In this STAR interview, we speak to Robbin Jan van Duijne of the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results. We also have many “star” colleagues at UT with an interesting story to tell. Robbin Jan van Duijne recently received a Rubicon grant from the Dutch Research Council for further research into climate migration.
What is the situation (S) outline (at the moment) of your research?
“We are seeing more frequent items appearing in the news about climate migration and a world that is headed for 150 million climate migrants by 2050. Such articles are being widely shared and uncritically adopted by various news media. But how should we actually interpret these claims?”
What tasks (T) are currently involved?
“The Dutch Research Council awarded me a Rubicon to continue my research on climate migration. My research focuses on temporary labour migration and not on the permanent migration of whole families. In parts of Asia and Africa, strong social bonds to the village where you were born form an impediment to permanently changing where you live. Families are strongly embedded in the local community or the local caste. They remain deeply anchored to the place they were born via such things as a shared family home or ownership of land with a substantial emotional value, because it’s been in the family for generations. Nonetheless, climate change is increasingly putting pressure on rural populations, which puts households in a bind. Drought and failed harvests are making it very difficult for millions of people in rural areas to earn a living from agricultural work, while there is no alternative work in the locality either. Labour migration offers a way out: men migrate for work to big cities while the rest of the family stay behind and start receiving remittances from elsewhere.”
What actions (A) are you working on and who are involved?
“My project researches better ways of predicting such climate migration. I’m testing a new prognosis model in 250,000 Indian settlements. The results will give us a better indication of the number of agricultural workers in difficulty and hence future labour migration flows. For this study I’m collaborating with the Climate School of Columbia University in New York City. This prestigious “climate school” brings together researchers from different disciplines: climatologists, agricultural experts, sociologists, development studies experts and migration experts.”
What results (R) do you hope to achieve and how will society perceive them?
“There is relatively little research into climate migration being done in the Netherlands right now. Even though the topic forms one of our greatest societal and scientific challenges – already today, but most certainly in the near future. I’ll be using the Rubicon funding to enrol in certain training programmes at top institutions abroad. When I return to this country, I’ll be able to employ this knowledge for both research and teaching. The research itself will lead to a better understanding of future climate-related labour migration flows.”