I, Climate Refugee

Michael Nabert
7 min readAug 29, 2023

Don’t blink or you’ll miss the moment I become invisible.

Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay

It can be startling to see yourself become a statistic. I’ve been writing and speaking about the climate crisis for decades. I know that the world is on track towards 1.2 billion people being displaced by climate disasters by the year 2050, by far the greatest mass migration in human history. I’ve expounded at length on the moral responsibility wealthy high emitting nations have to those displaced from the front lines of the subsequent warming’s impact. I just wasn't expecting to become one of the climate refugees I was talking about quite this soon. Foolish me.

Around the globe, it’s becoming commonplace. It’s only in my personal experience that it’s unprecedented. Was unprecedented. Now I don’t have any trouble imagining it at all. Now I’m living it.

And I’m painfully aware that the version I’m personally living through is a convenient first world confident-I’ll-be-able-to-return-home-sooner-or-later displacement that growing multitudes around the world forced from their homes every year can only fantasize about. I still have to take the sinking feeling in my gut seriously, but in the global context, this is easy mode.

In the 20th century, the idea that “everyone will be famous for five minutes” was misattributed to Andy Warhol. In the 21st century, everyone will instead get their turn being at ground zero of a climate disaster. If we’re lucky enough to survive, we win the chance to do it all over again in future disasters.

There’s a brief moment, when the impact lands, that it’s a centre of attention. As we fled our home, my lived catastrophe was the lead on the news. A TV news segment producer reached out to me as we were hitting the road hoping to interview us, and he spent the day frustrated that the intermittency of telecommunications signals stymied the possibility of a Zoom call on the road while I spent the day white knuckled trying not to freak out about travelling through intense devastation too enormous to wrap my head around. Just one more surreal element in an already atypical day.

We finally did do the interview the next morning, but NWT evacuations were no longer the lead story by then. Intense wildfires in British Columbia triggering yet more…

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Michael Nabert

Researching a road map from our imperilled world into one with a livable future with as much good humour as I can muster along the way.