New Zealand: The Dream Destination for ‘Ecomigrants’?

Travel Blog  •  Joanna Kakissis  •  02.24.09 | 1:57 PM ET

new zealandPhoto by Sami Keinšnen via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Most ecomigrants, or people who leave their home countries because of climate change, are poor, desperate and often homeless. Consider the citizens of Bangladesh, where between 12 million and 17 million eco-refugees have fled in the last few decades because of increased flooding and other environmental catastrophes attributed in part to global warming. But in an intriguing Washington Post story, it appears that well-off people from developed countries are also worried enough about climate change to relocate to greener locales.

An Israeli professor moved to Indiana, which seemed like a better (but perhaps way duller?) option than a town in the desiccated Middle East “where everything is yellow and dry and there are only three months of rain a year.” And a young family from the greater Washington, D.C., area left for New Zealand, where they had never visited and had no family, but which had excellent green credentials and a commitment to developing renewable energy. Adam Fier, a 38-year-old computer security professional, figured that his 6-year-old twin daughters would have a healthier life there, especially since he believes “this planet is going to be a mess” in a century.

New Zealand, by the way, is also a favored destination for the beleaguered 100,000 residents of the Pacific nation of Kiribati, a collection of islands that will soon be overwhelmed by rising seas.

I wonder if New Zealanders will headline their growing buzz as eco-haven in their tourism promos, though they already have plenty of green cred to brag about.

Joanna Kakissis's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, among other publications. A contributor to the World Hum blog, she's currently a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

1 Comment for New Zealand: The Dream Destination for ‘Ecomigrants’?

Cate 02.27.09 | 9:50 PM ET

I enjoyed reading this post, but it is pitched as though this is a new development. for New Zealand. In fact if you look at the history of the country you will find that NZ has been attracting these kinds of migrants since the 1800’s.
Middle class migrants from the UK moved out to NZ to find a better opportunity in the mid 1800’s,
Asians - Taiwanese, Japanese, Singaporean, Korean came to NZ during the late 1980s to mid 1990’s.  Now Indians are the newer wealthier pool of people to start moving.
The image of clean and green coupled with affordable housing and a relatively low crime rate, is what attracts these groups of people. The NZ government has been using these factors to attract overseas immigrants for a long time, offering various types of financial packages for the potential middle class immigrant.
As for the Kiribati residents, NZ has a strong diplomatic relationship in the Pacific Islands, many islanders from Kiribati reside in New Zealand already as part of the labour scheme developed between the two nations. Wouldn’t it make sense for family to move to a country where there is family already? I

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