Refugees and economic migrants currently flowing into Europe and elsewhere globally are the direct result of over-population, ecosystem collapse, climate change, militarism and inequity. Mass migration has the potential to overrun entire societies and human civilization, and even threatens to collapse the biosphere. Migration must be controlled; and refugees and economic migrants assisted to return to productive, sustainable uses of land as close as possible to their place of origin.
“Crucially, small families, sustainable lifestyles, peace-making, and greater equity must be stressed globally… But for the grace of Gaia, anyone of us could become a migrant at any time.” – Dr. Glen Barry
First and foremost the mass exodus of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East into Europe is an ecological disaster. Entire regions have overshot the carrying capacity of their land and water; which has been exacerbated by abrupt climate change, and rising human populations with unlimited aspirations for consumption.
An estimated 60 million refugees were forced from their homes by conflict last year – 4 million alone from Syria. Nearly one billion people live on less than $1.50 a day, and many if not most would migrate in search of economic opportunity if given the chance. Today alone 12,000 migrants arrived in Munich, Germany.
It is a physical impossibility for Europe and America to house all of Africa, Middle East, and South America’s true refugees as well as hundreds of millions of poor people that want to migrate to a better life. Trying will lead to global ecological, social, and economic collapse.
For all intents and purposes Earth is fully occupied. Thus the nature of mass migration has changed since Europeans colonized the world. There no longer exist large intact ecosystems for refugees to flee to, murder the locals, and cut down natural ecosystems to produce illusory economic progress for a while before moving on repeatedly. We live in a different world that is threatened with global biosphere collapse and we need to adjust our expectations on migration accordingly.
Ecological science knows we have already exceeded numerous planetary boundaries in regard to sustaining a habitable Earth, one of which – as identified by myself in recently published peer reviewed science – is the need to maintain natural and agro-ecological ecosystems across 2/3 of the land, though 1/2 has already been lost. Natural and semi-natural ecosystems that remain are crucial to sustaining local and regional environmental sustainability, as well as the overall well-being of our one living biosphere that makes all life possible.
Earth’s remaining natural capital and thus a livable Earth are profoundly threatened by mass flows of migrants in so many ways. Newly arrived migrants quickly embrace Western style over-consumption (which dramatically reduces remaining natural ecosystems), refugee pathways are strewn with rubbish and nature trampled, and protected ecosystems are routinely violated. Ecosystem loss is thus both cause and effect of ecocidal mass migration.
Syria has faced a major climate-intensified drought which created conditions ripe for civil war. Many other countries in Africa and the Middle East are witnessing dramatic climate changes as population has grown exponentially and land fertility is in decline. In the flows of refugees to Europe we are witnessing the bioregional scale ecosystem collapse occurring in Africa and the Middle East as it expands its scope to become a global level ecological disturbance. There is no way the biosphere will be sustained with such large, poverty stricken populations on the move.
In many ecological systems it has been noted that when organisms are allowed to migrate at will across their full range, the entire system eventually collapses from overuse. Other more stable species segment their ranges so that while certain regions may see populations that surge and collapse, the population booms do not percolate throughout and destroy the entire ecosystem.
Migration and the overrunning of one culture by another is nothing new, it happened constantly in Europe historically, and the present international system is based upon Europe’s history of ecological colonialism. What are different are the scale, and our failure to correctly diagnose the ecological underpinning of the current mass migration, and that its solutions lie in going back to the land.
If massive hordes of poor people are allowed to traverse the Earth at will, overwhelming remaining natural ecosystems and societies that have shepherded their resources better, then global mass migration will tear down the biosphere.
This is merely stating the obvious, and does not mean we should not help those in need. But haphazard flows of refugees must not be tolerated, as the human family seeks to avert social, economic, and environmental collapse.
There is so much that can be done for those in need. As war rages, clearly Syrian refugees can’t be aided in place, but they and all would be refugees and migrants need to be assisted to achieve decent livelihoods from the land in their own bioregion. At some point they can be assisted to return to their homes.
At one time Europe, America, and the West were strong proponents of international law and cooperation. Murderous regimes waging genocide such as Assad and ISIS in Syria were to be confronted by United Nations forces and eliminated, not allowed to fester and spread destabilizing chaos. Advances in international law were abandoned after 911 and must be rehabilitated and enlarged.
