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Disasters, migrations, and the unintended consequences
of urbanization: What’s the harm in getting
out of harm’s way?
Published online: 5 October 2015
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract Under many circumstances, the global rural-to-urban migration trend
may be increasingly adopted as a short-term coping strategy to shifting ecologies
and natural disasters. While offering certain beneﬁts from macro-level economic
and public health perspectives, these migrations may also have unintended psy-
chological consequences that are not easily understood through traditional disaster
studies or cost–beneﬁt analyses. If the goal of disaster and climate change research
is to promote successful adaptation, then the long-term psychological well-being of
people who have survived disaster and either adapted in situ or migrated into urban
environments, is paramount. This article integrates research on disasters and climate
change-induced migration with emerging perspectives from environmental psy-
chology and the psychology of natural disasters to consider the potential costs of
particular migration scenarios. We apply this analysis to the case of Shishmaref,
Alaska, a rural In
˜upiat community on the northwest coast of Alaska facing habitual
ﬂooding disasters linked to climate change. Findings from Shishmaref illustrate the
cultural vitality of subsistence landscapes and the potential health risks of com-
promised human–ecological relationships due to migration and/or displacement.
Recommendations for policy makers and researchers are offered for promoting
long-term well-being among affected individuals and communities.
Keywords Disasters Migration Climate change Environmental psychology
American Indians Alaska Natives Mental health Health
Graduate and Research Center, Oregon State University – Cascades, 650 SW Columbia Street,
Bend, OR 97701, USA
Popul Environ (2016) 37:411–428