Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Zombie Patrix Apocalypse

"“We recapitulate the conditions that create our fears, subconsciously wanting to relieve the original stress, but then we make the same bad choices, because of our conditioning, and so it goes, we have to do it again.”"

161: the number of countries in which environmental disasters, most of them due to weather-related events, have caused mass displacement of people since 2008.
27 million: the average number of people displaced by environmental disasters each year between 2008 and 2013.
350,000: migrants seeking entry into the EU in 2014.
200 million: likely migrant number seeking entry into the EU when the full impact of climate change is felt.
The Independent (London) 12 Sep 2015

(c) Marko Djurica/Reuters
Masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu Akbar across Europe. It’s an invasion that threatens our prosperity, our security, our culture and identity, far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders said this week. As the EU parliamentary council was debating how to react to the refugee crisis and scaling up its quotas, Wilders called the wave of refugees an Islamic invasion of Europe.” 
Up to 800,000 asylum seekers are set to be taken in by Germany by the end of the year. At the same time, Hungarian prisoners were rushed to the Serbian border to construct a massive fence, three meters high and topped with razor wire, to stop refugees from crawling over the previous, lower border fence. Shades of World War Z.

Buchenwald Gate: "To Each His Own."
Dramatic footage from television in Europe shows people at Hungary's main refugee camp being fed like wild animals. Crowds of men, women and children struggle to catch bread thrown out from trucks. RT-TV called it "Hungary's Guantanamo." Meanwhile, refugees who made it into Germany earlier in the year are being housed in the barracks of the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald, near Weimar.

On the opposite side of the country, Austria halted train service with Hungary due to 'massive overburdening.' Train services between Denmark and Germany were stopped by the state owned train operator, DSB, because of exceptionally tedious passport checks at the border. In southern Denmark, police shut off a section of highway to stop a march of a large group of migrants chanting "Sweden, Sweden," the Associated Press reported September 9th. Just to the east that day, some 300 refugees, including children, were seen entering Denmark on foot from Germany.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that since the beginning of 2015 about 500,000 people had come to Europe, mainly Syrians and Libyans. Half are children. He urged EU member states to "compulsorily" accept 160,000 migrants to residency within the EU over the next two years. Talk about band-aid approaches. 
Since 2012 more than 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes — 40% of the country's population. They joined 5 million Palestinians already in exile, and equal numbers of Afghans and Somalis. Last year 435,000 people asked for asylum in the EU and 136,000 were awarded it. The rest were deported or went underground.

Today we have a different category of refugees, they are not desperate, starving, poor and unemployed people. No, they are mostly people with average income who primarily seek peace. They need conditions for work and education and European governments must apply effort to this,” the head of Russia’s Federal Migration Service told journalists. 
In 2013 and 2014, over one million people fled into Russia from southeast Ukraine after the US and its NATO allies engineered the overthrow of government, installed a puppet regime and threw the country into civil war and chaos. As the armed conflict over eastern cities subsided, about 600,000 Ukrainians decided never to return home. Of this number 114,000 took part in the Russian program of resettlement and received material aid and a short track to citizenship.

In mid-June this year the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that in 2014 the influx of Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge put the Russian Federation in first place in the world by number of asylum applications.

In 2013 the number of people who fled their homes across the globe went over 50 million for the first time since World War II, a new UN report says.  Amnesty International blamed the UN for ineffective or delayed responses, but the UN is understaffed and underfunded and can do little more than issue warnings to belligerents that yet more refugees will be produced for every bomb they drop. 
You know, there are 805 million food-insecure people in the world, and we only reach between 80-100 million of them on an annual basis,” Ertharin Cousin, the chief of the UN World Food Programme, told reporters. In total, there were 51.2 million refugees and 33.3 million internally displaced people registered by the UN in 2013. Another 32,200 flee their homes every day. Whenever she is meeting with Obama or Putin, she said, she cannot bring up politics — it would be a waste of her time — she can only attempt to bring to their attention the need for more aid.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “You think migration is a challenge in Europe today because of extremism, wait until you see what happens when there's an absence of water, an absence of food, or one tribe fighting against another for mere survival." 

