Review: This Changes Everything

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Yesterday, I frequented a climate event in Umea, and had the privilege to watch This Changes Everything, of course streamed from a computer to a cinema screen. All those watching the improvised movie theatre left with sense of optimism and feel-good hope in their bellies.

All except one.

Sometimes, there can be a refreshment in bluntness. So, I would put forth my points in a very rash and frisky manner. I think ‘This Changes Everything’ is basically just stating what documentaries on the subject of Global Warming have been stating for the last twenty or so years.

Technically speaking, it is probably one of the best documentaries on the subject as of yet, filmed with HD cameras and tying together the issues of global warming with the de-facto disenfranchisement of local communities.

Still, I do believe that documentaries like these can do more harm than good, especially as Naomi Klein, one of the two producers and the author of the same book, have failed in defining the real problem with contemporary Capitalism.

Therefore, this entry, rather than being a whole review of the film, will focus on the issue of Naomi Klein’s background and how it can have influenced the film.

No Logo

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Naomi Klein, a journalist and author from Canada, became well-known within the Alt-Globalization Movement of the 1990’s, as a critic of the type of economic globalization which went into a new phase during that decade.

In her breakthrough book, No Logo, she made an ardent work visualising how multinational corporations are exploiting the absence of worker’s rights in third world nations, and how logotypes have turned into mythical symbols within advertisement.

Naomi Klein is highly critical of the economic school of monetarism – most often referred to as “neo-liberalism” by its critics – and generally is positively inclined towards protest movements against austerity, natural resources exploitation and anti-war sentiments.

All this is highly evident in “This Changes Everything”, and if you have read Klein before watching the film, you can be able to predict everything in it. That is not where my critique against Klein lies.

Klein’s thesis and solution

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Klein’s thesis in ‘This Changes Everything‘ is that the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century created a culture where we view nature as a resource to be exploited and the Earth as a “machine” that we have the power over and can manipulate as we want. This is also the reason behind for example the addiction to growth.

According to Klein, growth addiction is an example of a political choice that is ideologically structured and follows the principles of Capitalism, which in itself flows from the Scientific Revolution. As a conflicting principle, Klein presents the aboriginal principle of ‘the Earth as a nurturing mother’ and the principles of democratic sovereignty (hailing back to the populistic practices of Gaius Gracchus).

While not directly mentioned, it is indicated that the Scientific Revolution and Capitalism are masculine principles, while Nature worship and Democracy are feminine principles. For example, most of the proponents for democratic activist movements interviewed in the film are female, while most proponents for the exploitative forces that are interviewed are males.

Klein’s solution to the current problem is that the free market has caused these problems, and the solution should be to increase government interventionism and regulate the market more. Since the governments (according to Klein) do not desire to follow such policies, activist movements would have to protest and stop mining projects and then move on towards advocating public investments in green technology – solar panels and windmills everywhere.

Essentially, the solution is that people should protest to roll back deregulation to the 1970’s, while deepening democracy.

Klein is essentially right, or rather moving in the right direction in her critique of the current system. But her solutions are essentially flawed and (I would claim) build on several misunderstandings and ignorance.

The flaws of Klein’s solutions

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Naomi Klein makes three basic misunderstandings about the reality of the system we are living in, either because she herself has not studied these issues or because she deliberately omits to tell certain things which are essential to know if we truly want to change the system.

The first misunderstanding lies in the nature of the environmental crisis.

Klein focuses very much on climate change, but climate change is only one of five serious environmental challenges that are causing the current mass extinction as I write these words. The oceanic crisis, the soil crisis, the freshwater crisis and the biodiversity crisis are as serious for the well-being of life on Earth. Green energy won’t solve these problems, and emphasising this issue will block out public understanding of the other issues. I believe it is essential to see antropogenic climate change as a part of a wider environmental crisis caused by the current system.

The second misunderstanding lies in Klein’s understanding of free markets contra government intervention.

It seems that Klein has a very binary view on the system, which can be understood as ‘government intervention good’, ‘markets bad’. What that fails to account for is that both governments and private businesses operate as economic actors with the goal of creating economic growth. Keynesian economics have nearly exactly the same goals as monetarist economics, namely the stabilization of the growth curve to ensure stability for investors and economic growth. Keynesians want to focus on low unemployment, while monetarists see inflation as the main threat to the well-being of an economy. To a large extent, deregulation has been caused as much by technological development as by political choices – in an evolutionary process within Capitalism itself.

