Earth Day 2012: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Can Save Bangladesh from Climate Change Disaster

I have been living in Bangladesh for 9 months now. In this relatively short time, I have experienced two earthquakes and deadly monsoon rainstorms; however, this is not even the worst that Bangladesh faces. It is a land prone to natural disasters, and is also considered ground zero for climate change. 

Bangladesh is home to the world’s largest river delta. It is the seventh most populous country in the world, and the most densely populated, with about 158 million people living in a space approximately the size of Iowa. The majority of the land is only 20 feet above sea level, creating hazardous conditions during the annual monsoon season, when Bangladesh becomes prone to cyclones.

Given these conditions, Bangladesh is already feeling the devastating effects of climate change, and it is only going to get worse. By mid-century, more than a fifth of the country could be underwater because of rising sea levels and Himalayan glacier melt, creating over 20 million climate refugees (persons displaced due to climate change). Climate refugees are already commonplace in Bangladesh as flooding rivers wash away and destroy people’s homes. The displaced often relocate to Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, a city that faces growing slums and poverty as more and more people move there. Over half a million people move from rural Bangladesh to Dhaka each year. The single biggest reason for migration is climate change.

Let’s remember that what we do globally affects Bangladesh locally, creating more and more dangerous conditions for the people who live here. And, while much is being done locally and regionally to combat climate change and advance technology to help people in areas susceptible to flooding, the protection of the environment is both a global and a personal responsibility.

This Earth Day, set a personal environmentally friendly goal that will help to reduce your carbon footprint (I hope to reduce the amount of plastics that I use). Your actions can go a long way to help someone in a country that is oft forgotten. 

 

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Alexandra Zimmerman

Alexandra works as a Program Coordinator on women's business leadership at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. She previously worked at the Wilson Center, a leading non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC and at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where she was taught courses entitled "20th Century Political History of the Middle East" and "Religion and Identity." She received an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Religion concentrating in Islamic studies from the George Washington University. She loves to cook and travel and is a huge fan of the NY Giants and NY Mets.

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