On Monday, Refugees International (RI) announced the establishment of a new center to address “the needs of the tens of millions of people expected to be displaced by climate change.” Kenneth Bacon, RI’s president, and his wife Darcy have provided the seed money for the Ken and Darcy Bacon Center for the Study of Climate Displacement, with additional support from the UN Foundation and the Refugees International board. In its press release announcing the center, Refugees International explains the growing climate refugee crisis:
The most immediate threats from climate change are in the form of storms of increasing intensity, such as Cyclone Nargis in Burma; greater incidence of drought and floods that make traditional livelihoods unsustainable; and increased conflicts over access to limited resources. The war in Darfur derives, in part, from conflict over scarce resources as the desert expands. Other dramatic impacts are also predicted in the long term, such as the disappearance of island states like the Maldives. Estimates of the numbers of people expected to be displaced by climate change range from 50 million to 1 billion over the next 50 years. By comparison, there are currently 41.2 million people displaced by conflict.
Ken Bacon’s gift to the future comes at a tragic moment in his life. As he discussed in an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for health care reform, he has life-threatening brain cancer. Ken’s choice to establish this center in a time of personal crisis is a tribute to his integrity and passion for the world he has spent his life making a better place. “The most voiceless people in the world are probably refugees,” Nick Kristof writes, “and for the last decade one the great spokesmen for them has been Kenneth Bacon, the head of Refugees International.”
8/15/09: Ken Bacon, whose daughter is a good friend, has sadly passed away in the presence of his family.