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Not Refugees—Climate Change 'Pioneers'
Matthew D. Sanders writes of Isle de Jean Charles, a remote island community along the furthest stretches of southeastern Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana:
This is the setting of the first federally funded, climate-change induced community resettlement project—a $48.3 million effort to create a model for managed retreat at a scale not previously attempted. The Island is disappearing and this federal investment will ultimately determine whether the Island community disappears along with it, or whether it can experience a rebirth in a higher, drier, upland location.
A key message portrayed in this article, compared to previous media coverage of the Isle de Jean Charles resettlement project, addresses a question of nomenclature. Instead of "climate change refugees," planners working on the project prefer the term "climate change pioneers."
"They’re not refugees," writes Sanders. "They are pioneers who have willingly volunteered to take a proactive approach in the face of the sobering reality that the Island—their Island—will not withstand the impacts of future storms yet to come." That pioneering spirit is evident in the work residents are putting into the project, "collaborating with a project team of state officials, planners, engineers and architects to plan the look, feel, function and composition of the new community, but also to outline an appropriate and dignified 'long goodbye' for their Island."