TIME: What You Don’t Need to Know (About Refugees)

A typically overloaded boat carries Libyan refugees toward Europe. (Photo by notenoughgood.com)

A typically overloaded boat carries Libyan refugees toward Europe. (Photo by notenoughgood.com)

The TIME website headline said: “What You Need to Know About the E.U.’s Refugee Crisis.” It was, of course, a follow-on to the deaths Sunday of nearly a thousand desperate refugees whose boat capsized off the coast of Libya, on its way to Italy. It was one of a series of accidents that killed 3,500 last year and 1,500 so far this year, a fatality rate that testifies to the size of the human tsunami that is crashing into the south coast of Europe. All we have are guestimates of the size, but one of them places the current flow at 10,000 per week.

So what, in TIME’s considered judgment, do we need to know about this rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis? First of all, as the headline attests, that the crisis is “Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” as if the worst thing about it is the inconvenience of having all these starving people coming into one’s country.

TIME lays the rest of it out in orderly succession:

Where do they come from? “mostly from North African and West Asian countries like Yemen, Nigeria, Gambia, Syria and Libya, to name a few.” One survivor of Sunday’s disaster was from Bangladesh. All of these countries have one thing in common, unmentioned by TIME.

Where are they going? North. Anywhere north of where they are. Seeking, in TIME’s delicate phrase, “better employment opportunities.” In the sense that a starving man staggers out of the desert in search of improved dining opportunities. A sense of perspective is important, don’t you think?

Why are they going? This of course is the heart of the matter, because refugees are not so much going toward, as they are fleeing from. From what? TIME has the answer. “Poverty or violent conflict.”

Oh. But wait. There has been poverty and violent conflict, as well as totalitarian repression, in North Africa and the Middle East since before the Bible found a publisher, so why are there human waves of refugees now? Why has the influx into southern Europe gone from huge last year to awe-inspiring this year? What else could be going on? You won’t find it in TIME.

You can find it on page 34 of a 2013 study by the Center for American Progress titled The Arab Spring and Climate Change:

“Much of the Middle East and North Africa will face drier winters, diminishing freshwater runoff, and dwindling groundwater resources as the century progresses. Overall, approximately 250 million people in Africa are projected to suffer from water and food insecurity during the 21st century, and coastal agricultural zones around the Mediterranean will face erosion and salinization of freshwater sources. These changing environmental conditions will likely increase pressure on traditional livelihoods such as farming, fishing, and herding, rendering them unsustainable in the most-affected areas.”

Every country from which these unfortunate people come is suffering from water shortages (or in the case of Bangladesh too much water from an implacably rising sea), crop failures, drought and desertification, and these are the things that have given rise (or at least contributed mightily) to poverty and armed conflict, in some cases the disintegration of government.

This is what we need to know about those refugees: they are climate refugees. The worst, most dystopian predictions of the worst-case climate-change predictions are coming true before our eyes and all we need to know about them, in the words of a magazine that once set the world’s standards for journalism, is that they are seeking better employment opportunities.

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8 Responses to TIME: What You Don’t Need to Know (About Refugees)

  1. dave stoessel says:

    Or violence refugees. I am considering their choices: support the government and be marked as traitor, buy into revolution and be targeted by police/army, resist local warlord dealing in guns, drugs, children, prostitutes, contraband, whatever. Minding ones own business not an option and all choices are lousy. Let’s go drown in the Mediterranean, it has a possibility of success. Someone might know CPR and I could wake up with better choices.

  2. Tom says:

    Thank you Mr. Lewis. We’ll see more of this, perhaps in our own country as it all unravels. It won’t be long until climate unrest takes over and becomes at least as good at producing refugees than the man-made, humanitarian crises we continue to generate. Couple more years of this and no government will be able to hold their outsourced, used up, useless societies together. The Great Cull will proceed and the horsemen will ride.

  3. venuspluto67 says:

    Yes, there will probably be a historically epic exodus out of California, and Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas may become ghost-towns.

  4. Some Guy says:

    You forgot the part about US meddling in these countries as well

  5. TA Reese says:

    Climate change and resource depletion are sparking wars and causing this exodus. The evidence is worldwide and apparent to our so-called leaders. Think the Dems or Reps will address this in the coming primaries?

  6. Surly1 says:

    Refugees from four of the six countries you name also generate refugees as a result of the neocon wars engineered by what Pepe Escobar calls the “Empire of Chaos.” We arm both sides, watch them kill one another off, and rake in the profits. So they are refugees from state sanctioned violence as well as from climate change.