These are the people who ignite the fire in me to learn more and speak up (for them) about climate “refugee” crisis. They were the Uru Murato people living by Bolivia’s second-largest waterbody, Lake Poopo, since the 16th century (Casey, 2016). However, they are no longer called Uru. They have lost the indigenous identity that they have called their own to the drying of Lake Poopo, as a result of cyclical droughts intensified by the El Nino phenomenon (UNEP, 2005).
The passing down of Uru medicinal traditions, fishing practices and culture is thus discontinued and has vanished off the Earth’s surface (Carey 2016). It is disheartening to see them losing a piece of themselves. Giving up generations-long heritage and traditions, they essentially lose their cultural skeleton. Without this backbone, the Urus enters a new foreign community with a high risk of social disintegration and isolation. In addition, with their specialised fishing skillset, they can have difficulty finding suitable jobs in the civilised towns and cities, where their specialisation may not be needed (Carey, 2016).
This set of issues is not specific to only the Urus, but the whole population of climate migrants, both current and prospective. This phenomenon also encompasses their loss and search for a new sense of identity and belonging to the new environment and constant worry of job insecurity and unemployment. More so, will they be receiving the same or similar treatment as the locals from the government to help them with their socio-economic needs or get looked down upon and neglected?
I’m thinking if these impending issues are problems that future “refugees” or migrants can foresee, will they take the initiative to train and become skilled, for instance learning new languages or becoming more educated, to increase adaptive capacity in new homes?
Although it has been implied that there are fewer social issues of relocation when the migration is voluntary and well-planned (Locke, 2009, cited in Campbell and Warrick, 2014), Kiribati is yet the only nation in the Pacific region that prepares its citizens for future climate migration. Its education program has caught my attention. It tailors the tertiary education system towards the economic needs of neighbouring climate-resistant nations like Australia and New Zealand, covering unemployment gaps in the nursing and maritime industries (Campbell and Warrick, 2014).
This has given me a bold inspiration to dream big and another reason to pursue my other interest in nursing. Initially, my plan was to do a mid-career switch to nursing after doing some conservation works, thinking that the two interests are mutually exclusive. I guess now it is possible to have the best of both worlds! Having to experience the world’s best education, I now hope to travel to these countries and help elevate their quality of education through knowledge-sharing. Discovering a new purpose for travelling, I hope in the near future I can organise a similar volunteering trip to one of the islands and even stay long in the Pacific region to lead the education projects! Anyone with me?
 Farbotko, Carol & Lazrus, Heather. (2012). The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu. Global Environmental Change. Vol 22. Issue 2. Pg 382-390. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378011002019#sec0015
 Casey, Nicholas. (2016, July 7). Climate change claims a lake, and an identity. Retrieved from https://static01.nyt.com/packages/pdf/tbooks/Climate_Refugees_NYTimes_050317.pdf
 Campbell, John & Warrick, Olivia. United Nations Economic and Social Commision for Asia and the Pacific.(2014, August). Climate Change and Migration Issues in the Pacific. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/dyn/migpractice/docs/261/Pacific.pdf