Climate Adaptation & Migration

One degree.  That’s the difference between ice and water. When applied to the global climate, it is a difference that will displace millions. In the prairies of Canada we’re seeing warming at 3 times the global average. 


As the permafrost of our planet melts away, so do the houses, communities, and stored water.  With the onset of these events, comes the Great Climate Migration. To call it “great” is no exaggeration.


By 2070, 1 in 3 people around the world will be forced to choose between persevering in an inhabitable region or move.


For centuries, species have had to adapt to changes in atmospheric levels, weather, and even the climate -- but never this fast or at the global scale we're experiencing this millennium. Though human, plant and animal species are incredibly resilient, the stakes are now higher.


As the climate continues to warm at an unprecedented rate, migration is being viewed by some as a form of adaptation. But should it be? The implications of migration as an adaptive strategy rather than as a last resort are up for debate.

There is no question that without a multi-pronged strategy to restore our earth - as the 51st Earth Day theme proposes - millions of people, plants, and animals will be displaced. 



Picture a tree in your mind. It can be any tree - it can be your favorite sycamore, the oak you grew up climbing in your backyard, or even the forest of pines you pass on the interstate. There are over 60,000 tree species on Earth, each with different habitats, seedlings, growth patterns, and root structures. 

When we think about a tree's response to climate change, adaptation comes to mind - weathering storms and evolving new traits over time to withstand changes. The rings of a single tree, as shown in the Patagonia Films short documentary Treeline, tell the story of what it has endured and under what conditions it has been able to persist. But the conditions are now dire.


An individual tree is firmly rooted in the soil where it stands. But as a collective, species of trees, like humans, are capable of migration over time.  In places like the Andes and Amazon, which produce over 20% of the world's oxygen and river water, trees are moving upward on slopes to find the conditions they need to survive. As more and more species are forced to make the journey, less room is available. As time is running out, tree species risk becoming extinct. 

We commemorated the 51st Global Earth Day and the theme "Restore Our Earth" with the release of two new films that highlight the intersections of climate adaptation & migration through our planet's lungs -- trees . Our two films, The Church Forests of Ethiopia (9 mins) and Treeline (40 mins) explore this topic through a spiritual lens, showing that issues of forests are issues of water, too. 

The Church Forests of Ethiopia and Treeline were available to watch for free in our Virtual Theatre from April 22 until May 20. Keep scrolling to find where they are now available. 

About Church Forests of Ethiopia

Over the past century, farming and the needs of a growing population have replaced nearly all of Ethiopia’s old-growth forests with agricultural fields. This film tells the story of the country’s Church Forests–pockets of lush biodiversity that are protected by hundreds of churches “scattered like emerald pearls across the brown sea of farm fields.”

Year: 2019
Length: 9 mins
Director: Jeremy Seifert

Available on: 


The Church Forests of Ethiopia

About Treeline:

Year: 2018

Length: 40 mins 

Director: Jordan Manley

Quietly, patiently, trees endure. They are the oldest living beings we come to know during our time on earth. They provide our shelter, our fuel, our companions, and—in some cases—our divinity. They are living bridges into our planet’s enormous past, their obscure stories written into their rings over centuries and even millennia.


Available on: 

Treeline takes us to the enshrined cypress groves of Japan, the towering red cedars of British Columbia, and the ancient bristlecones of Nevada, following a handful of skiers, snowboarders, scientists, and healers as they move through these giants and explore a connection older than humanity.


Available below or wherever you find your podcasts
S2, E4: The Great Climate Migration with Abrahm Lusgarten

Abrahm Lustgarten, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated environmental reporter, talks to us about climate migration, one of climate change's biggest looming threats. Rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and ever-increasing natural disasters are forcing people to abandon their homes and their ways of life to seek safer ground. As the planet heats up, the number of climate refugees will just keep swelling, up to 3 billion people -- a third of the global population -- by 2070.

S2,E8: Slippery Slopes - Canadian Recreation Meets Climate Change

Climatologist Micah Hewer and economist Pat Lloyd-Smith tell Jay about the good, the bad, and the ugly effects of global warming on Canada's outdoor recreation sector. On the bad side of the ledger: shorter downhill skiing and skating seasons and slime-covered lakes in the summer. On the good side: longer, better seasons for outdoor pursuits like hunting, bird watching, and cross-country skiing. And one of the best of all: better, more widespread winemaking, especially of fine red wine.

Micah and Pat.png

The Cost of Climate Migration

April 22, 2021

Earth Day Global Academic Forum

Climate change has a price. Join us this Earth Day, April 22, for a global academic forum discussing the cost of climate-induced migration.

This free, virtual event is open to the public. Register above on Eventbrite! 


Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Global Institute for Water Security

Dr. Jay Famiglietti is a hydrologist, a professor and the Executive Director of the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan and host of the Let's Talk About Water podcast.

Before moving to Saskatchewan, he served as the Senior Water Scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. From 2013 through 2018, he was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California State Water Boards.


Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

Abrahm Lustgarten is a senior environmental reporter at ProPublica, focusing on the intersection of business, climate and energy. His 2015 series examining the causes of water scarcity in the American West, “Killing the Colorado,” was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and received the 2016 Keck Futures Initiative Communication Award from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Robin Bronen, Alaska Institute for Justice; University of Alaska Fairbanks

Robin Bronen has been working as a human rights attorney and interdisciplinary social scientist on the issue of climate-forced displacement of Alaska Native communities since 2007.She co-authored the Peninsula Principles on Internal Displacement and was a technical advisor for the Brookings Institute’s Guidance on Planned Relocation. She also worked with the Obama Administration White House Council on Environmental Quality to create a federal institutional relocation framework. 

Dr. Jesse Keenan, Tulane University

Jesse M. Keenan is an Associate Professor and social scientist within the faculty of the School of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Keenan leads courses and seminars advancing the interdisciplinary fields of sustainable real estate and urban development. As a globally recognized thought leader, Keenan’s research focuses on the intersection of climate change adaptation and the built environment, including aspects of design, engineering, regulation, planning and financing. 


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