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<nettime> Fwd: NOII leaflet on enviro/migration and call out for bookfai
dr.woooo on Tue, 27 Oct 2009 06:42:08 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Fwd: NOII leaflet on enviro/migration and call out for bookfair



The spectre of mass immigration

A spectre haunts the rich countries of the West, or at least some of those
who currently live in them. This is that climate change will create many
millions of ?environmental refugees?, who will wish to migrate to the rich
countries which, through their excessive consumption and their greed, are
themselves responsible for their plight.

The environmental degradation of the planet by capitalism has led to the
displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods throughout
capitalism's history. Currently, the vast majority of the people who are
forced to migrate do so because of wars and invasion by the West,
persecution by repressive right-wing regimes (supported by the West
because they serve its interests), and cuts in public expenditure,
privatisation and other poverty-inducing measures enforced by the World
Bank and other agencies of the West (partly as a means of extracting
inflated interest payments on an unjust foreign debt).

But global warming and climate change, mainly brought about by the massive
generation of greenhouse gases by the rich, are adding to the pressures on
people to migrate. Global warming is contributing to desertification and
droughts. In combination with the scramble by Western corporations for the
wealth of the Third World this has created massive deforestation, and in
other places has driven people off their land or made it uninhabitable,
creating deserts where there was once cultivated land, plains where
animals could graze and people could live. Rising sea levels may force
many millions off their land, most notably in Bangladesh. According to the
World Development Movement a 4 degree centrigrade rise in global
temperature could lead to up to 300 million more people suffering from
coastal flooding each year. Most of them are in the global South.  Cities
at risk include Banjul in the Gambia, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Manila in
the Phillipines. A May 2009 report by the United Nations Global
Humanitarian Forum says that:

The findings of the report indicate that every year climate change leaves
over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and
economic losses of US$125 billion. 4 billion pople are vulnerable, and 500
milion people are at extreme risk?
It is a grave global justice concern that those who suffer most from
climate change have done the least to cause it.

Shockingly, the reaction of some people, and even of some
environmentalists, to the terrible threat of climate change is to worry
about the possible impacts of mass migration on the wellbeing of the
current inhabitants of the rich countries. There is something astonishing
in the assumption, apparently made by so many of those who argue for
cutting immigration, that it is morally correct to argue entirely in terms
of the self-interest of the current inhabitants of their particular bit of
territory. To claim that immigration must be stopped or limited in order
to protect the British environment is no different from arguing that it
should be stopped, or increased, in order to protect the jobs, wages and
prosperity of British capitalists and/or workers. There is an
extraordinary failure to pay attention to the needs of humanity as a
whole, or even the planet as a whole.

The response of the British and their governments to potential
environmental disaster is likely, unless we campaign successfully to
persuade them otherwise, to be to try and close their borders. If so, this
will mean a huge increase in suffering. There will be more repression,
more destruction of civil liberties than already exists in the viciously
cruel and arbitrary system of ?tough?immigration controls, and more
suffering, destitution and criminalisation of migrants and refugees.
Already, for reasons probably more connected with internal racist
pressures than any actual increases in attempts to migrate, the ruling
class in Europe and North America are trying make their borders more
impregnable. Governments not only cruelly mistreat the migrants and
refugees who manage to reach this country, but, contrary to international
law and their treaty obligations, they try to stop them getting here at
all.  Hundreds of migrants are drowned or die in other ways every year in
their attempt to flee from wars and repression. Governments are
patrolling the sea to try and stop them, forcing them into more and more
dangerous routes. They make deals with regimes on other continents to get
them to cooperate in preventing migration, and bribe them with ?aid?.
There are new immigration prisons in most of the countries surrounding
Europe, funded by the European Union, to prevent migration. The USA is
building a wall along its border with Mexico.

NOII is of course utterly opposed to any such response. It would be
obscene if the rich countries tried to stop people fleeing the tragedies
thay have themselves largely created. As Betsy Hartman points out in her
?10 Reasons why Population Control isn't the Solution for Global Warming?
(Different Takes, Climate Change Series, No 57, Winter 2009):

The industrialised countries, with 20% of the world's population, are
responsible for 80% of the accumulated carbon dioxide build-up in the
atmosphere.  The US is the worst offender.  In 2002 the US was responsible
for 20 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person compard to on 0.2 tons
in Bangladesh, 0.3 in Kenya and 3.9 in Mexico.