The third, and most serious misunderstanding, is the idea that economic growth primarily is an ideological choice, and that by consuming smarter and changing the ruling ideology from Liberalism to Green Social Democracy, we will have started to save the Earth.

The core of this lies in that Klein omits to put focus on the nature of money within the framework of modern Capitalism. Ultimately, money today is Debt. Within the banking system, banks only need to keep a part of the money of their clients as deposits, and can loan out the rest – as illustrated by the image above. This means that from an  original deposit of $1000, the bank can create an additional amount of money several times larger than the original $1000.

These loans from the bank have to be repaid with interest. Since both the loans and the interest is created from capital that doesn’t currently exist, this demands that the capital is created. And most of that capital is created from turning parts of the Earth into utilities for the market. This means that the current system both demands a constant growth rate and the continued transformation of the biosphere into linear production units to satisfy the demand for exponential growth as seen in these oil palm plantations in Sumatra.

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For a more comprehensive description, see this entry.

Summary

I hold no doubt that Naomi Klein truly believes that the current situation represents a mortal threat, but I suspect that she also is emotionally invested for other reasons in moving away from monetarism towards neo-keynesianism.

The problem is of course that neither of these two systems are able to solve the current ecological crisis.

Now it is possible to claim that different documentaries should focus on different issues, and that nobody can focus on everything, but by many small groups focusing on different issues, we will together solve the problem and making the world a better place.

The problem is of course that ‘This Changes Everything‘ is claiming to present the path-way to solve the entire problem of climate change, by connecting it to economic growth and questioning its ideological foundations. The thing is, economic growth is not an ideological choice, but a survival imperative for the current system.

Therefore, no matter if it is monetaristic neo-liberalism or green social democracy, the system demands the repayment of debt, and in order to repay the debt more resources would have to be transformed to utilities. If the shark doesn’t swim, it drowns.

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Omitting the ‘shark in the bath-tub’ is a disservice, since it doesn’t correctly informs activists about the true nature of the socio-economic system and keeps them preoccupied with trails of thought that only move around in circles.

I am truly impressed by the engagement of First Nations activists who protest against the tar sands in Canada. I also share Naomi Klein’s sentiments that the reason for our destruction does not lie in human nature. Yet, I think that any failure to mention the problems with fractional reserve banking is going to hurt all those people ultimately, since even if they achieve their political objectives, they won’t be able to change the system if they don’t understand it.

 

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The case against advertising in public spaces

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

I have previously argued that the current “western” civilization is not older than circa 1950, and that it is mainly characterised by a concept which I have termed “consumeristic individualism” (but it can equally easy be termed “individualistic consumerism“). In most traditional societies, a person’s identity is formed centred between ethnic heritage and family lines, religious belonging and profession (which most often is inherited). In the modern western civilization, identity is formed around consumer choices, which both serve to construct an identity and to create an incentive for people to both produce and consume, since consumption demands access to money, and with little ability to consume goods that signal status (cars, new cellphones, designer clothes, expensive travels, club memberships at exclusive exercise clubs), the social status of the individual is suffering.

Proponents of the current system are claiming that this current system is really what would naturally form when the vestiges of traditional social-hierarchic societies and patriarchal norms are broken down. People then tend to become ambitious consumers who naturally crave the kind of society that for the second half of the 20th century best was exemplified by “the Big Apple”. Thus, it would – according to said proponents – be an infringement on liberty to restrict the “natural development” of the consumer society.

Even when everyone knows that the current society, with its need and focus on exponential economic growth is building up wealth that is unsustainable since it depends on the destruction of the biosphere, the solutions proposed are generally that individuals should conform to other consumeristic patterns, and instead of for example travelling to Mallorca, go to an expensive ecological coffee-shop and drink a cappuchino made from expensive Nicaraguan beans. That could also serve to separate the young middle class, Homo Hipsteriensis, from the behaviour patterns of their parents (since consumeristic individualism is about a permanent distance from the culture even of the immediate forebears), and of the “unwashed working classes”, who enjoy American Idol, fast food and cheap travels to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria.

