Earth Refuge: A New Face Addressing Climate Migration

By James Sedlak, ASAP Member

My name is James Sedlak, a former wildland firefighter turned climate adaptation professional. Since my last fire season, I’ve been more involved in the climate migration field by joining the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP)’s related programs and volunteering for a new think tank which I am excited to share with the ASAP network.

It is no surprise that climate disasters are intensifying in today’s warming environment. While some communities have endured, others are confronted with hardships so severe that they are forced to address the issue of relocation. Some organizations recently reported that upwards of 30 million people were displaced by natural events in 2020 alone. For many of us not on the frontlines, it is hard to grasp the severity of this issue but nonetheless it is a growing problem for everyone not so far off in the future.

Thankfully, many organizations in the climate adaptation and migration field are tackling this complex problem. They are addressing it by helping communities on the ground gain the services to accomplish just relocation, bridging the gap between communities and government leaders to rebuild trust around finding equitable solutions, researching future impacts on receiving communities and abandoned ecosystems and more. Among these organizations trying to make a difference is Earth Refuge, a think tank dedicated to offering legal frameworks to individuals impacted by climate-related displacement, serving as an educational platform for the broader public, and offering a medium for impacted community members and field experts who wish to amplify their voices.

Earth Refuge was founded by two recent University of Penn LLM graduates, Stephanie Hader and Yumna Kamel, in an effort to address the lack of legal status and guidance for climate-displaced people. It is entirely volunteer-driven, with members spanning the globe in countries such as the United States, India, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and more. It continues to grow it’s volunteer base and strives to be another organization providing solutions and engaging content alongside established organizations like ASAP.

Earth Refuge and ASAP’s work on climate migration coincide in many respects while conducting unique projects. Both organizations serve as a forum for practitioners to share their expertise and perspectives within the climate migration field. Contributions include academic papers, creative content and professional networking opportunities. They also give people who deeply care about climate migration the space to work on special projects and collaborate. ASAP has embarked on a cutting-edge, applied research program modeling climate-receiving communities in the New York State region while it’s Climate Migration and Managed Retreat (CMMR) Working Group continues to bring ASAP members together to learn more about related topics as they emerge in the field. Earth Refuge has undertaken the development of legal toolkits that will guide impacted individuals through environmental migration processes and provide case studies that could highlight legal precedent for certain protections in various climate-displacement circumstances. Earth Refuge volunteers have also been creating original content including think pieces, academic articles, podcasts (including Deputy Director Rachel Jacobson on ASAP’s work), current affairs reports and captivating social media posts to educate the global community.

As a volunteer correspondent for Earth Refuge and member of ASAP mostly involved in the CMMR group, it is especially intriguing to see how Earth Refuge grows in the climate migration field alongside such a prominent adaptation organization. I look forward to any solutions that might come from synergies or potential collaborations down the road. For now, please visit the Earth Refuge’s website below or check out any of its social media platforms to learn more and discover how to get involved.