Why should people living in the 'developed world' have all the 'gain' of
the unfettered industries that create climate change while many millions
elsewhere have to suffer the pain?  This is totally unjust. Immigration
controls try to protect the unjust privilege of those destroying the
planet.  The richer countries should not be allowed to destroy other parts
of the planet whilst sitting pretty behind borders against the people
displaced by their greed.  The fight against immigration controls is, in
part, a fight against this global injustice.

Convincing people that immigration controls are cruel, unnecessary,
unworkable without massive increases in repression (and perhaps not even
then), an abuse of human rights and should be got rid of, would of course
reduce suffering. It would also be one way to counter racism, which is fed
and legitimised by immigration controls, and to prevent employers from
using divisions in the working class to make all workers, and not just
migrants, more vulnerable to exploitation.

Supposing large numbers of people succeeded in escaping poverty, wars and
climate change and finding safety in the rich countries, and supposing
even that this, unlike previous immigrations, was damaging to the economic
self-interest of the current inhabitants of the rich countries, it would
still be utterly wrong to try to stop them. In fact we believe that more
people, rather than fewer, should be able to migrate.

Talk of flooding by immigration is a distraction from the real tragedy of
climate change.

In addition, getting rid of controls might mean that people would be more
able to concentrate on the real problems in this world, and the real
causes of climate change. As most environmentalists well know, it is far
more important to campaign for policies to end the potential tragedy of
climate change in the world as a whole than it is to campaign against
immigration to Britain, or the USA, or anywhere else. It is essential for
all of humanity, and especially for the poorest in the world, for climate
change to be stopped, for the economic exploitation of the poorest
countries to stop, for the arrangements of the markets to suit the rich
and starve the poor in the world to end.

Already the governments of the rich countries spend many billions of
pounds on immigration controls, while failing to deal with homelessness
and other problems which make people suffer. Their peoples are encouraged
to blame the problems of homelessness, unemployment and failings in public
services on immigrants. But if there has been a 'strain on resources' this
has, at least up to now, had nothing to do with immigrants, who are merely
made into scapegoats useful to the survival of privilege.  It is the
result, on the contrary, of inequality and the failures of capitalism.  To
take the example of  housing: social housing is privatised, huge numbers
of properties are left dilapidated while building workers are left idle.
Blaming the problems of capitalism and climate change on immigration plays
to a sense of powerlessness, paralyzing effort when we still have the
power to transform and rescue the situation, and put the world on a
sounder, happier and more sustainable path than before.

Dubious statistics, or scaremongering.

There is, moreover, an element of scaremongering  in the assertion that
climate change will lead to mass immigration to Britain and other rich
countries. While it is clear that climate change will cause massive
problems and displacement, it is far less clear that the displaced people
will want, or be able, to cross continents, deserts and oceans to reach,
for example, Northern Europe. The assertion that many millions of people
from the global South will migrate to the rich North may simply be wrong,
as many of the predictions about rising levels of immigration and
population growth have notoriously been in the past. The figures on
?predicted? levels of immigration bandied around by Woolas, Kingsnorth and
others (see below), for example, are figures produced by the far right
anti-immigration lobby group Migration Watch, which have been shown to be
full of holes and false claims. In any case the scares about population
growth, and its potential effects on the environment and well-being, are
frequently false. Britain is not in any meaningful sense an ?overpopulated
island?; if there are problems, they are caused by the over-consumption of
the rich, rather than the existence of the many (see our pamphlet on

Even in the rich countries climate change, as well as the havoc wrought by
the disasters of neo-liberalism, are likely to make life more difficult,
which would make them less attractive to migrate to; Danny Dorling,
professor of geography at Sheffield University, for example, thinks that
Britain?s problem in the future may be too few rather than too many
migrants. London and its surroundings are threatened, like other coastal
areas, by rising sea levels. Already there are accounts of British
citizens leaving the UK in order to take advantage of what they hope will
be the greater environmental safety of New Zealand.

