Permanent or temporary migration to a safer environment is the traditional survival strategy of populations faced with overwhelming natural or environmental disasters. Often such disasters not only result in destruction of living environments, but also destroy the social and economic fabrics of a society, forcing entire communities to seek new social, economic, and cultural environments in which to thrive.
Natural disasters often function as initiatives to push populations to migrate to new, more favorable living conditions. Less frequently, areas struck by natural disasters may serve to pull in small group populations if they believe the post-disaster living conditions can be exploited to their advantage. A broad and extensive record of migrations, both forced and voluntary, exists in the geological, archeological, and written historical records documenting human culture.
Evidence exists suggesting environmental change initiated the first humanoid migrations out of the African continent as early as 60 to 70 millennia in the past, dispersing human ancestry northward in an attempt to find more favorable living conditions. Geological evidence from about 70 millennia ago indicates that a super-volcanic eruption of the Lake Toba Caldera on the Indonesian island of Sumatra resulted in a massive climate-changing event. The dating of this eruption coincides with fossil evidence and
In much more recent times, a massive flooding of the Black Sea through the Bosporus Straits around 5600
During the late tenth century, the
Victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic in a Kansas emergency hospital.
Northern European and Asian peoples migrated to escape the harsh climatic conditions or to fill living niches left by deaths and emigration. By the late fifteenth century, the need to search out resources and flee social upheavals gave rise to an era of exploration. Over the next several hundred years, large numbers of Europeans were pushed and pulled into emigrating to North America.
During the mid-nineteenth century, two large-scale famines proved major push factors in North American immigration: the
An early twentieth century disaster that directly affected North America was the great
The disastrous North American hurricane season of 1928, while devastating vast areas of southern Florida, became a pull for migration as rebuilding efforts promoted the region as a vacation destination. The
Bullard, Robert D., and Beverly Wright, eds. Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2009. Revealing look at the roles of different ethnic communities in the rebuilding of the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina struck. Clark, Jeffrey J. Tracking Prehistoric Migrations: Pueblo Settlers Among the Tonto Basin Hohokam. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001. Of the migrations of early Native American groups in the American Southwest. Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. Extended essay on world history offering many ideas on how physical geography has influenced human events such as population movements. Fagan, Brian. The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Interesting study of the relationship between climatic changes, food supply, and population movements during the Little Ice Age. Gregory, James N. American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. History of the migrants from Oklahoma and other southern Great Plains states who fled to California to escape the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930’s. Gribben, Arthur, ed. The Great Famine and the Irish Diaspora in America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. Collection of twelve essays commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine that drove more than 1.5 million people to leave Ireland. Levey, Richard, and Daniel Franck. Dust Bowl! The 1930’s Black Blizzards. New York: Bearport, 2005. Graphic account of the effects of dust storms in the Midwest. Rain, David. Eaters of the Dry Season: Circular Labor Migration in the West African Sahel. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999. Encroaching desertification has made West Africa’s Sahel region one of the most precarious human environments in the world. This work explores the dynamics of the population that lives in the Sahel, from the seasonal migrants to the farmers and herders. Rosario, Kevin. The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Broad survey of the role of natural disasters in U.S. history. Williams, A. R. “After the Deluge: Central America’s Storm of the Century.” National Geographic, November, 1999, 108-129. Well-illustrated account of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Central America in 1998 and drove tens of thousands of people to emigrate to the United States.
Disaster recovery work
Great Irish Famine