It’s not the kind of thing we hear enough about: people who will move to a different country to further their interests if they aren’t allowed to continue in their current jobs.
But at least two members of Congress have that concept in mind, and two wealthy individuals have begun moving to countries like the Netherlands. And yes, the idea of climate change refugees may seem extreme, but obviously some people just won’t be able to afford to stay where they are — and they’re right.
The kicker? These people might not be breaking any laws.
Advocates of a millionaire’s exodus claim that since people won’t be able to pay taxes in France and France won’t be able to pay its way to a similar exit, there should be little risk of domestic backlash. What’s more, the movement would help the economy by offering these floundering industries — like renewable energy — a much needed push toward sustainability. As have environmental groups like Greenpeace, who have called on business leaders to see their new “citizenship of a foreign country” as a “disaster clause” in their employee contracts.
However, we shouldn’t take that statement at face value, as it’s probably taking the issue too seriously. The environmental movement currently is focused on increasing renewable energy, not fleeing. Certainly, some people might take a notice of the existence of such a demographic, but personally speaking, I doubt most people do. If the criteria behind the movement are such that people can leave — without violating a local law or tax code — is that really the kind of thing we want to see in a new world? Why not think about what issues people will be leaving — say, anger with the unappealing paternalism of social media, which they would unlikely be able to move to escape — and create a program around that?
Ultimately, I think creating more resources for refugees is a way to reduce migrants in general, because the money would go toward reducing the systemic factors that lead to immigration. Letting the wealthy move doesn’t say much about how seriously people take climate change — and it might do more harm than good in terms of encouraging people to leave when they are most in need.
None of this is to say that a significant portion of the population won’t be able to make a decision about where they go, but I can’t imagine this will have the same deterrent effect that activists claim. I imagine most people will see a person who could leave as just another rich person in a demand for their hard-earned money, and as likely to continue lobbying for a lifestyle they might not even have. “Change is inconvenient” shouldn’t be the motto of a new society.