The effects on particular areas of the world are not well understood,
researched or quantified.  As Dr Camillo Boano, Professor Roger Zetter and
Dr Tim Morris say in their briefing paper no. 1 on ?Environmentally
displaced people? for the Oxford University Refugee Studies Programme,
there is wide divergence in the estimates of the numbers likely to be
displaced by climate change, let alone where they might try to migrate to.
In particular, there has been little attempt to work out how many people
are actually likely to migrate North. The theories about how climate
change may affect particular areas, including Britain, are much contested.
And powerful forces induce people, if they can, to stay where they are,
and to adapt.

Above all, the sad reality is that people are likely to find it much
harder to migrate than the talk of ?flooding? implies. The tragedy is, not
at all that they will flood in their millions to Europe, but that they
will die in their attempt to move, or perhaps succeed in migrating to
nearby, perhaps equally poor, countries (as the vast majority of refugees
now do). There is a great deal of historical evidence, from previous
disasters in Brazil, Ireland and elsewhere, that this is the case.
Supposing, for example, that sea level rises in Bangladesh displace, as
some predict, 5.5 million people. They will stay as near to their homes
and support networks as they can. Some, possibly millions, will try to
find security in neighbouring East Bengal. Perhaps several thousands will
make it to more prosperous urban centres in India and elsewhere in Asia.
Only, as now, will the exceptional few make it across continents and seas
to Europe and other richer areas. They would require, as now, unusual
strength, enterprise, and some money, to do so.

The greening of hate.

Those who raise the spectre of mass immigration have a variety of motives
for doing so. Some are more reputable than others. It is unclear what
causes the respected environmentalist Professor Norman Myers, who has
written about environmental change and population displacement for many
years, to conjecture that global warming could potentially displace 200
million people, and moreover to state that:

Already there are sizeable numbers of environmental refugees who have made
their way, usually illegally, into OSCE [i.e. rich] countries and today?s
stream will surely come to be regarded as a trickle when compared to the
floods that will ensue in decades ahead. (brackets added).

Nor is it clear how his, highly conjectural, figures found their way into
the Stern report, and thence into the mainstream of environmental thinking
? although Stern himself mainly talks about migration from rural areas to
cities within the Third World [CHECK].
It is, however, very clear that there have been several attempts by
racists and fascists to infiltrate the green movement in the USA and
Britain in order to gain its support for policies against immigration.
Such people have not merely embraced the arguments about flooding and
swamping by mass immigration to the rich countries. They have also, more
subtly, argued (in case it is pointed out that for the environment in the
world as a whole it does not matter where people live) that if poor people
migrate to rich countries, they might become better off and this would
increase their carbon footprint. This point has been made, for example, by
the Centre for Immigration, an extreme anti-immigration group in the USA.
The Sierra Club, a mainstream environmental lobby in the USA, was
infiltrated by right-wingers who pushed to get them to adopt an
anti-immigration position, but were thwarted by a mobilisation of existing
members of the Sierra Club. Some members of the anti-immigration faction
were influential and respected environmental activists like Paul Watson,
Captain of the Sea Shepherd, who said:
People in the liberal camp are becoming more aware that ecological
concerns are beginning to take priority over social justice issues.
People are trying to advocate unlimited immigration, which is ecologically
In Britain, John Redwood, Conservative MP and ex-Minister asked in
Does the Home Secretary accept that there must be some limit on the
overall number of economic migrants every year because of the pressure on
water resources, transport capacity, housing and land, or will he tell us
how those problems can be solved so that we can have unlimited economic
Perhaps we would expect this from a Tory but David Topple of Friends of
the Earth says:
[Immigration] leads ? obviously - to even more destruction of the
countryside and pressure on resources of all kinds? If we have millions of
people of many different races and cultures diluting each other's
identities (and that on each continent of the planet and in each country)
what sort of biodiversity is that? Who gains from all of this? Well, the
globalisers as usual.
And Paul Kingsnorth, a prominent environmentalist, broadcaster,  writer of
articles for all the major newspapers and of books, arrested at Twyford
Down protests, peace observer in the rebel Zapatista villages of Mexico,
'honorary member? of the Lali tribe in Papua New Guinea, who thus has a
dangerous credibility, comes out backing New Labour immigration minister
Woolas. In his blog of October 19 2008 he says for example:
Here's the news: new immigration minister Phil Woolas has, for the first
time since Labour came to power, publicly declared that immigration levels
are too high. He has linked this to the economic downturn - because there
will be fewer jobs, he says, the government should make sure more of them
go to British people. Also, and significantly in my view, he has linked
immigration, again for the first time, to our rapidly rising population.
The UK's population is currently almost 61 million. But it's predicted to
rise to a staggering 77 million by 2051 if current levels of immigration
continue. Immigration is the main cause of population increase in the UK;
nearly two thirds of a million people arrived here last year alone.
Therefore, say Kingsnorth and Woolas (as well as the Tories, the BNP,
UKIP, Migration Watch and others), immigration (and population growth)
should be stopped (or only allowed if immigration is ?balanced? by
emigration). Kingsnorth et al do not specify by what brutal means these
goals might be achieved.

