Reverse Oregon Trail

“Go East, young boy…”

I am not a specialist or a trained scientist. I have done some research on environmental refugees. They are refugees that have been displaced from their homes by the threat of some environmental issue. An example of an extreme case of environmental refugees are the people living in the Maldives, an island nation that lies just a few feet above the current ocean level. Rising water levels will soon force these people to move somewhere else.

When I think of environmental refugees, I think of someplace far from here. I think of people needing to move. I see them needing a place to live.

It is that thought that people have to move that got me thinking about a recent interaction with a family from California. I had met them while sampling foods from a baked goods company I work for.

They had just moved from California, and were having a hard time trying to find organic and healthy foods. They were interested in sourcing them from the farms themselves.

Luckily, I had just worked an event that mixed sustainable agriculture with business. I was there as part of the baked goods company trying to drum up some attention. I gave them the resources that I found. Some things the California Family hopefully looked up were CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and the Lilac Hedge Farm. Both are in Massachusetts. CSA is also in Rhode Island. Go do a Google Search and you will find one!

Anyways, the conversation got me thinking about why a family would come from California to hear. California has all this awesome stuff. Economically speaking, it has one of the highest GDPs in the world. It has warm weather all year long. It has jobs.

Then my emergency management side, my firefighter side, started thinking. I started thinking about forest fires, about the 4 year drought they have had. I started thinking about how much agriculture is based around California, and how our national food system has is organized so that California provides our country with a lot of food. I thought about the changing environment of the entertainment industry and how it has affected the power base that is centrally located in the southern California region.

I thought about how much snow Massachusetts got this winter. I thought about how we are getting rain pretty regularly this April. I thought about how lucky we are to have this. California is drying up.

I thought about how Massachusetts is a global leader in biotech, and in how the Commonwealth’s movie tax credit got industry leaders in Massachusetts planning to open up a movie studio near Plymouth.

Jobs, food, economy. A lot is changing. It reminded me of a game I used to play:

The Oregon Trail. You would pick a family and travel from the East to the West, to find a home and have some opportunity.

And for the first time in my life, I see the inverse of a familiar trope. It made me wonder, where are people going to go?

Timothy Killilea
constructive criticism welcome! i am hoping i can improve my craft through the guidance of others