Population and Environment

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 429–448 | Cite as

Why populations persist: mobility, place attachment and climate change

  • Helen AdamsEmail author
Original Paper


Explanations of relationships between migration and environmental change now focus on multiple interactions, risks in destination and immobility. This research applies behavioural migration theory to examine the extent to which immobile populations experiencing environmental degradation exercise agency with respect to location and, in doing so, elucidates what it means to be trapped. This research uses individual survey data from a migrant-sending area in highland Peru where the population experiences negative health and livelihood impacts from climate-related phenomena. Analysis of these data reveals three reasons for non-migration: high levels of satisfaction, resource barriers and low mobility potential. Immobility in dissatisfied people is more likely to be caused by attachment to place than resource constraints. Thus, the results suggest that trapped populations exist along a continuum. This highlights the need for policy responses differentiated by the mobility characteristics and preferences of the individual. Caution, therefore, must be exercised when labelling populations as trapped and promoting relocation.


Immobility Trapped Place attachment Behavioural theory Environmental change Migration Peru 



I am grateful to the residents of Huarochirí, Lima, Peru, who agreed to participate in the study and to Julia Atencio Venegas, Luz Atencio Venegas and Violeta Lazo for their field assistance. Thanks also to W. Neil Adger and two anonymous reviewers for comments provided on earlier versions of the manuscript. The research was funded by a UK Economic and Social Research Council studentship.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ExeterExeterUK

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