James Lovelock (famous for his early forecasts of climate change), on the
other hand, does come clean on the implications of stopping immigration.
He now apparently believes that it is too late to prevent the effects of
climate change making most of the world uninhabitable, and that Britain
will be one of the few remaining  ?lifeboat islands? where human life can
be sustained. Even in Britain, he says in an article in the Sunday Times
of  8 February 2009, sea level rise may cause the loss of cities and
energy resources, but:

These dangers will be aggravated  by the ever-growing flux of climate
refugees, to which will be added returning expatriates who left the
crowded United Kingdom for what they thought would be a pleasant life in
Europe. Our gravest dangers are not from climate change itself but
indirectly from starvation, competition for space and resources ? and
tribal war.

He concludes:

We need  another Churchill now to lead us from the clinging, flabby,
consensual thinking of the late 20th century and bind the nation into a
single-minded effort to wage a difficult war?  For island havens, an
effective defence force  will be as important as our own immune systems.
Like it or not, we may have to increase the size of and spending on our
armed forces.

Suspect motivations

While it is not always clear what motivates environmentalists to raise the
spectre of mass immigration by climate refugees, it is very obvious that
it suits the purposes of the fascist  British National Party. Thus the BNP
(which uses the term 'population growth' interchangably with immigration)
says on its website:

The impact of population growth is already manifesting itself  in many
undesirable ways.  Quite apart from the growing pressure on homes,
education, health services, employment, social welfare, water
availability, policing, energy demand, traffic congestion and the
environment in general, is landfill sourcing.  In the final analysis
Britain's capacity for creating rubbish is directly linked to

The lobbying of the small, but much quoted, pressure group Migration Watch
against immigration seems to be based primarily on the argument that it
will cause too great an increase in population (they recognise that
immigration is in the economic interests of the British population, while
claiming that the benefits are less than the government claims). Yet both
the BNP and Professor David Coleman, Migration Watch?s chief researcher,
argue that the solution to potential problems of declining  population in
Britain is for white British women to have more babies (see article by
Coleman on ?Replacement Migration?, published in the Galton Institute
Newsletter, March 2001). Their motivation for scaremongering about mass
immigration is based primarily on racist, eugenicist notions (see NOII?s
pamphlets on population and on eugenics), rather than on any threats to
the British environment. But they are not averse to making use of ?green?
arguments. The BNP, indeed, claims to be ?the only genuine green party?.

In the United States the Pentagon commissioned work by Peter Schwartz and
Doug Randall on the threat supposedly posed by environmental refugees,
entitled ?An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for
United States National Security? (October 2003).  Its conclusion is:

It is quite plausible that within a decade the evidence of an imminent
abrupt climate shift may become clear and reliable?  the United States
will need to take urgent action to prevent and mitigate some of the most
significant impacts? large population movements in this scenario are
inevitable. Learning how to manage those populations, border tensions that
arise and the resulting refugees will be critical. New forms of security
agreements dealing specifically with energy, food and water will also be
needed. In short, while the US itself will be relatively better off and
with more adaptive capacity, it will find itself in a world where Europe
will be struggling internally, large number of refugees washing up on its
shores and Asia in serious crisis over food and water...

