Earth Day 2023: 15 Books on Refugeeism and the Climate Crisis 

Dark blue on light blue Text reading April 22 Earth Day. Drawing of half a simplified globe

Written by Zaynah Ahmad and Tia Harriott 

Earth Day is an event which demonstrates support for environmental protection. Communities across the world come together to engage in an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues the world faces.  

Our theme for Earth Day this year, at the AIU RACE Centre, is “Environmental Devastation and its impact on Refugeeism”. When environmental devastation takes place, we witness social, cultural, and political upheaval.  

A spike in refugeeism is sometimes caused when unhabitable areas of devastation result in forced displacement where citizens in many countries must flee to seek safety elsewhere.  According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on average over 20 million people per year have been forcibly displaced by climate-related disasters such as floods and wildfires. With the rise of global warming and current climate crisis, rates of natural disasters are on the rise, and numbers of possible climate refugees are expected to rise alongside them. 

Below are some titles that depict the intensity of these issues; how they parallel each other in catastrophic ways, what it means to be a refugee through circumstances caused by environmental disaster, and the consequences these issues have. 

Many of these books are currently on order and will be available at the AIU RACE Centre soon! 

  1. Move: How Mass Migration Will Reshape the World by Parag Khanna (Non-Fiction).  Utilising his expertise in geopolitics and globalization, Khanna takes an authoritative approach to comment on how the world will react to the growing need for mass emigrations as a result of continued climate change. Khanna also highlights the effects of other global changes, such as wars, revolutions and pandemics, on mass migration patterns by looking to both historical and developing trends of movement to hypothesise possible future trends. 
  1. The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah (Non-Fiction). Shah, who has published numerous investigative books and articles on human rights, global health and corporate power, critiques anti-immigration policy through exploring how climate change has influenced migrations throughout history. She aims to flip the script on negative connotations of migration, shifting the focus towards migration as a natural response to ever-changing environments that, in a social and political context, should not be vilified.  
  1. Climate and Human Migration: Past Experiences, Future Challenges by Richard McLeman (Non-Fiction). McLeman presents a comprehensive academic review of the different facets that interact to shape migration patterns. He uses events such as the droughts in Africa, and the floods in Bangladesh and China that have triggered mass migration to contemplate the ideas surrounding environmental refugeeism, and to predict how future migration patterns will develop with growing levels of political and global crises.  
  1. The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (Fiction). Wright’s book is set in the future, with Australian Aboriginals still living under the Intervention, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change and depicts indigenous people as climate refugees. The story follows the protagonist as she grows up raised by a European immigrant and seemingly guided by swans. The book is a harsh satire on the way white Australians have treated Aboriginal people historically.  
  1. The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh (Fiction). Set in the Sundarbans, Ghosh’s novel follows the journey of an unlikely trio travelling upriver together to find the rare Irrawaddy dolphin. The three main characters each come from different backgrounds, but their stories collide and ripple into each other as they come together to fulfil their shared adventure. As Ghosh often does in his literary works, the novel explores topics such as humanism and environmentalism and what happens when they come into conflict. 
  1. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh (Non-Fiction).   In this non-fiction book, Ghosh tackles the concepts of climate change, history and politics in relation to colonialism. The book is split into 3 parts, ‘Stories’, ‘History’ and ‘Politics’, with each detailing the shortcomings of how these concepts are often related to climate change and what should be looked at to bridge these gaps. 
  1. The Climate Solution: India’s Climate Change Crisis and What We Can Do About It by Mridula Ramesh (Non-Fiction).  In this book, Ramesh explores multiple consequences of the climate crisis in India. Ramesh discusses such problems as why women are affected by a warming climate, how climate change poses a risk to the Indian state, and why focusing on green sources of power is an incomplete solution for India. However, she also emphasises the clever ways in which the Indian population have adapted to changing conditions and, at times, reversed their effects. 
  1. Bangladesh Confronts Climate Change: Keeping Our Heads above Water by Joseph Hanlon, Manoj Roy and David Hulme (Non-Fiction). Hanlon, Roy and Hulme collaborate in this exploration of how Bangladesh handles climate change. Despite Bangladesh being one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change related disasters, the authors argue that it is also a country that is capable of not only coping but also teaching. The authors argue that Bangladesh has lessons for activists, scientists, governments and the general public who want to know what climate change looks like and how to respond to it. 
  1. The Great Displacement by Jake Bittle (Non-Fiction). Bittle discusses climate migration in the United States as a result of natural disasters. He uses the personal stories of those experiencing displacement, portraits of communities torn apart by disaster to explore the implications of confronting a changing future. 
  1. Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security by Todd Miller (Non-Fiction). Miller takes an investigative journalism approach in this book, documenting the large numbers of people displaced from their communities by climate catastrophe, emerging in a wave of climate refugees. Named one of the “15 books on Climate Change That Are Essential Reading”, Miller draws on research/statements of military officials, revealing Homeland Security’s efforts to criminalise asylum seekers (themes of racism, cultural conflicts, and prejudice) among many other issues of how current policies & attitudes to refugees pit them against cruel, powerful countries.  
  1. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Fiction). Ward’s protagonist in this novel is a pregnant 15-year-old, living with her family in a mostly black Mississippi bayou town sitting in the middle of the path of hurricane Katrina. The novel demonstrates tragedy, displacement, vulnerability/immobility – drawing on both personal traumas and climate traumas for African American families.  
  1. Environmental Justice for Climate Refugees by Francesca Rosignoli (Non-Fiction). Rosignoli explores who climate refugees are, who is responsible for assisting climate refugees (state vs. non-state), the various legal solutions available and the political scenarios that should be advanced to govern this issue in the long term. Her book centres on immigration policies/laws, international relations, humanities, law, social sciences environmental migration/displacement, looking at how environmental justice might be used to overcome legal obstacles that prevents refugees from being recognised at an international level. 
  1. Global Climate Change and Environmental Refugees: Nature, Framework and Legality by Pardeep Singh, Bendangwapang Ao & Anamika Yadav (Non-Fiction). The premise of this book urges its readers to ascribe to a consensual agreement that climate refugees are evident, and this situation is a reality. The authors push for consideration of lawful migration opportunities and legal recognition of climate refugees. 
  1. The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives by Viet Nguyen and David Bezmozgis (Non-Fiction). A collection of written works from 15+ authors whose stories shed light on their experiences of being a refugee: the uncertainty, resilience, trauma, racism, and the reimagining of identity. These stories look at the parallel of unaffected/affected countries of environmental devastation – analysing the main issue: that there are countries that have the means to help, but do not.  
  1. Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate by Gaia Vince (Non-Fiction). Published in 2022, Royal Society Science Prize-winning author, Gaia Vince, demonstrates how we can plan for and manage this unavoidable climate migration, focusing on examples of climate crises in different countries. The vital message of this book is that migration is not the problem – it’s the solution.