We may not need to wait long
"Syria was destabilized by 1.5 million migrants from rural communities fleeing a three-year drought that was made more intense and persistent by human-driven climate change, which is steadily making the whole eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region even more arid," says Richard Seager of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, who published a report in March on the role of climate change in the Syrian conflict.

"Syria is not the only country affected by this drying. Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Iraq and Iran are too. However the various social, religious and ethnic wars play out, in the coming years and decades the region will feel the stress of declining water resources."

Seager has also studied the Southwestern United States and what the future holds for that region. Drawing upon nineteen different climate modeling groups around the world, Seager and his colleagues concluded that the California drought is only the start of a new regime. “In the Southwest the levels of aridity seen in the 1950s multiyear drought, or the 1930s Dust Bowl, become the new climatology by mid-century,” they reported.

A recent study from the group, Organising to Advance Solutions in the Sahel, suggested that over the next three to four decades up to 200 million Africans are likely to be without sustainable food supplies. This assumes temperatures in the Horn of Africa and Levant rise only 5°C by 2050 and that population continues to grow from about 100 million now, to 300 million in 2050.

"It would be totally implausible to sustainably accommodate this scale of growth," said the report. 
"Without immediate, large-scale action, death rates from food shortages will rise as crops wither and livestock die, and the largest involuntary migration in history could occur."

The Patrix

“We recapitulate the conditions that create our fears, subconsciously wanting to relieve the original stress, but then we make the same bad choices, because of our conditioning, and so it goes, we have to do it again.”
Andy Langford is explaining The Patrix, his term for our cultural prison. He confesses to being middle class white anglo-saxon male, which means he was born to a certain degree of privilege, although just one generation away from mineworkers and growing up in Devonshire, and has often been back on the endless, deceptive treadmill, required of his social class, to advance out of poverty.

He gives the example of when he was a cigarette smoker and he would find himself wanting to quit but giving into another fag, then realizing he was breaking his vow, thinking of himself as a bad person, a chronic loser, and weak-willed. He mimics the slumped shoulders of a great weight bearing down on him as he lowers his self-esteem. 

“It's the oops moment,” he says, “that has the real power.” It is the point at which you have the first recognition that you are failing, that moment of cogent observation, that is the point at which there is an opportunity for intervention and change. Stub out the cigarette before you take a last drag, or descend into the downward cycle of internalizing your addiction with rationalizations and sublimations. The choice is there. What do you do in that moment?

We are in the Gaia University tent at the 2015 International Permaculture Convergence in England, and Andy is explaining his theory of The Patrix to a couple dozen permaculturists who want to know how it relates to climate change.

“We are very sensitive to being hurt,” he explains. Hurt can be emotional or physical but we are taught as children to put aside the pain and buck up, tough it out, stop wingeing, and grow up. So instead of healing the emotional pain on the spot by nurture, weeping, commiseration and other therapies, we internalize the pain and it festers. “It becomes a veil of distress, which later leads us to perverted behavior, such as requiring our children to fall into the same pattern, or institutionalizing it.” Our society becomes shaped, not by logic but by self-oppression. We take out our unhealed hurts on others. 

Thus the horrors of WWI lead to WWII, which leads to the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Operation Desert Shield, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. 

Andy says that climate change is, in a warped sort of way, the echo of our collective near-extinction experiences following supervolcanoes and meteor impacts. Some part of us still recalls that pain, and so wishes to recreate similar crises in hopes of healing our deep hurt from before. We have known for a hundred years what we are doing to the atmosphere. We have known since Malthus the inexorable math of population growth. We have known since at least the Club of Rome report in 1971 about the limits to natural resources and insufficient capacity of the planet to absorb our wastes. We ignore our knowledge — we become ignorant — in order to draw ourselves closer to another apocalypse.

We are fascinated with zombies. Scenes of mass-migrations rivet our attention.

He reckons that if we were willing, we could probably reverse 80% of this embedded hurt in twenty years. It would take a lot of re-evaluation counseling, and permaculture has a role to play. He invites people to contact him — — if they'd like to join this discussion. Generally speaking, we aren't moving in that direction at present, and so the climate crisis simply grinds away like compound interest on our damaged psyches.

And somewhere on the road to Sweden, another Syrian child whose feet ache and belly growls starts to cry and is told to be brave, to stop crying, to hold it in and move along.


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