How borders could change to deal with climate migration


However, the opening of borders should not mean the absence of borders or the abolition of nation states. It may be necessary to explore different types of nation states, with different governance options. Will the states most affected by climate change buy or lease territory in safer places? Or will we see charter cities that operate under different jurisdictions and rules than the territory around them, or floating states that build new territories on the waves?

It will take work to reinvent the concept of the nation-state so that it becomes more inclusive and strengthens local ties while forging larger and more equitable global networks. There are multiple benefits to fostering community, a kinship with our fellow human beings, based on our common societal project, language and cultural works. These traits are important enough for people to make patriotism a powerful source of identity.

So why not also engender a patriotic feeling about the air, land and water of our nations, to encourage people to take care of themselves? One approach, since we all face environmental threats, could be to enlist the military and other security institutions in the fight against climate change. National service for young citizens and immigrants to help with disaster relief, nature restoration, agricultural and social efforts could be another solidarity-creating step. And we may need to restore or invent new national traditions that benefit the environment or society, and for which citizens can feel pride and respect. These could include social groups and clubs that sing, create, play sports or perform together, and to which members can belong for life. These traditions can help maintain dignity in difficult times and provide a patriotic meaning that immigrants can assimilate.

The new patriotic narrative could be one of civic nationalism, based on the common good, with rights and duties, and a passionate cultural attachment to nature, and to the protection and conservation of places of national (or international).

Costa Rica, for example, has adopted the term pura vida, broadly meaning “good life”, as a national ethos, mantra and identity. Its use became widespread from the 1970s, when refugees from violent conflicts in neighboring Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador settled in the country in large numbers. Costa Rica, a small Central American country that does not have a standing army and instead invests heavily in nature protection and restoration alongside social services such as health and education, has used this vision of life to define its character and integrate new immigrants.

“A person who chooses to use this expression therefore not only alludes to this shared ideology and identity, they at the same time construct this identity by expressing it,” says Anna Marie Trester of New York University. “Language is a very important tool for self-construction.”


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