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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

Source: Dead Refugees: The New Normal

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Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.~ UNHCR ~

Nakba-Palestinian_refugees-nakba-VTYou know those photos appearing everywhere … the ones of dead kids washing up on shores after desperate attempts get a new life? Sorry to break it to you, but you better get used to it. We are fast on our way to this becoming the new normal.

An article on NPR’s website today informs us that more than 300,000 people have headed for Europe so far this year from North Africa and the Middle East. As we learn every day, many don’t make it, dying in droves on the way. (The U.N. puts that number at 2,500 deaths at sea … so far.)

If you want one number to explain the mass movement today, start with 60 million. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide — the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since World War II.

The U.N. counts 15 new conflicts in the past five years, and the big one is Syria. More than 11 million Syrians have fled or been driven from their homes in that country’s civil war since it started in 2011.

The U.N., being rather good at counting, compiles numbers for us. Unfortunately, aside from its own PR there isn’t much else the organization does well … or at all. Those 15 new conflicts, for example, didn’t simply materialize instantly to take everyone by surprise. Anyone with an Internet connection saw them coming ages ago, building in bad attitude and weaponry, creepy coalitions and secretive dealings.

As if anything is secret these days! The country members of the United Nations have known exactly what was ahead, but did little to nothing to avoid the crisis that is now making headlines. Of course there are many reasons for the lack of action other than the usual ‘discussion’ mixed in with a bit of halfhearted ‘condemnation’ from time to time: disagreement over tactics; an inability to tell white hats from black hats, usually for self-serving nefarious reasons; lack of motivation mixed with a fear of discovery of their own agenda and so on.

But it’s not only institutions and governments that have neglected the signs of impending doom. More than 11 million Syrians saw it coming, too, and it didn’t pop out a box for them either.1408

The number is much higher than that 11 million, as there are more on their way every day, and aside from children included in the numbers all of them were there for the buildup to their horror getting on with life as they knew it … until they couldn’t.

That’s the way humans do it, isn’t it? Cruise along in their day-to-day right up to the moment they are personally presented with situations that have become unlivable?

Can we take a moment to imagine the impact more than 11 million Syrians might have made on their country and their future had they assumed some responsibility for the mess that was being created before them? Had more than 11 million Syrians dared to stand up, to speak their minds, to demand reason and humanity, to put time and energy into finding ways to make their world better for everyone how much of what is happening wouldn’t have.

Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.  ~Samuel Johnson

It’s a shame our species often sees more courage in pulling up stakes than in preserving and protecting was is dear. We have long made a hobby of fouling our own dens, then seeking greener pastures when the shit hits. That worked well for us when the world was bigger and wide-open spaces were available and accommodating, but those days are over. With the human population at this moment at 7,364,456, 853 and growing by around 166,243 people every single day our planet is congested and infested, a circumstance that creates conflict in and of itself.

But back to the ‘new normal’ idea …

Worldwide Displacement Hits All-time High As War And Persecution Increase

The headline on the U.N’s refugee agency, UNHCR, webpage brings up a worrying and interesting point, and the article underlines it:

Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

You may note that, yes, the number of refugees has increased by more than 8 million people in one year and find that disturbing. What you may have missed, however, is that these almost 60 million are running away from the death and destruction of armed conflict … man-made political and religious fallout resulting in catastrophes that shift borders and pit one side or another against each other.

Imagine not too long into the future when it is a cataclysm of Earth itself.

In the five years between 2008 and 2013 more than 140 million people were displaced by severe weather. Disasters triggered by storms in just 2013 forced 14.2 million people to flee their homes.

And it’s only going to get worse. At this very moment THREE, count ‘em THREE category 4 hurricanes are swirling in the Pacific for the first time in recorded history. Storms are getting bigger, more dangerous, with every increase in global temperature, and those are climbing faster every year. Drought has the western U.S. burning and Papua New Guinea starving. Northern Hemisphere winters get colder and more deadly. Crops are failing or getting blown away all over the planet and coastlines are making beachfront out of what wasn’t.

