Around the world, climate change is becoming an epochal crisis. A nightmare of drought, desertification, flooding and unbearable heat, threatens to make vast regions less habitable and drive the greatest migration of refugees in history. But for a few nations, climate change
will present an unparalleled opportunity, as the planet’s coldest regions become more temperate. There is plenty of reason to think that those places will also receive an extraordinary influx of people displaced from the hottest parts of the world as the climate warms. Human migration, historically, has been driven by the pursuit of prosperity even
more so than it has by environmental strife. With climate change, prosperity and habitability — haven and economic opportunity — will soon become one and the same.
Climate change and its enormous human migrations will transform agriculture and remake the world order. And no country stands to gain more than Russia. Agricultural dominance is just a small part of what Russia’s climate optimists say the country has to look forward to.
Agriculture offers the key to one of the greatest resources of the new climate era — food — and in recent years Russia has already shown a new understanding of how to leverage its increasingly strong hand in agricultural exports.
Asian Russia sits atop a continent with the largest global population, including not just the Chinese but also nearly two billion South Asians — from the flooding Mekong Delta and Bangladesh to the sweltering plains of India — many of whom will inevitably be pushing northward in search of space and resources as the climate gets hotter and sea levels continue to rise.
In the near term, while Russia may prefer its migrants to come from Central Asia and other countries farther south, it’s the Chinese who seem most likely to come. They’ve already settled throughout Siberia and the Far East, sometimes through intermarriage with Russian citizens — which makes them eligible for land-disbursement benefits — or by leasing lands from Russians who received it under government giveaways.
Dima, an entrepreneur who farms nearly 6,500
, was born in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China — his birth
name is Xin Jie — one of a wave of Chinese to migrate north in pursuit of opportunity in recent years. After Dima’s mostly Chinese laborers returned home this year amid the Covid- 19 pandemic, he has been forced to do much of the work himself. Bundled against the wind in a camouflage parka, he bent to pick a handful of slender pods from the ground, opening
one to reveal a glimpse at Russia’s future Autonomous Region acres of eastern Russia’s Jewish
In 2013 Russia government declared the development program of Russia’s East. Any Russians willing to relocate themselves in Siberia and the Far East, including in the Birobidzhan area of the Jewish Autonomous Region, can buy properties at 2 percent interest. Russians willing to move there can also apply for free plots of farmland.However bureaucratic challenge to get the land is just an easy first step.
Andrey Shvalov’s story helps to illustrate why. In 2016, Shvalov applied for land through the resettlement program, abandoning his life as a photographer to pioneer rural land in the Far East. He filled out an application online and was quickly granted five acres of woodland outside Blagoveshchensk, a small city on the Chinese. It was only after arriving there, with his wife and two young children, that he discovered all the challenges the program could not solve.
“My first problem was where to get water,” he says. Shvalov watched YouTube videos to learn how to drill a well, erect a house and cut and dry his own firewood. First, he built a chicken house, and the family camped inside of it. Now, four years in, his wife keeps an apartment in town while Shvalov and the children sleep in a temporary hut as he builds the house. “In the city,” he says, “we all thought about motivation and goals. Here, the main thing is what you will drink and eat.” The biggest problem? There is no infrastructure to connect to and, despite official claims that the government is supporting the settlers, not enough government money to build it. Near Shvalov’s place, the Amur district has been losing about 1,600 people each year; Russia’s national demographics department refers to it as a “donor” region.
Scientists estimate that by 2080, Russia’s permafrost in the Asian part of the country will be reduced by more than half, at least in the active layer within six feet of the surface. One- third of its land mass would begin to switch from “absolute extreme” in its inhospitality to “fairly favorable” for civilization — and quite hospitable. One of the coldest and most ecologically hostile places on the planet, is fast becoming pleasantly livable.