I would not, however, argue that consumeristic individualism within the context of capitalism, is equal to “human nature”, and that it in fact – like every other major culture and civilization on Earth, is largely artificially formed and then organically evolved. Thus, we need to see it not as a “passive” absence of social control, but as an environment which has been actively engineered to produce certain behavioural patterns.

TL;DR

  • Modern Western Civilization owes its existence to a fusion of psychology and marketing, namely public relations.
  • This means a continuous appeal to reach the subconscious of the public and try to make it susceptible to behavioural conditioning.
  • This conditioning, in the case of our current civilization, aims to make people buy goods and services which they otherwise would not have felt they would need.
  • Another effect is the creation of a sense of inadequacy in people, an inadequacy which can be “cured” through the appropriation of a certain ideal which is available for money.
  • The identity that is formed is also dependent on the adherence to certain consumeristic norms and to the values and fads of the group that the individual in question is trying to “mirror”.
  • We need to start to question whether people without consent should be exposed to marketing in public spaces.

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A short historical background

Advertisement has existed since the foundation of civilization, both in the form of notifying people of the availability of goods and services they crave, and as political propaganda. During the early 20th century, a massive socio-technological transformation occurred with the advent of mass information – in the form of film, radio, TV and telephone communications, making the world far smaller.

It can be said that two new kinds of civilizations emerged from these technologies, namely the “totalitarian civilization” and the “consumeristic civilization“. Even if this is a subject of an article which will come later on, I believe that technology shapes society more than society shapes technology (even if there is a self-enstrenghtening chicken-egg process there). The ascent of mass information technology made possible both the mass democracies and the totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century. If pre-industrial leaders, such as the emperors of Rome, China and India, or old absolutist European sovereigns as Louis XVI, Charles XII or Pyotr Velikiy had access to modern information technology, their states would soon have started to resemble fascist totalitarianism.

I believe that it was a matter of time, given the way western society was structured during the early 20th century for mass media to being used to improve the market shares of companies. Another recently discovered science – psycho-analysis – was employed to pioneer more efficient marketing strategies. Two of the pioneers were Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann, who both defined the theories around Public Relations and also engaged in this emergent market as well.

Previously, before the 1920’s, advertising had largely been a question of making consumers aware of the existence of products and then try to appeal to their rational minds with a text purporting to show the alleged health benefits of for example nicotine-related products. After the 1920’s, it became more a question of appealing to the subconscious. Instead of an image of a box with cigarettes, the consumer was presented with a poster depicting an attractive female moviestar smoking Marlboro, with a minimum of text.

What had been a way for companies to gain comparative advantage during the 1920’s, developed into a full-scale MTE1ODA0OTcxNjAzMTAxMTk3civilization during the 1950’s. This was partially due to the expansion of the welfare state, which gave the western working class access to the ability to pursue the attainment of subcultural status items. Combined with the acent of Television, this meant that popular music, celebrities and choices associated with their lifestyles were emulated by millions of youths.

Nowadays, three generations have grown up under individualistic consumerism, and a fourth generation is currently growing up under it. During the 1950’s, with a population still roughly balanced between the countryside and urban centres, subcultural patterns were mostly marked by music taste, age (youths) and certain fashions in terms of clothes.

Nowadays, in the most developed and americanized western countries (the Anglo-American and Scandinavian regions), far more things have become a matter of subculturalization and consumerism. Often, we fool ourselves to believe that consumerism is just a matter of quantity and the individual, when the truth is that it has become a tool for socialization in the contemporary Western world (as well as in the most developed and urban parts of what previously was called the Third World).

Today, subculturalization has branched out to contain musical taste, fashion clothes, what exercise routines you have, what TV shows you like, what news sources you get your news from, what kind of places you travel to when you have vacation, and your political opinions. The ascension of the Internet has served to further compartmentalize reality, allowing people to build self-reinforcing echo chambers and thus homogenize themselves in smaller and smaller cliques. This has also led to subcultures creeping upward in terms of age groups – meaning that today there are entire groups of professionals who largely share the same traits in terms of taste.

The risks with this development

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There are several problems with this kind of development. There is one which is obvious and which has already caused suffering for millions of people, especially young women. Then there is another, which is less overt but which risks affecting the ability to reason and to act long-term. The third challenge is a matter of identity, and is the most subtle of these problems.

