The Tsilent Tsunami,
“The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.” Joseph Stalin
“If I look at the masses, I will never act.” Mother Teresa
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus
In last week’s edition of “More Than Meets The Eye,” part one of the Tsilent Tsunami, we discussed the global impact of demographics (human population growth) and its staggering implications for the near future. – Bottom line? Within the next decade or two there will be over 300 million African young men and women, from a continent that is already experiencing low levels of development and unemployment, who will be looking for jobs. This dilemma represents an existential threat to all of humanity’s survival.
The relevancy of today’s article will soon become apparent as the United Nations convenes in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10-11, 2018 in order to sign the intergovernmental agreement called, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In effect this elevates the right for individuals to migrate, to the level of being recognized as an actual “human right.” The consequences could be significant.
In this particular article we will examine the variables which will certainly affect the global movements of peoples over the next decade. We will discuss the impact of:
- Labor Migration
- Climate Change Migration
- War Refugee/Asylum Seeking
From my perspective there are at least three catastrophic variables which will cause the unprecedented accelerated migration of peoples over the next two decades. As a reminder, Africa is the primary source of the migrants. The main recipients will be Europe and North America. Let’s briefly look at what the variables will be for this approaching Tsunami-like movement of people.
- Labor Migration-Unemployment- Perhaps a more accurate description: In the next decade there will be an additional population segment of over 100 million young men and women who will be looking for a better life for themselves and their families. They will be searching for work. They will be looking outward to other nations for employment. Their countries simply do not have the developed infrastructure to handle them. As I posed last week, labor migration is a two edged sword. On one hand, the data is important due to the impact of repatriated dollars into under-developed economies in developed nations. It adds significantly to the GDP of many countries by the billions. However, many developing countries are losing their best and brightest citizens to the West. They come to the West to study, then stay after their education is complete, being paid a higher salary than they could ever dream about in their own countries. A wholistic solution is desperately needed.
- Climate Change Migration- According to statistics published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, every year since 2008, an average of 26.4 million persons around the world have been forcibly displaced by floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts. This is equivalent to one person being displaced every second. In the time it will take you to read this article an additional 720 people will be displaced from their homes due to some form of environmental disaster. What adds further to the gap in the protection of such people – who are often described as ‘climate refugees’ – is that there is neither a clear definition for this category of people, nor are they covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention.
- Environmental migrants are defined as “persons or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move within their country or abroad.” (IOM, 2011: 33 in IOM, 2014:13).
- Environmentally displaced person refers to “persons who are displaced within their country of habitual residence or who have crossed an international border and for whom environmental degradation, deterioration or destruction is a major cause of their displacement, although not necessarily the sole one” (IOM, 2011:34 in IOM, 2014:13). The term disaster displacement “refers to situations, where people are forced or obliged to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of disasters triggered by natural hazards. Such displacement may take the form of spontaneous flight or an evacuation ordered or enforced by authorities. Such displacement can occur within a country, or across international borders. ” (The Nansen Protection Agenda, 2015)
- Planned relocation refers to persons whose livelihoods have been re-built in another place (IOM, 2014a). Others have defined planned relocation as referring solely to the collective movement of a community, the “permanent (or long-term) movement of a community (or a significant part of it) from one location to another, in which important characteristics of the original community, including its social structures, legal and political systems, cultural characteristics and world views are retained: the community stays together at the destination in a social form that is similar to the community of origin.”
3. War Refugees- On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute from their homes in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively. Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million. These numbers have not gone down; they have only accelerated. Civil conflict is poised to leave many homeless in Africa over the next decade. Children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or traveling alone. The total number of people living in sub-Saharan Africa who were forced to leave their homes due to conflict reached a new high of 18.4 million in 2017, up sharply from 14.1 million in 2016 – the largest regional increase of forcibly displaced people in the world, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugeesdata.
Deborah Small and Paul Slovic have given a term to an interesting phenomenon in the study of the human response to tragedy. They call it the collapse of compassion. Essentially, what the collapse of compassion describes is how one would respond to the photo of a single hurting child. Let’s say that your response on a compassion scale of 1 to 10 would be a 10. If you added a second hurting child to the photo, their study shows that the likely response on the compassion scale would be 5. If you added a third hurting child, your response would drop to a 2.5, a fourth to 1.25. They postulate that our consciences cannot deal with all the trauma, so we systematically block it out increasingly as the tragedy escalates.
Can it really be true? Could Stalin really have been right? “The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.” Are we losing sight of the forest for the trees? Is our compassion waning due to the mere magnitude of the problem. If we do not regain a biblical perspective on these situations we too will miss the thousand because our flesh will block out the pain of the 999. Somehow I think this runs counter to what we have been taught in the Bible. If we do not rise above this level, we will soon simply be living as victims of our own world rather than children of the King who owns it.
One thing is for sure. Nobody wants to live in poverty and no one wants to be forced to migrate so that they can find a living. The magnitude of the problem is staggering. Let me stop here. Could you and I make a difference in one family’s life? What if 10 million Americans and Europeans decided to help one family? What difference would it make? Here are a few ways that we can do just that.
Invest in lives, not merely wealth. Partner with one of many micro-business entrepreneurial organizations started to help alleviate poverty in Africa through empowering individuals to start their own companies. Look at these:
- https://www.kiva.org This organization has a solid reputation for helping families with micro-business loans and offering assistance as they begin their own companies.
- Women’s Micro-finance Initiative (WMI) is tackling global poverty and the disenfranchisement of impoverished, rural women in East Africa. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/provide-1000-microloans-for-rural-women-in-east-africa/
- If loaning money is not in your make-up, why not give someone a hand up. Provide them with a grant to start their own business. Offer them assistance teaching them how to start and run their own company as well.
Working together we can make a huge difference in this looming catastrophic tragedy which is coming a lot quicker than any of us can imagine. Doing something for one family at a time may be the very best we can do. Why not do something to fix this problem rather than allow it to crash over us like a Tsilent Tsunami?