It is (similarly) plausible that the motivations of the Pentagon for
publishing this report were its desire to make the case for more weaponry
and more armed enforcement of borders.

Resisting the politics of hate

The Green Party in Britain, not without some difficulty, has so far
resisted such pressures. Although it does not call for the immediate
abolition of immigration controls, and it seeks to define fair and
non-discriminationary controls (which we believe to be impossible), it
does have the abolition of controls as a long-term goal. Its policies on
migration are far in advance of the positions of the mainstream political
parties in the UK, and indeed are better than much that can be found in
many of the groups to the left of the Labour Party. The party?s manifesto
states that its vision is of a world in which conditions are such that
there is less pressure to migrate, and it states that:

The existing economic order and colonialism have both been major causes of
migration through direct and indirect violence, disruption of traditional
economies, the use of migrants as cheap labour, uneven patterns of
development and global division of labour.
The Green Party's highest priority is the creation of a just and
ecological world order in which environmental devastation is minimised and
needs can be met without recourse to migration.

Many, probably most, environmental activists have been very supportive of
migrants and refugees, and thoroughly sympathetic towards their struggles
and suffering and those of other deprived and vulnerable people. But they
have a battle to fight. And we believe it is problematic that some
environmentalists have lent their voice to the scaremongering about
millions of potential climate change migrants. They may do so not at all
because they approve of immigration controls or want more of them, but
because they believe that this could be a ?wake up call? to the ruling
classes of the world ? or in other words that the threat of mass
immigration would bring the impact of climate change home to where it is
being caused, and make governments do something about it. Such arguments,
we believe, although they are often well meaning, are dangerous. They give
comfort to the racists who, like the BNP, Migration Watch, Professor
Coleman, their supporters in the tabloid press and even the BBC, and
apparently also David Topple of Friends of the Earth, see immigration not
in reality as a threat to the environment, but primarily as a threat to
something called ?British identity?. The arguments reinforce the notion
that immigration is some kind of threat, rather than something to be
welcomed and supported. And, of course,  if governments came to accept
that climate change was forcing many millions of people to flee from areas
that became uninhabitable, their response, in current circumstances, would
almost certainly be merely to intensify the brutality of their immigration

The need for radical change

We believe that climate change will only be stopped if there are radical
changes in the way society is organised. We have argued in our pamphlet on
?socialism and immigration controls? that to get rid of immigration
controls probably requires the overthrow of capitalism. Much the same, or
more, applies to saving large areas of the planet from becoming
uninhabitable. It would involve changing the nature of production, getting
rid of the multi-national corporations and replacing them with socially
useful and planet-friendly activity. It would mean organising production
on the basis of democratic decisions about what people need and want,
rather than on the basis of making profits for private corporations and
creating  markets for their products (through advertising and through
making  products which have deliberately short lives and need to be thrown
away at frequent intervals, and so on). It would involve a dramatic
reduction in the consumption of the rich, so as to protect and enhance the
interests of the poor in the rich countries as well as in the rest of the
world. It is inequality not migration which is the problem. Matthew
Connelly, professor at Cornell university, suggested on the BBC?s Today
programme that if the British are worried about ?overpopulation? in their
country, they should export the bankers and the rest of the rich, and
import subsistence farmers. Getting rid of capitalism would not only be
good for the environment, but has the potential to create a far superior
society, one in which poverty and exploitation are eliminated and people
are free to lead fulfilled and happy lives. There is an internationalist
common cause to be fought for, between workers across the world.

Finally, it would of course be better if people were not forced, by the
actions of the rich and their governments and corporations, to take the
drastic and often painful step of migrating. There is perhaps one humane
way to reduce the need to migrate. This is for the rich countries to stop
making wars, to stop stealing the wealth of the rest of the world and to
stop destroying the climate through their excessive consumption and greed.
But all of us should have the basic human right of free movement, the
freedom to decide for ourselves where we wish to live and to work, and
equal rights wherever we live and whatever our national origins.

There is one atmosphere.  It knows no borders. Weather, climatic changes,
toxins are not governed by immigration controls. We all breath from this
one atmosphere but borders keep us apart and stop us addressing our common
global human problems.

the ankle bone, connected to the thigh bone ;)



the ankle bone, connected to the thigh bone ;)



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