The first problem is the overt focus on beauty, youth and (when it comes to women) slenderness. The sexualization and idealization of the young female body, which is existent all over public space in urban areas, creates not only a desire to own new bikinis, handbags or cars, but also a desire in the female viewer to strive towards these ideals. Not all females are however able to conform to these ideals, and this can lead not only to suffering but to mental problems and self-harm behaviour, up to suicide.

The second problem is a matter of information. Nowadays, an average human being is receiving far more information than our pre-industrial ancestors could ever imagine to receive. Even if your awareness doesn’t know of it, our minds register and store all information regardless of its utility. This means that what we are seeing and experiencing around us, no matter if we want to be affected by it or not, is stored as memories and associators. Today, the window for advertisement to catch the conscious attention of the individual has shrunk to a matter of seconds, since people (predictably) have needed to be able to forcefully avoid the kind of information that they will not need. The massive quantity of information has forced through this adaption.

Also, the clutter of information makes it difficult for the ordinary media consumer to build up their ability to see medium- and long-term trends in terms of social development. Rather, reality turns into one giant, fluid “present“, that seemingly becomes more and more senseless. That makes it difficult to form opinions regarding social development and politics.

The third problem connects to the socializing aspects of individualistic consumerism, namely that individuality has become a matter of categories and physical attributes. If human beings are confusing external attributes with any form of inner essence (to external attributes we can count skin colour, sexual orientation and gender), and relate the consumption of particular goods and service to that purported essence, we will soon constrain the ability of human beings to grow and develop character. This uncertainty can stunt human beings and keep them in a permanent state of adolesence.

Ultimately, it also means that when people form their opinions around matters, they often will think of how trendy the opinion is to focus on, how it relates to the group the individual aims to belong, and to the subcultures shaped by mutual reinforcement from the subcultures themselves and mass media, which categorises and helps to market subcultures that originally were authentic. So for example, a Social Liberal may be supportive of actions intended to curb climate change, but doesn’t actually care about the issue itself in any other regard than that it will yield her likes on Facebook and Twitter. Likewise, a conservative might post images that make fun of public healthcare, without even having an idea of how public healthcare works in their own country. This is made possible by the subculturalization of political opinions and the construction of self-imposed echo chambers.

All these three problems, in different ways, are making it more difficult to sustain a rational public discourse (at least regarding the “public” bit). They all are making it more difficult too to focus on what our current civilization is, and why it is problematic in relationship to the planet, since everything turns into an issue about the ego, and the ego’s relationship to other egos.

Sanitizing public space

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The Brazilian city of Sao Paulo recently banned advertising in public space, and it is only to congratulate that decision.

Of course, the decision to ban out-door advertising can be accused of being “authoritarian”, “statist” or “communistic”, but in fact, it is the kind of decision that actually serves to extend the autonomy and liberty of the individual. The reason why is that most of the individuals living and visiting a city have not actually consented to be exposed to massive billboards of public advertising. They may passively consent to it, because they generally have taken it as granted. But the people of middle age European cities generally passively consented to (and cheered) the display to severed heads impaled on poles.

If people want to expose themselves for advertising, they should be able to enter malls or shops. Companies do not however have any right to try to affect the subconscious minds of people and try to condition them to certain behaviours.

This also puts the kind of environmentalism that preaches that we need to change consumer behaviour by consuming in an intelligent manner. That environmentalism is kind-hearted, but is naïve in its relationship to the existing civilization. In short, they tend to view the current world that we have today as a result of the consumer choice, rather than to view the consumer as a concept created artificially within the context of the current civilization.

We need to transition towards a sustainable future, characterised by devotion to Life on Earth, empathy towards all living beings and enlightenment. That means that we need to build up an education system and a society that strengthens individual character and mental resourcefulness, builds on autonomy and ability to understand and master knowledge, and which is centred around an inclusive and life-focused culture.

It takes at least three generations to build a civilization, and in order to save the Biosphere, we not only need to stop the current civilization from devouring it, but also build a new civilization. That requires several pro-active steps and the evolution of a new culture within the context of networks that we build up and support.

But it also must mean political steps in order to curb and restrict aspects of the current civilization. These steps must be designed in a manner that they respect individual choice and autonomy.

I can not however see how limiting clutter from the public view is a breach of individual autonomy.

