Bangladesh has long served as a kind of laboratory for innovative solutions in the developing world…



From National Geographic:

Imagine Bangladesh in the year 2050, when its population will likely have zoomed to 220 million, and a good chunk of its current landmass could be permanently underwater. That scenario is based on two converging projections: population growth that, despite a sharp decline in fertility, will continue to produce millions more Bangladeshis in the coming decades, and a possible multifoot rise in sea level by 2100 as a result of climate change. Such a scenario could mean that 10 to 30 million people along the southern coast would be displaced, forcing Bangladeshis to crowd even closer together or else flee the country as climate refugees—a group predicted to swell to some 250 million worldwide by the middle of the century, many from poor, low-lying countries.

“Globally, we’re talking about the largest mass migration in human history,” says Maj. Gen. Muniruzzaman, a charismatic retired army officer who presides over the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies in Dhaka. “By 2050 millions of displaced people will overwhelm not just our limited land and resources but our government, our institutions, and our borders.” Muniruzzaman cites a recent war game run by the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., which forecast the geopolitical chaos that such a mass migration of Bangladeshis might cause in South Asia. In that exercise millions of refugees fled to neighboring India, leading to disease, religious conflict, chronic shortages of food and fresh water, and heightened tensions between the nuclear-armed adversaries India and Pakistan.

Such a catastrophe, even imaginary, fits right in with Bangladesh’s crisis-driven story line, which, since the country’s independence in 1971, has included war, famine, disease, killer cyclones, massive floods, military coups, political assassinations, and pitiable rates of poverty and deprivation—a list of woes that inspired some to label it an international basket case. Yet if despair is in order, plenty of people in Bangladesh didn’t read the script. In fact, many here are pitching another ending altogether, one in which the hardships of their past give rise to a powerful hope.

For all its troubles, Bangladesh is a place where adapting to a changing climate actually seems possible, and where every low-tech adaptation imaginable is now being tried. Supported by governments of the industrialized countries—whose greenhouse emissions are largely responsible for the climate change that is causing seas to rise—and implemented by a long list of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), these innovations are gaining credence, thanks to the one commodity that Bangladesh has in profusion: human resilience. Before this century is over, the world, rather than pitying Bangladesh, may wind up learning from her example.

“The Coming Storm”, Don Belt, National Geographic