcomes Refugees and Climate Justice Cornell for People’s Climate Week, which took place April 22 to 28.
“I think the U.S. should provide sanctuary to those who it has indirectly and directly, temporarily and permanently, displaced by being the highest greenhouse gas emitter (and largest contributor to climate change) for most of modern history despite its fairly modest population density,” said Elizabeth Chi ’18, former campaign coordinator for Climate Justice Cornell.
Statistics posted on the signs claimed that “the United Nations estimates that more people are displaced due to climate change effects than due to war.”
“The effects of climate change are often brushed aside as a long term problem that will manifest in the future, but we are already seeing the devastating human costs across the globe now,” Aliza Adhami ’19, advocacy chair of the South Asian Council, said.
The posted signs also highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees, stating that “about six-in-10 Syrians are now displaced from their homes, a number unprecedented in recent history for a single country.”
Another sign indicated that the Syrian refugee crisis remains “one of the largest humanitarian crises since the end of World War II,” putting the number of refugees that have fled the country at over 5 million.
“It’s a critical time for these conversations to take place because, with the current geopolitical climate, more and more refugees are being turned down for resettlement in the United States,” said Tarannum Sahar ’20, president of Cornell Welcomes Refugees.
Adhami also spoke of the toll the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar took on civilians.
“While refugees are fleeing their homes, the United States is closing its borders,” said Aliza Adhami ’19, advocacy chair of the South Asian Council. “The US has played a major role in creating the refugee crisis through regime changes, but at the same time closes its doors to those very refugees.”
The signs also acknowledged how climate refugees are severely impacted by climate change, noting that they “have a higher likelihood of being sent back to their homelands or forced into refugee camps.
Sahar also noted that refugee crises can often feel like remote issues, but “by bringing the situation into focus, [the club wants] to inspire people to understand and take action for this cause.”