And what are we humans doing? Cruising along in our day-to-day assuming that when the shit hits we can pick up sticks and move along when the time comes we’re personally presented with a situation that becomes unlivable.

So … about those photos of dead kids: get used to it.

Coward:  One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.  ~Ambrose Bierce “The Devil’s Dictionary”

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Ten years ago today I was on a sofa in North Carolina staring into the beautiful eyes of my granddaughter who had just passed her first month on earth. My daughter had handed her into my care so she could get a bit more sleep and I was about as content as I’ve ever been with perfect, tiny fingers grasping one of mine as the baby girl dozed in my arms.

I lunged for the phone when it rang, hoping my daughter wouldn’t be disturbed, and was surprised, yet happy, to hear my son’s voice on the other end. It was very early in California, an unexpected time for him to be calling the East Coast.

“Mom,” he said, interrupting my queries as to what the heck had him up at the crack of dawn. “Turn on the TV.”

Tucking the phone under my chin and the baby against my chest, I fumbled for the remote to the huge set and clicked.

Of course everyone saw what I saw.

“What the fuck is happening?” I asked Jaren.

“We’re under attack, Mom.”

The second plane came in before I’d managed to absorb anything but terror, and like the rest of America the only words that came to mind were: Oh my god!

The juxtaposition of realities … the new life in my arms, the new horror in New York … could only compound the distress.

“What sort of world do you have now, Baby?” I asked.

Part of the answer I knew then: her world was one in which people drove planes into buildings full of other people.

In efforts to try to gain perspective, I conjured an image of another woman at another time holding another newborn as a radio announced the attack on Pearl Harbor, that woman asking the same question I just had just posed to the cosmos.

The specter rising from that was World War III.

Over the 10 years between then and now that has not happened. We have not experienced mass conscription or concentrated conflict inflicting colossal damage across great swathes of the developed world or food rationing or bombs dropping on our beds or that-country-against-this-country, but rather sporadic terrorist attacks and religious fanaticism and fear.

Civil wars and oppression and human rights abuses continue as they always have, people starve and fight and kill and rape and poverty breeds the hungry, the uneducated and the dangerous while wealth motivates those hungry for power and equally dangerous. While many strive to survive, others do what they can to protect, to inspire, to effect change for the positive to varying degrees of success and failure.

The world of my granddaughter turns out to be not much different, in human terms, than the one my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother … and so on … and I were born into — a world where people perform deeds of great kindness and acts of almost unimaginable horror.

No, my granddaughter will not be able to sling on a backpack equipped with a Swiss army knife and a couple of pints of contact lens solution then board a plane like I did. She’ll learn to travel without belts in slip-on shoes and allow 3 hours for check-in. She’ll probably never sip a cocktail in a rooftop bar overlooking a major city without at least some trepidation. She may look askance at those who dress and worship differently and choose to surround herself with the familiar for illusions of safety.

History will show her that paradigms shift, that deadly enemies, the evils incarnate, eventually become familiar trading partners no matter how dissimilar they may be in look and faith and culture and background as it absorbs the dead and those imprinted with images of fire and smoke and collapsing monoliths full of humanity pass along.

We no longer tremble at the thought of Japanese or Germans, no matter the price they exacted from the world only a bit more than half a century ago in their bids to accomplish their goals, but have contextualized the horrors and moved beyond as we comprehend new evil, new enemies,

This is how we humans do things. This is how we have always done things, and it’s history that dictates wrong from right as it divides winners from losers.

What will be far different for the children born with the rubble and toxic dust of the Twin Towers in their path are the impacts of events less dramatic in the making but much more in outcome and harder to live with — the results of the relentless attack of man on the planet.

There is no template for putting the climate back together after an onslaught, for negotiating a truce between rising seas and inundated land. No reconciliation can be won once patterns of weather are so drastically changed that the seas no longer function as Earth’s lungs.

Reparations will be futile and even discussion of them will set human against human, as will attempts to share out slices of the ever-diminishing pie. Once again, wars will be waged and many will die, a circumstance that will relieve a bit of Earth’s burden, but when she’s too wounded to carry on we’re done and all fights are over.

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