Migration in a changing climate: Towards a translocal social resilience approach

Patrick Sakdapolrak, Sopon Naruchaikusol, Kayly Ober, Simon Alexander Bunchuay-Peth, Luise Porst, Till Rockenbauch, Vera Tolo

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Climate change and migration are drawing increasing interest from researchers and policy makers as well as from the general public. While in the beginning a simplistic and geo-deterministic comprehension of the environmental impact on human mobility had dominated the discussion, the framing of the relationship has recently become more differentiated. Vast empirical evidence derived from rural livelihoods research clearly shows that migration is an important strategy of households when dealing with multiple risks, including environmental stress. This has led to the growing acknowledgement of the idea of "migration as adaptation" in migration-environment research. We consider this conceptual development an important step for a better understanding of this nexus. Nonetheless, migration as adaptation has several shortcomings. Firstly, it is narrowly focused on migration as an adaptive response to environmental risks and neglects the significant impact of other forms of migration. Secondly, it does not cover other dimensions of how people, communities and societies deal with environmental change: A blind eye is all too often turned to processes of resilience building. Thirdly, migration as adaptation has been found to be interpreted in a way which justifies migration policies with neo-liberal tendencies. In order to overcome such drawbacks, we propose an approach that integrates translocality and social resilience. In this paper we thus introduce the concept of translocal social resilience and reflect on its conceptual implications. We will thereby show how this approach can improve the understanding of the migration-environment nexus, and how it can also shape the concept of migration as adaptation, allowing for nuanced and critical views on the dynamics in the migration-environment context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-94
Number of pages14
JournalDie Erde: Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin - Forum für Erdsystem- und Erdraumforschung
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 507017 Social geography
  • 507024 Environmental policy
  • 507002 Population geography


  • ASIA
  • Migration
  • VIEW
  • climate change
  • migration as adaptation
  • social resilience
  • translocality

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