Refugees: Present and future

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Out of soon 8 billion people, around 50 million are refugees. That means that for roughly every 150th person on Earth, there is one refugee. Even though the numbers of wars have decreased generally since the 1950’s, there are more refugees than ever on Earth, and a lot of the refugee situations have been permanented – that means, refugee camps have turned from forests of tent into jungles of concrete, administered by the UNHCR and other organs, and the inhabitants have for several generations been trapped in a “ghost existence”, barred from their right to nationality, to travelling and in many cases to find a meaningful existence even within the confinements of the refugee camp. Many refugee camps are characterised by corruption, crime and violence.

Worse, many millions of refugees are living entirely outside of the system, undocumented in host societies which most often are unwilling and incapable of giving them basic human rights (remember, most refugees are in what until recently was termed “the Third World” (now being called “the Developing world” or rather “the Majority world”). Internally displaced people cannot flee the zones of conflict and are exposed to the horrors of war.

Worse even, is that there is a high risk that the problem of permanented refugees will grow during the 21st century, this time due not primarily to war, but to destruction of eco-systems and climate change. Therefore, it is essential that any form of transition which we – no matter what – must undertake, should transcend the established forms of thinking and problem-solution and approach the refugee crisis holistically on a global level.

First, the TL;DR summary

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  • The main cause of permanented refugee crises are failed or fragile states, as well as the idea that refugees should primarily return to their place of origin.
  • The global nation-state system is inadequate in managing refugee problems, due to the very logic of nation-states.
  • Climate change can easily increase the number of refugees world-wide five times, and will change the regional conditions on the planet, increasing crops fertility in the north and south while reducing it in the traditionally most productive region on the Earth, the temperate zones.
  • Refugees need to be integrated into the zones they settle as soon as possible.
  • The logical thing would be to create systems that allow people to redistribute their numbers to “regions of development”, while protecting the rights of settled communities to their own values and identity within the constraints of basic human rights and individual freedoms.

Refugee crises historically and contemporarily

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Refugees have always existed. Even before the industrial age, massive wars were fought and hundreds of thousands were displaced, as in China during the fall of the Tang and Song dynasties, or in Europe during the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War or many of the other political and religious conflicts throughout the continent. Just one thousand years ago, Asia Minor was culturally Greek and Armenian, and the Turks had just entered Iran from Central Asia and converted to Islam. Entire populations in Europe such as the Avars, the Celts or the Khazars were either expelled or genocided from large swathes of territory, or forcefully assimilated into new ethnic constellations. There were also refugee populations that moved into and between European countries – for example the Walloons who fled France for Sweden in the 17th century, and the Roma community throughout Europe, which has migrated from today’s India during frog-leaps for little over a millennium.

After the Second World war, millions of Germans and Poles were moved west, and around a million Finns were moved from Karelia into Finland proper. One could expect that Europe would be cluttered with refugee camps up until this day – yet no one today talks about Silesian refugees in Germany or Karelian refugees in Finland as a matter-of-day contemporary political fact.

Some might like to attribute this to some claimed innate European ability to organise societies. However, if we look at Europe in 1945-1950, we would see a continent largely impoverished and in ruins, receiving massive aid from the United States in the form of the Marshall Plan. The influx of credit and machinery opened up the opportunity to rapidly rebuild and develop the Western European economies following the war. Even though the Marshall Plan only provided a small fragment of capital transmissions, it proved enough to restore confidence in the European recovery. As the economy recovered from a very low level, the refugees were needed as labour in the reconstruction of European towns and European infrastructure.

If we instead postulate that the Marshall Plan had not been initiated, the recovery would have been much slower which could have permanented or semi-permanented the refugee crisis. If the refugees instead of staying in Europe had moved to the Americas, it would also have effected Europe badly since it would have meant a labour shortage during a time when the European machine park and infrastructure necessary to build machines was damaged. Also, the European refugees in North America would have had to integrate to a labour market which – despite being feverish hot – could hardly take in millions of people at one go, thus affecting both the time it would take for the refugees to be integrated and the wage increases for all workers. However, developing the European economy was good for the US and Canadian export industries and led to an americanization of Europe which led to a massive European consumption of US culture.

The situation today is not comparable to the world of the 1940’s. Today in most of Europe, North America and East Asia, labour is on its way out as a production factor, and the economy is becoming both simpler and more complex. Soon, the four production factors will become three, and then at the end of this century (if we do not destroy the biosphere) two. This means that even if developed economies grow, the demand for labour is not growing indefinetly but rather fluctuating, for a long-trend in a slightly downward motion (within twenty years, half of the jobs in developed economies will vanish, while the replacement rate has not increased in the same amount).

