A World of Refugees

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September 16, 2019 3:00 pm
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Josh Kovensky has a fascinating look at how white nationalists are glomming onto and pressing climate change hysteria to advance their goals of a walled-off, whites-only America. This makes me think of a central part of how I see the future of climate change.

For a number of years there has been a debate about whether the wave of refugees leaving the Middle East in response to the wars of the Arab Spring were the cause of the rise of the nationalist right in Europe. At one level there’s no doubt that this was the case. It is demonstrably the case that preexisting rightist movements gained tremendous power via this influx of refugees. The question, to the extent there is one, is whether these were already racist/islamophobia societies that simply showed their true colors or were activated when a relatively small (in total population terms) influx of refugees came into the region.

From the broadest-brush standpoint, thinking about the future in which climate change makes some areas literally uninhabitable and others become unable to support current populations, I’m not sure how much of a difference this makes. We are moving toward a future in which massive refugee flows are endemic to global politics. There are already some studies that show that climate change may have played some role in the collapse of the Assad government in Syria and the subsequent refugee flow into Turkey and Europe. There’s also some limited evidence to this effect about Central America. But we are looking at things that aren’t remotely comparable.

Xenophobia is not unique to Europe. There are many reasons to believe that we are heading to a future where nationalist politics, politics driven by insiders believing they’re being overwhelmed by “outsiders,” whether that be defined by language, skin color or religion, will become endemic. Humans fight over declining resources. This is in the nature of the human animal. The only solutions or counters to any of this are technologies that reshuffle the deck of declining resources, whether that is energy, food or usable land and a politics which looks behind the zero-sum logic of nationalism. The technological and ideological dimensions of this rely on each other.

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