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King Canute and the tide of migration

The G7 met last month in Canada.  Did you notice the big distraction? Or, perhaps I should say distractions.  The world leaders met, and yet failed to consider the most pressing problem of our time - climate change and habitat loss.  Yet,  these are the man-made causes of their problems. Instead,  they were concerned largely with trying to stabilise the status quo on global trade.  To keep things as they are.  The meeting ended in chaos.  The system is broken, but goes on clunking away destroying the planet at each turn of the wheel. 

Political wood mouse

We thought of writing about the wood mouse again.  The wood mouse was deemed too 'political'  for us to promote in the USA, or at least one major social outlet deemed that this was so for our podcast Learning from the Wood Mouse.  What we can learn from  Wood Mice is dangerous stuff!  So, we will try not to mention the wood mouse in this article.  

Global trade drives pollution and climate change 

As we have said in previous pieces, global trade drives pollution and climate change. Yet, our leaders  had nothing to say about these problems, and no strategy to deal with them.  

Last week,  EU leaders met to discuss migration.  Migration, migration, migration is on their minds. So much because it is feared it might break the European Union. So, the leaders scurry around trying to fix it with a compromise that avoids the real issues.   They avoid addressing the causes of migration.

Migration, migration, migration  

In the United States they argue about migration.  In Europe they argue about it. They talk of putting up barriers and walls, reception centres, and detention centres, and we have then the appalling sight in United States of young children forcefully removed from their parents.  

So, world leaders meet to discuss migration. Of course they would, because migration dominates their political futures. They promise voters so much.  They promise to 'take back control'. 

Migration is really a populist political distraction from the real issues, but migration is the issue that has gone horribly wrong for them.  They have woken up belatedly to the idea that their voters are worried and  angry about it.  So, something needs to be done.  It needs fixing.  So they reach for the sticking plaster and glue.  All would be fine as long as they can put the world back as it was, keeping the people happy with growth and prosperity.  Thus, they ignore the real issues.  They ignore the destruction of our planet.  

Poverty, conflict and climate change drive migration

The biggest drivers of migration are poverty, war, and climate change. Migration won't go away. It is a man made crisis. While the West grows wealthy and prosperous on global trade, that trade pollutes the planet and pushes people into poverty.  Global trade is predicated on pollution, and it is a major factor in climate change.  If we really want to address migration, then our leaders should be addressing unregulated global trade, not trying to stitch it back together.

The big seven Industrial Nations discuss migration and trade, but fail to acknowledge that they are in large part the architects of the problems they face.  They produced no real solutions. They deal only with the consequences of their folly, and not the underlying causes of the malaise.

Unregulated abuse of World Trade

They are powerless in the face of the unregulated abuse of world trade. And now they fight each other in a growing trade war, introducing trade barriers.  What needs regulating, they leave unregulated.

The use of pesticides continues to wreak havoc on the ecosystem, and with the loss of species vital to maintaining it. Yet, this was not on the agenda of the G-7.   We go on exporting our pollution, basking in the consumption of cheap food, goods and services, whilst the real cost takes its toll: forests are destroyed at an alarming rate, species are lost, water becomes a scarce commodity, and land in some parts of the world becomes barren, and unable to support the people who once flourished from it.  No wonder then that these people seek to move elsewhere.  They become dispossessed of their livelihoods, and poverty and hunger move them on. 

An unsustainable system

Our governments invest meanwhile in planes, and bombs and armaments, as the world erupts with civil wars, people fighting over scarce resources as they turn against each other, and people flee for their lives and from political oppression. And our politicians try to hold it all together, the very system that has brought about this sorry state of affairs.  It is unsustainable. Exporting pollution drives migration to our shores.  

We would like the 'world' to be as it was, but 'as it was' is no longer a realistic option. It needs change.  Pick anywhere in the world to see an example. Take Lake Chad, a natural resource that once sustained millions of people.  Lake Chad is drying up.

Figures collated by the European Council on Foreign Relations show that in the Lake Chad region of Africa alone, 2.5 million people have been displaced by climate change. Some 90% of the Lake’s surface has been lost in the last half century, leaving those who depend on it with food insecurity. Yet, as the ECFR points out, there is a 'total absence' of European Union policies to deal with climate-driven migration from Africa. They also cite climate change as the primary driver of migration from Africa. 

Climate change primary driver of migration  

In 2012 alone more than 6 million people in north eastern Nigeria were forcibly displaced due to floods and more than 500,000 people were displaced in Chad.  This is unsustainable, and is in large part due to world trade.

Growing evidence  suggests that climate change is a contributory factor to civil unrest and civil wars. The severe droughts that effected Southern Syria in 2008 were likely to be a contributing factor in the events that led to the bloody Civil War.

King Canute and his courtiers. 


Our politicians stand like fabled King Canute trying to hold back the tide. They have the illusion that they are 'in control'.  They promise much that they cannot deliver. They cannot tell you that they are powerless. They have no mystical powers to control migration, just as they have no mystical powers to stop climate change. What they need to do is address a broken system that is destroying the planet.

If the political wood mouse could speak, it would certainly ask us to stop destroying our planet. If we stop destroying our planet, then we will control migration.  Then we, and the wood mice, might have a future on this planet.

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