Environmental migration in Haiti a warning to the world – in photographs

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Haiti is almost completely denuded of trees. According to the United Nations, the increasing frequency of drought, cyclones, hurricanes and floods will have an amplified impact in one of the most fragile environments already existent anywhere in the world.
This isn’t just an issue of wildlife, fauna and flora. It’s an issue of humankind as well, for the vulnerability of the country to natural disasters has triggered waves of internal migration from rural to urban areas.
In Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital and largest city, half of the residents were not born there. The city continues to serve as the main destination for thousands of environmental migrants every year.

Last Illusion, a multi-chapter photography project depicting one of the main and overlooked consequences of climate change on human populations has just been launched by Alessandro Grassani, an Italian photojournalist repped by INSTITUTE.

Haiti can be seen as a prosthetic microcosm for the future. Environmental migration is like an unexploded device: in the not too distant future, the entire planet will have to face the economic and social burden of its consequences.

By 2050, one in 45 people will be an environmental migrant—200 million people in total: today there are already 50 millions (source, IOM and UN).

Ninety percent of these 200 million migrants live in developing countries. They will not “land” in the richer nations, but will look for new sources of income in the urban areas of their home countries.

In 2008, for the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. Cities will grow even larger due to climate change and to environmental migrants.

“This long-term project focuses on this under-explored but looming issue,” says Grassani. “My research goal is to offer a glimpse on how our planet and cities are changing for the worse and to understand the personal narratives of this target migratory population, to document and tell their stories in order to disclose the devastating social impact of environmentally driven migration from rural to urban areas.

“This is ground zero for environmental migrants today—a situation which will only become more and more critical in the years to come.

See more images from  Alessandro Grassani’s series Last Illusion here

Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.