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What’s Really Driving Immigrants North From Central America

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Courtesy of Edwin Castellanos
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Climate change is compounding the political turmoil and poverty that sends desperate farming families north from Central America, according to climate scientist Edwin Castellanos.

When thousands of Central Americans moved en masse toward the border between Mexico and the U.S. in 2018, violence and poverty were named as the culprits behind the immigrants’ journey. But according to Edwin Castellanos, another factor could be just as much to blame. 

Castellanos, a climate scientist and Dean of Research at Universidad del Valle in Guatemala, says decreased rainfall and rising temperatures over the past few decades have knocked out the livelihoods of Central American subsistence farmers. Climate models he works on show that unless humans curb their reliance on fossil fuels, the problems are likely to worsen, forcing more farming families to make the desperate choice to head north.

Host Frank Statio talks with Edwin Castellanos about the effects of climate change on immigration and how farmers and officials in Central America are thinking about the problem. Castellanos delivers a lecture at the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Friday, Feb 22 at 6 p.m.

Jennifer Brookland is the American Homefront Project Veterans Reporting Fellow. She covers stories about the military and veterans as well as issues affecting the people and places of North Carolina.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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