Standing on the cold shores of Lake Superior in the state of Minnesota, Christina Welch remembers how she decided to leave the warm vineyards of Northern California to settle in the freezing city of Duluth. In 2017, a wildfire threatened her neighborhood in Sonoma County, and two years later, another fire forced her parents to evacuate their home during a visit to Duluth.
These events were the turning point for Welch, 40. Despite Duluth’s harsh environment, known for its extremely cold and snowy winters, the city of 86,000 is gaining recognition as a haven for those fleeing the effects of climate change.
Wildfires, which have become more frequent and powerful due to climate change, also convinced John Jenkins to leave the golden beaches of California and settle on the frozen shores of Duluth. Jenkins, 38, emphasizes the purity of the city’s air and water, even on winter days that fall below -29 degrees Celsius. Both Welch and Jenkins are pleased with their choices, and Jenkins’ family has grown since their move with the birth of two children and the arrival of other family members.
Globally, climate change has displaced many people involuntarily. However, Jenkins and Welch could be considered “climate migrants.” They are part of a small but growing group of people who choose their place of residence considering factors such as climate change, quality of life, job opportunities, and housing prices.
Duluth has attracted attention because of the state of Minnesota’s efforts to promote a sustainable economy and its affordable, well-built housing. In addition, the shores of Lake Superior offer a valuable resource: fresh water. Jesse Keenan, professor of sustainable real estate, identified Duluth as one of the attractive locations for those concerned about climate change. However, there is the challenge of managing the city’s growth sustainably and avoiding the exclusion of poorer residents, a phenomenon known as “climate gentrification.” Despite the concerns, Duluth presents itself as a place for “climate optimists,” those who believe in the possibility of decarbonizing the world. However, it is critical to address the city’s growth appropriately and with respect for its delicate ecological environment.
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