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WVXU: Environmental crises contributing to refugee flight

UC professors Tomasz Stepinski and Leila Rodriguez explain how changes in climate and land use are driving migration patterns

WVXU spoke to two University of Cincinnati professors to understand how environmental factors are contributing to the global refugee crisis.

UC geography professor Tomasz Stepinski and Leila Rodriguez, an associate professor of anthropology, explained how changes in land use, climate change and extreme poverty are driving people to leave their homelands.

"When you cut a significant portion of the forest, the climate changes. And when the climate changes, you may not be able to grow certain crops and this may be a contributing factor to the crisis," Stepinski told WVXU.

Stepinski used high-resolution satellite images from the European Space Agency to track changing global land use between 1992 and 2015. The map shows how 22 percent of the Earth's habitable surface has been altered in measurable ways, primarily from forest to agriculture.

Rodriguez teaches a UC Honors class on the global refugee crisis. In particular, students examined how Germany absorbed more than 1 million refugees since 2015.

"It's not an easy answer, but he solution I think is global management of migration where the burden is shared more evenly," Rodriguez told WVXU.

Featured image at top: Central American migrants carry their belongings over their heads while crossing the Suchiate River from Guatemala to Mexico. Photo/Santiago Billy/AP

A land-use map of North and South America shows speckled colors indicating changes in land use.

A portion of UC geography professor Tomasz Stepinski's new world map shows changing landscapes in North and South America. White indicates little or no change. Darker shades indicate the highest rate of change in each category. Graphic/Tomasz Stepinski/UC