One of the world’s most distinguished environmentalists, Professor James Lovelock, says in his new book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, that New Zealand could be one of the world’s last havens as global warming fundamentally changes the planet.
And scientists at the Copenhagen climate science conference this month warned that equatorial regions in Asia and Africa would not be able to grow enough food, forcing a rush of eco-migrants to more temperate nations like New Zealand.
The fear of rising waters in England persuaded Lizzy and Mike Larmer-Cottle to move their family from London to Albany, half an hour north of Auckland, surrounded by rolling hills and beaches.
They say, New Zealand will provide a better quality of life for their sons.
“England was just having more and more flooding – half of it’s going to be under water,” said Lizzy..
Liam Clifford, a director of London-based GlobalVisas, writes on the company’s website that while some eco-migrants are from low-lying island nations, many are wealthy Americans and Europeans choosing to start a new life in New Zealand.
“It is seen as a country with a temperate climate that will escape extreme weather. It has a superior environmental record and is developing renewable fuels, and is shielded from conflicts by the Pacific Ocean.”
Figures from Statistics NZ show the numbers of permanent migrants arriving here from Europe increased 1 per cent to 26,870 in the past year.
The figures from the bigger continents are more dramatic: immigrant numbers from Asia increased by 14 per cent to 26,640, and those from the Americas climbed 12 per cent to 7357.
Adam Fier and his wife Misbah Sadat moved their family from Maryland in the United States to New Zealand late last month.
Fier, a computer security professional who used to work at Nasa, told the Washington Post the decision was made because of his two girls.
“Quite honestly, I feel in 100 years, one of my daughters is still going to be alive and this planet is going to be a mess,” he said.
Of course, the British have always been attracted here by the good climate, open spaces and lower pollution. But the new breed of eco-migrant is fleeing more than just crowds and smog.
Some scientists predict rising sea levels and increased rainfall could affect the homes and land of five million people.
Coupled with a predicted rise in the UK population to 71 million by 2031, some are choosing to leave now.
John Zamick chose New Zealand as a new home for his family for entirely environmental reasons.
In the UK rising temperatures and sea levels threatened to turn the “semi-arid” East Anglia region into a desert – if the low-lying plains are not swamped by rising seas instead.
The businessman, who now co-directs a biodiesel company in Nelson, saw the writing on the wall when he studied the droughts and other long-term environmental effects of global warming in Europe and North Africa.
“The whole Mediterranean basin is warming up at four times the speed of the planet,” he said.
His friend James Hardy was also influenced by global warming when he chose to move to Nelson.
Hardy compared the potential effects of global warming on the UK environment to the American movie The Day After Tomorrow. The blockbuster shows the world being ravaged by an ice age and floods.
He, his wife and three children decided to move south three-and-a-half years ago.
“New Zealand has land, New Zealand has wind and a far more sustainable climate,” he said.
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