The world today is characterised by uneven development as well. We have previously mentioned on this blog that all levels of human societies are existing simultaneously in our world today. Ten million human beings today are for example stone age hunter-gatherers. Billions are living in feudal agricultural societies. Many societies are collapsed or rapidly growing industrial-age economies. And then the most developed societies are in a transition phase towards post-labour economies. This means that the skills learnt by adult peasants from agricultural feudalized societies are difficult to adapt to the needs of an industrial economy – and the more so to emerging post-labour economies (which themselves have not yet solved or even been willing to solve the contradiction of social safety nets adapted for industrial mass-labour societies under the emergent paradigm). While just a small trickle of the world’s total number of refugees have arrived in developed economies, we can already today see a trend of alienation, unemployment, anger and social exclusion.

Yet, what we can learn from the displacement after the Second World War was that it was solved in a comparatively very smooth manner by an influx of capital and technology, as well as a massive demand for labour. While it is unlikely that the demand of labour would emerge in today’s economies – developed and developing apart from those totally wrecked by war – it stands clear that investments and resource transfers are necessary, and that interventions – rather than to be primarily directed at the refugees themselves – should be divested into the economies as a whole to create the space to include those newly arrived.

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Nowadays, unlike during the 1940’s, refugee crises tend to freeze in time, the first being the Palestinian exodus of 1948-49. There are still people today living in refugee camps who are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those original Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. The refugee camps in their turn have been transformed into crammed towns, characterised by poverty, statelessness and few opportunities to live. Yet, these refugees are living comparably good lives in comparison to the populations displaced from Afghanistan, the wars in Central Africa and recently Syria.

When such situations emerge and the fabric of society collapses, resulting in the collapse of the state itself when the base of the social order is removed, results in the emergence of black holes in the globalized nation-state system established during and after de-colonization. The world today consist of roughly 200 “nation-states“, but most of these nation-states are not founded on nationality or any other form of sense of common identity. Rather, most of these states are the remnants of colonial territories in old maritime European empires, consisting of either pseudo-racially based hierarchical systems imposed by the imperialists, or of internally suspicious or even hostile tribal nations that often exist on all sides of the border in various sub-state institutions. Thus, many of the world’s states are relying on the passive consent of the population rather than on active support, and when there is a weak sense of nationality, there is a risk that violence can erupt when resources turn scarce or when elites are struggling for state control.

Many states in the world can thus aptly be described as time bombs set to detonate. And some have already detonated.

I am of course referring to Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Right now, the Iraqi state is collapsing as well.

Other states in the developing world have collapsed partially during their years of independence, but are still having a central government trudging on. Some have even recovered somewhat. There I am primarily thinking of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Tajikistan, Colombia, Haiti and Ethiopia. Most of these states are however fragile, and fluctuation on the raw materials market or in the grain and rice prices can create shocks that destroy many years of development in one go. These states can very well collapse if they become unstable again.

There is also a third category of states, namely time bombs which have not yet burst. Countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. Most of these states are very large, with humonguous populations, and just if one of them would collapse or become more unstable, the crisis could spread in the near regions and also worsen the situation in poorer, less developed neighbouring states, especially as fourth-generation cross-state insurgency groups like the IS are developing and taking hold.

Climate Change and state fragility

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The process of climate change points towards the direction of a relatively warmer climate, as well as an increase in carbon dioxide. This points towards a wetter and warmer climate in some regions, and drier and hotter climate in other regions. Traditionally, the population of the Earth has generally been concentrated in a belt from South-East and East Asia to Western Europe, the so-called temperate zones of Eurasia. Most of the great civilizations you’ve read about in history have been located there.

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The thing is, this region will become comparably less habitable for human  beings if climate change is accelerating, affecting glaciers in the Himalayas, droughts, changing monsoon patterns and affecting the sea level and habitability alongst the coastlines. Thus, resources would either need to be transported to these regions, or the population would have to adapt by either consuming less or shrinking (through emigration, or in the worst case-scenario, a population implosion due to epidemics, resource wars and genocides). Due to the relative poverty of many of the economies in the region, we can expect that the number of climate refugees grow to exceed the number of war refugees currently in the world, by several factors.

