“The death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic.” Joseph Stalin
“If I look at the mass I will never act.” Mother Teresa
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus
Last week in the Tsilent Tsunami REDUX series: Part One, we looked at 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 additional young African men and women, from a continent that is already experiencing exceedingly low levels of development and unemployment, looking for jobs.
This dilemma represents an existential threat to all of humanity’s future. The relevancy of this article in 2018, and again now again in 2021, will soon become apparent. The United Nations convened in Marrakech, Morocco in December 2018 to sign the intergovernmental agreement called, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. In effect, this elevates the right for individuals to migrate, to the level of a “human right.” The consequences of this intergovernmental agreement are significant. I do not intend to discuss the rightness or wrongness of such an agreement, but I want to discuss the implications of it.
In this issue, we will discuss the variables which will certainly affect the global movements of peoples over the next decade.
- Labor Migration
- Climate Change Migration
- War Refugee/Asylum Seeking
As I see it, there are at least three catastrophic variables that will cause the unprecedented, accelerated migration of peoples over the next two decades. As stated last week, I believe Africa will become the primary source of these migrants, with the main recipients being Europe and North America. Let’s briefly look at what those variables will be for this coming Tsunami-like movement of people.
- Labor Migration- Unemployment- or perhaps a better way of saying it —in the next decade there will be an additional population segment of over 100 million young men and women who will be searching for a better life for themselves and their families. They will be looking for work. They will be reaching outward to other nations to employ them. 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 significant as to the impact of repatriated dollars into under-developed economies, from migrants to developed nations. It adds significantly to the GDP of many countries by the billions. The other side of that coin, however, is that many developing countries are losing their best and brightest to the West. They come to the West to study, then stay when they are finished, being paid a higher salary than they could ever dream about in their own countries. A holistic 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 UN 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.”
- War Refugees- On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute 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 percent 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 Refugees data.
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 child to the photo, their study shows that the likely response on the compassion scale would be a 5. If you added a third 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 increases.
Can that 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 things, 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 be living, simply 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, but let’s stop here. —Could you and I make a difference in one family’s life? What if ten million Americans and Europeans decided to help one family each? What difference would it make? Here are a few ways that we can do just that.
- Invest in lives, not merely in wealth. Partner with one of many micro-business entrepreneurial organizations, which have been 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 assisting families with micro-business loans and assistance in starting their own companies.
- Women’s Microfinance 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. Of course, also give them assistance with how to start, and run their own company, as well.
- Provide funding to feed the starving. For most of the world’s refugees, hunger and malnutrition is a serious matter. Every year millions of handicapped children enter the world due to the malnutrition of their mothers. You can help prevent this stunting by assisting with the mitigation of starvation and malnutrition. The Global Hunger Task Force has been established to do just that. They exist to mitigate starvation on a global scale. I recommend them. www.globalhungertaskforce.org
Working together, we can make a huge difference in this looming catastrophic tragedy, which is happening a lot faster than any of us have imagined. Doing something, one person, and one family at a time are the best we can do.