Small Wars Journal

“Refugees and Climate Change: A Cause for Hope?” - Part V: Conclusion and Reflection

Sat, 03/16/2019 - 12:44am

“Refugees and Climate Change: A Cause for Hope?” - Part V: Conclusion and Reflection


J. David Thompson


This is the fifth paper in a five-part series. Part I: Introduction can be found here. Part II: Case Studies can be found here, Part III: Climate Displacement and Economic Policy can be found here, and Part IV: Climate Change, Refugees, and National Security can be found here.


This series of papers covered some serious and depressing topics: climate change, refugees and human displacement, and the politicking of national security. Hopefully, it found a glimmer of hope in such dire and serious topics. I chose these topics because they are near and dear to me. The positivity of the people impacted by such grave circumstances hits and sticks with me the hardest. This is where I found hope in the past, and I hope that through this paper the reader caught a glimmer of that hope. There are a few stories that stand out.


First, one of my former colleagues and friends met a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh. This young girl told my friend that she wanted to be a soldier so that she could help people. She says this despite the Burmese military committing some of the worst atrocities imaginable. I have to wonder at how much compassion the Bangladeshi soldiers displayed to her. She is not so jaded that she lost hope in humanity. I find hope in her.


When working in Jordan, I assisted in a school that opened its doors to Syrian refugees. While painting signs with young girls, I got to hear about the friendships developed between Jordanians and Syrian refugees. While the Jordanians were sad for what was happening in Syria, they found an unintended consequence of the war in that it enabled them to meet new friends. The Syrian girls expressed the same sentiments. I find hope in their compassion and generosity.


Again in Jordan, I think of the Jordanians volunteering in Zaatari to provide education. I think of the young girls learning to stand up against child marriage. I think of the teenage boys learning arts and crafts so they have positive outlets to express themselves. If people promote their voices, there are opportunities for a future Syria.


In Israel, I think of my former Israeli and Palestinian colleagues advocating for equal access to healthcare for Palestinians. I think of the Israeli doctors volunteering their time to provide healthcare to Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees. There is hope in their everyday actions. It does not have to be the peace to end all peace.


This positivity does not automatically happen. We cannot take it for granted. As shown in the case of Lebanon, policies become self-fulfilling. Without substantial changes in Bangladesh, the forest may be obsolete this year. Despite overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of climate change and the security of the refugee program, people do not believe facts. Narratives become more important. To empower these voices, people have to practice radical inclusion. Leaders, especially American leaders, need to bring in voices by those impacted then amplify those voices.[i] Maybe I am too optimistic, but the alternative does not offer solutions.




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Dempsey, M. and Brafman, O., (2017), Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us about Leadership, (Missionday).


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End Note


[i] Dempsey, M. and Brafman, O., Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us about Leadership.

About the Author(s)

J. David Thompson is a Civil Affairs Major. He has a Juris Doctorate from Washington Lee School of Law. He also holds a BS in Economics and MBA-Leadership from Liberty University. Outside the military, he's worked at the UN Refugee Agency, Department of Defense, and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Follow him on Twitter @jdthompson910