A Perfect Storm

A Perfect Storm: A Human Geography of Climate Change and Globalization in Coastal Bangladesh

“Worldwide, the two cities that will have the greatest proportional increase in people exposed to climate extremes by 2070 are both in Bangladesh: Dhaka and Chittagong … For all its troubles, Bangladesh is a place where adapting to a changing climate actually seems possible, … thanks to the one commodity that Bangladesh has in profusion: human resilience. Before this century is over, the world, rather than pitying Bangladesh, may wind up learning from her example.”

National Geographic, May 2011

Bangladesh is considered the paradigmatic site for the study of rising sea level changes. The United Nations has listed it as number one among all countries in the world for cyclones, and as number six for floods (UNDP 2004). By the year 2030, 20 million people are expected to be dislocated along the coastal areas of Bangladesh from rising sea level changes in the Bay of Bengal. Situated in the Gangetic delta, close to a third of the landmass of Bangladesh goes under water during the heavy monsoon season. Given its population density, 164 million in a landmass at 55,000 sq. miles, these numbers take on catastrophic implications. The people who are being displaced along the coastal areas of Bangladesh live at the margins of human existence. They are not the emitters of carbon gases, nor do they use gasoline or electricity. In fact, they are the casualties of industrialized nations and their carbon emissions. The research takes a bottoms-up approach to the environmental issues facing Bangladesh and addresses to what extent will globalization, along with China’s and India’s rising economic dominance, constrain, and perhaps even create, mobility for climate refugees?

Presenter Profile: Lamia Karim, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Lamia Karim

Lamia Karim (B.A 1984 Brandeis University; M.A. 1993 University of Michigan; Ph.D. 2002 Rice University) is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Her research interests are in globalization, gender, human rights, and social movements. She has published numerous scholarly articles in anthropology journals (Cultural Dynamics, Political and Legal Anthropology, Contemporary South Asia) on gender and globalization, and chapters in edited volumes. Her research has been supported with two postdoctoral fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and grants from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. A native of Bangladesh, she is the author of Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).