A harvester is seen at the snowy soybean field that belongs to entrepreneur Dima outside Birobidzhan Jewish autonomous region Russia br br Scientists estimate that by 2080 Russia s permafrost in the Asian part of the country will be reduced by more than half at least in the active layer within six feet of the surface One-third of its landmass would begin to switch from absolute extreme in its inhospitality to fairly favorable for civilization and quite hospitable One of the coldest and most ecologically hostile places on the planet is fast becoming pleasantly livable
A diver of the water distribution truck counts coins as he distributes water to the residents of the village of Melnichnoye Omsk region Russia br br For many years there has been no drinking water in the village of Melnichnoye According to the village deputy harmful substances were found in this water due to a nearby cattle farm Residents have long struggled with local authorities to ensure that they receive normal drinking water br br Several years twice a week Monday and Thursday a truck with water comes to the village In any weather elderly people bring 38-liter cans on the wheelbarrows br
Andrey Shvalov chops wood to prepare food on the open stove as his wife cleans the table In 2016 Shvalov applied for land through the resettlement program abandoning his life as a photographer to pioneer rural land in the Far East He filled out an application online and was quickly granted five acres of woodland outside Blagoveshchensk a small city on the Chinese border br br In 2013 Russian government declared the development program of Russia s East Any Russians willing to relocate themselves in Siberia and the Far East can buy properties at 2 percent interest
Horses are seen gazing at the snowy field outside the farm of the Savchuk family in Polyana Blagoveshchensk region Russia br Savchuks have taken four hectares of the land under the Russian Far East Hectare program to build a stable yard br br In 2013 Russian government declared the development program of Russia s East Any Russians willing to relocate themselves in Siberia and the Far East can buy properties at 2 percent interest br br Asian Russia sits atop a continent with the largest global population including not just the Chinese but also nearly two billion South Asians from the flooding Mekong Delta and Bangladesh to the sweltering plains of India many of whom will inevitably be pushing northward in search of space and resources as the climate gets hotter and sea levels continue to rise
Corn harvesters of the Rosagro agricultural company seen in the corn field of the outside Vladiviostok Russian Far East region br br The more the land warms the farther north the industry will be able to push eventually doubling farmed land again producing nearly six million tons or more each year br br Agriculture offers the key to one of the greatest resources of the new climate era food and in recent years Russia has already shown a new understanding of how to leverage its increasingly strong hand in agricultural exports br br
A brand new and empty pigsty of the Rusagro agricultural company seen outside Vladivostok Russia Russian Far East region br br By 2080 Russia s permafrost in the Asian part of the country will be reduced by more than half at least in the active layer within six feet of the surface One-third of its land mass would begin to switch from absolute extreme in its inhospitality to fairly favorable for civilization and quite hospitable br br Agriculture offers the key to one of the greatest resources of the new climate era food and in recent years Russia has already shown a new understanding of how to leverage its increasingly strong hand in agricultural exports br br br br
Nina Nikolayevna 67 treats her goats outside her house in the village of Chudinovo Tver region Russia br br Nina with her grandkids and civil husband are the only inhabitants of the village Due to climate change the Tver region which is a 4-hour drive from Moscow is considered a risky agricultural zone The proximity of the megapolis caused the decline in rural inhabitants and moved young people to the cities br Businesses are closing down villages are dying Most of the elderly people who remained to stay live in poverty with the retirement of 200
A student attends a class in the Upper Hvarshini village Dagestan region in Southern Russia br Upper Hvarshini village is one of the most distant and isolated villages in Dagestan The mountainous road is constantly flooded with rains that were not usual in this region and villagers still have to walk or use donkeys br Like most villages the Upper Hvarshini comes in decline youth are leaving for the cities There is a small school for primary classes in the village with 1-3 people in each br People live on subsistence farming Everyone has cattle cut into meat plant a garden There is no store or post office in the village
Gulnara Mikhailova wearing a red dress before posing for photos for her social networks as she stands on the clean ice of the Baikal Lake outside Olkhon Island Russia br br Mass tourism has grown exponentially across the last decade bringing nearly 2 million tourists to Baikal s sparsely populated shores br br The lake also faces severe consequences that arise from global climate change Baikal s ecosystem depends upon its intensely cold temperatures Many of its species are cold-loving and highly sensitive to temperature changes As water temperatures increase critical species could suffer more parasitic infections and illnesses
Residents walk up the stairs from the shore of the Amur river after they arrive by ferry to Khabarovsk Russia br br Experts say warming waters have affected stocks in the Pacific region in recent years br The loss of the staple fish also has bolstered anti-Moscow sentiment with locals blaming federal authorities for supporting commercial fisheries blocking the fish in the mouth of the river The fish now became very expensive for locals
A Soviet monument to the fisherman seen in front of the closed village club in Ozerpakh a Nanai fishermen village at the mouth of Amur river Russia br br Indigenous Nanai people whose livelihoods have for centuries depended on the salmon that spawn in the Amur River had to leave the place seeking better life br br Big business based mostly in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur the largest town at the mouth of the river hogs the resources leaving little to none for the indigenous peoples who live upstream closer to the city of Khabarovsk to the south
A view of the almost empty village in Panozero Russia br br The village of Panozero is located 500 km from Petrozavodsk Republic of Karelia The village is cut off from civilization by the river In summer residents cross the river by boat or ferry In recent years the ferry was broken and authorities stopped making the ice crossing As a result the villagers are cut off from civilization for several months a year Groceries firewood mail and other heavy things are transported on ice only when the ice becomes strong enough and official authorities permit passage br The mild winter in the recent decade caused several problems for villagers as the ice wasn t thick enough for a long time br