6m_Sea_Level_RiseAs you can see on this map, the regions most vulnerable to changed sea levels are also those regions that tend to be populated, especially Bangladesh, the Nile Valley Delta, the Niger Delta, the Yangtze Delta and other great cradles of civilization. This would not displace tens of millions of people, but hundreds of millions of people. Of course, there is the possibility to build great dams and walls to adapt to the changes – and that would most likely be done around large cities in the developed world (and possibly China). But impoverished countries like Bangladesh and poor countries like Nigeria have little resources to invest in such a transformation, and thus would most likely suffer collapse and near-total displacement into nearby regions, which themselves will be coping with their own problems.

This domino effect could risk an increase in armed conflicts and ethnic cleansings, leading to a situation where Syria-like civil wars burst up in fragile states all over the world, leading to anarchy and chaos.

How to address the refugee issues

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Everyone knows that our system for managing refugee crises today doesn’t work. It creates a culture of helplessness, dependency and vulnerability where it works. Where it doesn’t work, it subjects millions of people to lives short, nasty and brutish. Even though the entrepreneur Jason Buzi’s recent proposal to create a “country” for all refugees is – for all accounts – unrealistic and utopian (there needs to be significant aid to that country, it needs infrastructure and an educated population to manage that infrastructure), it still can be seen as a step in the right direction in terms of how we discuss these problems. As for the EOS perspective, it needs to be discussed amongst the EOS members, members of our affiliate organisations and of course within the Board – but these are my own personal notes in this regard.

  • Refugee camps and refugee shelters shall be standardised on a level that allows electricity, fresh-water and education, and shall primarily be run in a democratic manner by those who inhabit them, though with as much support as necessary from the organisation responsible for the sites.
  • Education, gymnastics and mental counseling should be available and of a high quality. There should also be a minimum of delineation between the camp/shelter and the surrounding areas, allowing the refugees considerable freedom under controlled forms.
  • Large refugee camps shall be counted as international subjects, thus giving stateless refugees a passport that can allow them to travel and set up residency in other places, or study in other places and return.
  • There must be a concerted effort to intervene in conflict zones and to predict where conflict zones can emerge. In terms of collapsed states, this means that the primary concern should be to end the conflict as soon as possible, and force through a settlement. If it is judged that there needs to be an external policing force there, they shall always be mandated by an organisation with global responsibilities and influence from actors representing as many human beings as possible. Such a global organisation can also delegate the mission to either one or several regional peace-keeping forces.
  • A larger share of all defence budgets should move towards international crises to reduce them, since they present the largest political threat against regional and global stability today.
  • All forces assigned with keeping or establishing peace should be subject to the IPCC or equivalent organisation.
  • Instead of trying to build or support dysfunctional nation-states, the forms of government established should be fitted towards 1) the will of the local population, 2) the complex needs of the region, 3) the need to protect human rights, through distributing power in a de-centralised manner.
  • When a state or territory has collapsed, there must be efforts to rebuild it and engage displaced people in the reconstruction efforts.
  • If there is a need to relocate a large population a long way, it must be met as a logistical issue and treated holistically, which means that it must be taken into consideration  how the relocation will affect both the region where people are leaving and the region where they are entering, in relation to how large groups we are talking about and the ecological, social and economic factors in both regions.
  • There must be created legal and safe ways of people to move, acclimatise and settle.
  • When looking at refugee crises and refugees to relocate, there must be efforts to ensure that vulnerable groups such as children and females (in often very patriarchal social contexts) are given extra focus.

Regarding the for every day increasing risk that the entire population distribution of this planet will shift from the temperate to the sub-arctic regions, that would need to be addressed by establishing “regions of settlement” in the sub-arctic and sub-antarctic areas – especially then areas with low population density given the damaging effects that mega-cities have on the environment. Thus, Canada, parts of Oceania, southern South America and eastern Siberia would probably need to be transformed into regions of settlement, to absorb at least a part of the problem.

Ultimately, what has caused the refugee crisis that millions of people currently are suffering is an inadequate nation-state system imposed by a “one-size-fits-all” view on human organisation. If we want to avoid collapsing states or lawless black-hole territories, we would need to focus on more inclusive, communitarian and localised solutions for distributing control and guaranteeing civil rights.