Much of the Middle East is arid, marginal land for agricultural production (in ancient times it was more luxurious, though it has been impacted upon by millennium of poor management). It is virtually certain that climate change has made productive use of this land more difficult, as has soaring population rates. Population growth in the Middle East is unprecedented, growing 44% from 1990-2008. This addition of over 100,000,000 people in 18 years is far more than the land and water resources can support as climate chaos grows.
What we are witnessing with recent mass migration is ecological collapse resulting from over-population, abrupt climate change, and ecosystem loss. And the lure of an unsustainable lifestyle enjoyed by the few. It is well past time it is recognized as such.
The west must do more to bring equity and justice to displaced peoples, particularly as many of the societies and landscapes of developing countries have been ravaged by our insatiable appetite for resources. Simply, if affluent societies won’t share, they will be overrun. At its root, the current refugee crisis is yet more blowback for centuries of military adventurism to prop up our own over-consumption including an insatiable thirst for oil.
More must be done to extend the benefits of an economically secure and free existence to all of Earth’s inhabitants. Massive foreign aid to keep would be refugees as close to their places of origin as possible are necessary, and would cost a fraction of our current expenditures for waging permawar upon the Middle East. Systems of legal migration are essential to minimize disruption and ecological impact, while allowing true refugees fearing imminent persecution some relief.
Entire bioregions are collapsing ecologically, and their human populations must be brought into balance once again with the land. Family planning assistance will be essential. And hundreds of billions must be invested in ecological restoration, permaculture, organic farming, and other sustainable land uses. Sadly, if you destroy your land base, there no longer exists the ability to flee to another.
The focus long-term for the European refugee crisis must be upon international law and foreign aid to solve the refugee and mass migration crises at their source. In the short term, military and policing will be required to stop the flows as close as possible to their origin, and refugee camps setup as efforts commence to help migrants return to their homes as soon as possible.
If huge populations from Africa and South America continue to flee from collapsing bioregions, the small elitist bastions of Europe and United States cannot long stand (much less Australia, Japan and other overdeveloped nations). Some would argue this would be a good thing ecologically and socially. I disagree that society must descend into barbarity to achieve ecological sustainability and a just equitable world, there are other ways.
The land bases of the over-developed nations cannot hold the entire world and the last vestiges of civilization which may kindle a new sustainability paradigm must not be overrun. From the coming anarchy nothing will stand and human existence will plunge into a brutal competition just to survive, as seven billion super predators quite possibly clear every bit of nature, collapsing the biosphere, and ushering in the end of being.
It is vital that international policies for ecological sustainability are put into effect. Global environmental collapse will only be averted by ending fossil fuels, protecting and restoring large and connected natural ecosystems, embracing agro-ecology, and a whole host of other well-known green living innovations. This also includes the need to put in place controls to ensure orderly migration while helping migrants return to and restore the land in their own place of origins. Where this is not immediately possible, the rich must provide aid to shelter refugees as close as possible to their homes.
Crucially, small families, sustainable lifestyles, peace-making, and greater equity must be stressed globally.
We are well past the point where human populations can ravage local ecosystems and simply migrate to new virgin ecosystems to do the same. Allowing tens or even hundreds of millions of refugees and migrants to march across continents will take down the entire social and environmental system. Some would argue this is the path to rebalancing Earth ecologically. But there are other more humane pathways available to us based upon international cooperation, sharing, equity, and peace making.
The human family had best come together to meet all needs, protect ecosystems and end fossil fuels or we face biosphere collapse and the end of being. This means understanding and responding to the sheer terror and desperation felt by those that are suffering.
But for the grace of Gaia, anyone of us could become a migrant at any time.Yet their needs are best met in place as large scale migrations will finish off the natural world. This will require forcibly blocking mass migrations and providing massive aid locally.
Things could be so much better for all on a green, fair Earth. Basic human needs could be met for all while those that are smart and work hard still have more. But we have to change and embrace peace, justice, equity, and ecological sustainability as the meaning of life. Or the biosphere collapses and it is the end.
Internet mediated global self-awareness offers the human family its last best chance to redirect military and corporate welfare expenditures to ecological and social restoration necessary to achieving just and equitable global ecological sustainability. To start, we must recognize current mass migration for what it is, both a cause and symptom of biosphere collapse.