Migration, Environment and Public Health: Theory and Interdisciplinary Research from a Regional Science Perspective

Nikias Sarafoglou, Menas Kafatos, William A. Sprigg


As regional climate evolves into new climatic states in different parts of the world, humanity will be facing increasing issues associated with migration environment and health concerns. Challenges of major hazards and impacts on human societies, involving water resources, agriculture, economy and energy issues are central issues. This paper examines the generalization of Tiebout’s model in our understanding of the forced environmental migration of the Great Planes farmers to California during the Dust Bowl period in 1931-1939. The paper considers the issues of public health that arose from this migration after the arrival and settlement of the Okies in California. Settlement of the migrants in California was more bitter than the migration itself, prompting John Steinbeck to write his award winning novel of the journey in the “Grapes of Wrath.” Among many health risks in their new environment a relatively unappreciated and unpublicized airborne fungus causing Valley fever when inhaled emerged. Valley fever was, and is today, highly endemic in California’s San Joaquin Valley where many of the Okies remained, staying for employment in agriculture and working the fertile soil that harbored the fungus. The vast majority of migrants into the San Joaquin Valley had been infected, but we know today that most who were, did not report it. A very high percentage of migrants did become infected when a few statistics emerged, such as 25% of the population of one migrant camp were diagnosed with the disease. Many migrants fought the disease only to die later in the 1940s and 1950s. The destiny of the migrants was not exposed in books or mass media until the early 1960s. Many migrants escaped infection when they left the fields for employment in the factories and manufacturing supporting the World War II effort. Other reasons for this historical silence were the Great Depression, those who went to war, the Cold War era, and the Californian farmers themselves who kept the infection secret. The second generation migrants or the “survivors” from Valley fever infection exposed the destiny of their parents in the Californian farms in the mass media in the early 1960s and later on Internet webpages and blogs in the 1980s. We examine the general implications and lessons learned from these historical cases.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v4i4.1473


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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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