“The two issues that the talk is going to address are climate change and migration, immigration," Horn said. "Both are very interesting subjects for us and are two of the most important, two of the most controversial, pressing issues that the American South is facing.”
During Friday’s lecture, Castellanos, a lead scientist on climate change and dean of research at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, gave his thoughts on how climate change may be affecting underlying conditions in Central America that are leading to increased emigration.
“Although we cannot say for certain that climate change is causing migration from Central American countries, it may definitely be a contributing factor, but we cannot know for sure. Climate change exasperates underlying economic and political problems in the region," Castellanos said.
In light of recent news coverage on migration and caravans traveling from Central America to the United States, policy analysts have been trying to understand why people are leaving Central America.
An ongoing example is in Venezuela. Poor economic conditions have caused a flux of migrants to leave the country, with many heading for the United States, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Increased immigration and fears of migrant caravans heading toward the United States have caused concern for certain Republican lawmakers, according to The Washington Post. These concerns were brought up in President Donald Trump's shutdown of the federal government to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time. Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL," Trump tweeted on Jan. 31. "I’ve got you covered. Wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!”
Several students from the Chapel Hill community attended the lecture because of their connections to Central America.
"I’m studying global studies with a concentration in Latin America, so I’m really interested in every aspect of migration and issues like climate change," said junior Marisa Carlton. "I also have roots in Mexico, and I was born there.”
Other students attended the lecture because of their personal interests in climate change and immigration.
“I came to the lecture because I have a number of friends and professors involved in the conference," said sophomore Klaus Mayr. "This is one of the most notable things that happened this week, and this guy sounds like a really awesome guy that's bringing the topic of climate change down to earth for us.”