Land Locked Community Impacted From Sea Level Rise 6200 Miles Away: Teaching an Audience Centered Approach to Risk and Resilience in Environmental Displacement

Carrie Helgeson Nelms, Environmental Dynamics, University of Arkansas Main Campus


The World Bank in 2008 identified five main climate change threats which are: droughts, floods, storms, rising sea level, and greater uncertainty in agriculture creating a climate change hit-list (Global: Twelve, 2009). With sea level rising from global warming, dozens of atoll islands are becoming uninhabitable from salt water contaminating freshwater supplies, these island states will produce over a million environmental refugees which includes the Marshall Islands (Spear, 2003). Dr. Koko Warner, Head of Environmental Migration, revealed 50 island states that will lose their entire land mass and their state hood will disappear by 2030 from sea level rise including the Marshall Islands (Nash, 2010). According to the 2012 Springdale population records for Northwest Arkansas, the city's inhabitants number just over 73,000 which are slightly higher than the CIA's 2013 population record for the Marshall Islands just under 70,000 inhabitants.

"The search for better land, milder climate and easier conditions of living starts many a movement of people which, in view of their purpose, necessarily leads them into an environment sharply contrasted to their original habitat" was stated by Ellen Semple in 1911 to define why people move (Piguet, 2011, p. 3). Based on sea level rise due to climate change issues, the Marshallese have been moving and will continue to move to Northwest Arkansas. Springdale, Arkansas has the largest population within the United States of Marshallese outside the island states (Davis, 2013). This population merge has created similar historical migratory issues in the socio-economic welfare created from varied demographics involving host communities and environmentally created migrates. Organizations working toward adaptation and resiliency methods in human displacement will reduce conflict and unresolved needs if the individuals have effective communication skills. This requires an understanding of the targeted audience's values, needs and interests. Practicing communication skills through an audience centered approach can bridge a disconnect with the audience bringing awareness of issues and reaching resolutions in population dynamics.

Key teaching points:
  • Identifying the impacts on Northwest Arkansas from sea-level rise.
  • Effectively communicating economic and social adjustments to host and environmentally displaced populations.
  • Developing and practicing an audience centered approach to risk assessment presentations.

How this example is used in the classroom:
This case study is used to bring incite to students of how sea level rise can impact inland communities. This case leads to discussions over the economic and social vulnerabilities from the displaced and host point of views; furthermore, collaborative efforts are needed for problem solving requiring effective communication which involves students learning the importance of presenting audience centered discussions.


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