Environmental migrants face extreme challenges as a result of climate change. According to the United Nations, by 2050, the Earth will have to face the trauma of confronting some 200 million environmental migrants. Focusing on rural-urban environmental migration, this multi-chapter project tells their stories.

Ninety percent of these migrants live in developing countries. They will not impact wealthy nations, but will instead look for new sources of income in the urban areas of their home countries, which are already overcrowded and often extremely poor. Once they arrive, however, their dream of a favorable future turns into the bitter death of their illusions. The lack of resources, education, and opportunities combine to create a harsh existence.

Mongolia’s extreme cold-induced migration, Bangladesh’s sea level rise, and Kenya’s drought offered a glimpse on the future of our planet. In every chapter of this project, I compare the stories of people who struggled against environmental adversities in the most affected areas with the poor living conditions of the environmental migrants living in the capital city slums.

Environmental migration is like an unexploded ordinance: in a not too distant future, the entire planet will have to endorse the economic and social burden of its consequences. By 2050, one in 45 people will be an environmental migrant—and cities will double in size (along with a corresponding increase in misery). New individuals, families, and communities will lose their lands and their livelihoods without the dream of finding a better life in the city.

—Alessandro Grassani


Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Earth Awards 2015. In total, you’ll find 34 unique points of view inspired by the earth, nature and our shared surroundings. Beauty, destruction, wonder and hope—these are timely, important works that shouldn’t be missed!