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Community Reads: Winter 2021 | Climate Refugees

A guide to the Community Reads program at UWB/CC Campus Library

Winter 2021 Online | Climate Refugees

Hello Campus Community -

climate change artwork block print ocean waveCommunity Reads will be offering our Winter Quarter programming online in the form of a Canvas course inviting asynchronous discussion. We are continuing our year's theme of Environmental Justice and this quarter's sub-theme will be climate refugees. Our chosen materials will focus on incidents of climate disaster, political policy, and the communities most impacted.

Climate refugees and climate migration are terms used to describe people who are displaced due to the impacts of climate change such as drought, food insecurity, or wildfires. Climate refugees is not a term defined by or recognized by international refugee law.

-Read more from Climate Refugees


As we did in fall quarter, we invite you to engage with a selection of  three short "texts" in the form of something to read, to watch, and to listen to. We will call this trio format, "Listen, Read, & Watch" We hope the variety of mediums along with the brevity can allow for multiple points of engagement, and that they will interact with one another in new and interesting ways.

Finally, as you engage with our materials this quarter, we urge you to keep the issue of systemic racism and oppression in mind. Most of the environmental impacts we discuss are enhanced by systemic racism and fall disproportionately on marginalized communities. In addition to our provided questions, we invite you to ask yourself with each text, “How does systemic racism influence who is most harmed by these aspects of environmental disaster? How might my own reactions to these materials be informed by internalized racism and bias?”

Definitions of systemic racism, climate migration, climate refugees, and other environmental justice terms can be found on our vocabulary list. If there is a term you feel is missing from the list, please contact us to let us know.

We look forward to your participation this quarter in whatever capacity you can manage. In the meantime, we're thinking about you all and hoping you're staying healthy and safe.

- The Community Reads Team, 2020-21

Artwork by Ricardo Levins Morales
"Stand with frontline communities in our fight for environmental justice, against the ravages of toxic chemicals and climate change."

This illustration is a spinoff of the famous “Great Wave” print by Japanese artist Hokusai. - Morales

Winter 2021 Canvas Course

Visit our Canvas Course to participate in discussions and activities.

- Course Enrollment required to access discussion boards and additional activities -

Announcement: e-Zine Fall 2020 now complete!

Ready to view! 

We thank all our contributors!

- Submit your creative work for our Winter 2021 e-zine -


Access Our "Read"

"He Are the People" story (Canvas) UW NetID Login Required

If you're curious about the book in which our story selection is featured, 2040 A.D. (McSweeney's Issue 58), borrowing and purchasing options are below.

Borrow from your public library where applicable.

Purchase a copy

Further Reflections

Related Online Events & Webinars

Community Reads Team Contacts | 2020-21

Contact members of the team via email with questions, comments, or concerns:

Listen | Podcast Episode

In this episode of the “What Makes Us Human” podcast, Maria Cristina Garcia introduces the concept of “climate refugees” and describes how rising global temperatures are exacerbating existing inequities, both global and locally. She describes how the world’s most vulnerable populations are the most likely to suffer and become displaced in the event of environmental disasters, such as hurricanes, drought, and flooding.  

Although this is a very brief introduction, Garcia provides several concrete examples of how environmental disasters caused by climate change have and are impacting different communities in varying ways. As you listen, consider your own knowledge of different environmental disasters and the impact they have on human lives.  


About the Speaker

Maria Cristina Garcia teaches American Studies in the History department at Cornell University. She researches and has published several books on refugees, immigrants, and exiles.  She is currently working to complete a book on the environmental origins of refugee migrations - or “climate refugees”.

Read | Short Story

"He Are The People" (short story), by Elif Shafak, 2040 A.D.

Storyart from "He Are the People", goat and city structuresIn 2040 A.D., Istanbul, Turkey has been struck by a drought that leaves food and water scarce. Amidst other environmental disasters throughout the world, Turkey has also seen an influx of climate refugees turned away from a walled-off Europe. The narrator, Ada, listens to arguments among her family about the refugees they are hiding from their authoritarian government and struggles with her grief for a world she hardly remembers and her fear of the future.

Shafak, E. (2019). He Are The People. McSweeney's, issuing body (Ed.) 2040 A.D. (McSweeney's (Series); 58). (pp. 88-97). San Francisco, California: McSweeney's Publishing.

Story Artwork by Wesley Allsbrook

About the AuthorPhotograph of Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She has written seventeen books, eleven of which are novels, including the booker Prize-nominated 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World. Translated into fifty languages, Shafak is a political scientist, a women’s rights and LGBT rights activist, and a two-time TED Global speaker. An honorary fellow at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and she is a member of the Royal Society of Literature.

2040 A.D. (McSweeney's (Series); 58). San Francisco, California: McSweeney's Publishing.

Image from 

Watch | Video Poetry

The Environmental Refugee Holding Centre by Sabrina Mahfouz (for Cape Farwell Residency)


In the year 2060, climate disaster forces several communities to leave their homes and travel to the UK where they hope they will be safe. But there they are placed in the brutal ERHC (Environmental Refugee Holding Centre) and forced to endure inhumane confinement before being sent to the worst land to create a new city. But when they are on the brink of despair, hope and a way forward come from the most unexpected place.

About the Project

This animated video poem was created in 2013 by poet Sabrina Mahfouz on a poetry residency with Cape Farwell, a UK-based organization seeking to prompt a cultural response to climate change. Mahfouz is a British-Egyptian writer and performer raised in London and Cairo, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the author of several plays, poems, and children’s books. During her time at Cape Farwell, she created this animated poem as a way of drawing attention to the current and future plight of climate refugees and the way they might be treated in the UK.

Discussions & Activities

This quarter's discussions and reflection activities will take place online, in a Canvas course designed to facilitate engagement with one another and the material. We are hoping that instructors, supervisors, and staff can incorporate this course, or portions of this course, into their classes, programs, and departments. To take part in discussion spaces and contribute to our Climate Zine, students, faculty, and staff may enroll in the course (instructions found on our Canvas home page).

The course includes:

For Faculty

There are a variety of ways you may be able to integrate these Canvas materials into your own work. 

Ideas include:

  • Invite students to participate in the entire course or specific modules for extra credit.
  • Import specific modules of the course into your own courses.
  • Assign the Zine activity as an assignment in your course.
  • Assign the Climate Story activity as an assignment or extra credit in your course.

For Staff

How can staff participate individually or as part of a departmental project? Here are ideas of how to integrate these Canvas materials into your own work include:

  • Invite the staff or student employees you supervise to engage with the resources of the course and participate in activities and discussion spaces.
  • Encourage Climate Justice Zine submissions amongst staff in your units.
  • Host unit staff discussions around the content in the course.
  • Use our Environmental Justice Resource List.
  • Invite your unit and/or student employees you supervise to explore their Climate Story through our reflection activity.

Visit our For Faculty & Staff page for more ideas and information.

If you have another idea for how to use this material, or have questions on how to implement any of the ideas above, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  


The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, and activities. Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made 10 business days prior to the event to the Community Reads Team. Or, email contact of all members are on the left hand menu of this website.