Friday, July 29, 2011

The Future of Migration

The author contends that the future of Global Migration is governed by the laws of physics and that the flow of information, knowledge and education across borders will inevitably be followed by a flow of human skills on a global scale.
This scenario is based on the physics of the Least Action Principle, which postulates that any dynamical process, whether the trajectory of a ray of light or orbit of a planet, follows a path of least resistance or one which minimises the 'action' or overall energy expended.

Physicist Richard Feynman showed that quantum theory also incorporates a version of the Action Principle and underlies a vast range of processes from physics to linguistics, communication and biology. The evidence suggests a deep connection between this principle based on energy minimisation and self-organising systems including light waves, information flows and natural system topographies, such as the flow of a river.

Information is now flowing seamlessly to every corner of the planet and its populations, mediated by the Internet and Web; reaching even the poorest communities in developing countries via cheap PCs, wireless phones and an increasing variety of other mobile devices.

Half the population of the developing world in Asia and Africa now have access to the Web via inexpensive mobile phones. Individual local farmers and small businesses increasingly use them to transfer money, track commodity prices and supplier deliveries and keep in touch with relatives and their community. They are also the ideal medium for transferring knowledge as the basis of the education process.

In sync with the flow of information and knowledge there is now a global flow of educational material online including open access courseware resources. Courseware is a critical resource already offered by a number of prestigious tertiary institutions including- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and Harvard, in addition to free knowledge reference sites such as Wikipedia.

The trend-lines in this open learning revolution are already evident and will become pervasive in the near future. They include online 24 hour access to the Web, open content via free courseware, and real-time wireless web delivery; making it much cheaper and easier for the flow of knowledge to reach previously illiterate societies and communities, particularly as a generational shift takes place.

At the same time the human learning process is being driven by the need to adapt to a fast changing work and social environment, to provide ongoing support for society’s needs in the new cyber-age. This shift in turn is being driven by the increasing rate of knowledge generation providing new opportunities.

By 2030 the full power of the Web will be deployed towards this new paradigm. At the same time work practices will become increasingly fluid, with individuals moving freely between projects, career paths and virtual organisations on a contract or part-time basis; adding value to each enterprise and in turn continuously acquiring new skills, linked to ongoing advanced learning programs.

And so by 2040, the flow of information followed by the continuous flow of educational courseware, together with improvements in standards of living, will have largely eliminated the inequalities of skills and training that currently exist between developed and developing nations.

The Action Principle will finally allow the developing world to achieve equal status with the developed world in terms of access to knowledge, training and the realisation of human potential and facilitate the free movement of human workers and their families between workplaces globally.

Already there is a large transfer of skills between countries like India, with a vast pool of engineering and computer science graduates, and the West’s need for such skills. This may be in the form of virtual outsourcing or physical transfers of a skilled labour force on short term contracts. The same process currently operates between EU countries to fill capacity shortages on a regular and continuing basis.

At the same time as the information/education/workflow convergence is occurring at a worldwide level, two other major drivers of global migration are accelerating - global warming and global conflict.

Planet earth is now reaching a catastrophic tipping point, where it is realised that humans have probably left their run too late to limit global temperature rise to the maximum safe 2 degrees centigrade and atmospheric carbon levels to less than 450 ppm.

The evidence is starting to become apparent from a number of sources. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets and mountain snows feeding the major river systems in Asia and Africa, the disintegration of the northern tundra threatening the release of vast amounts of methane, the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, disruption of most ecosystems including the coral reefs and tropical forests, ocean warming, threatening the phytoplankton base of the food chain, and increases in extreme climate related events- droughts, floods, rising ocean surges in coastal areas, tornados etc. These are already threatening to overwhelm even the wealthier nations’ capacity to rebuild damaged and obsolete infrastructure.

Rampant global warming will inevitably lead to major disruption of the world’s food and fresh water supply chains, seriously affecting at least half the world’s population. This will result in vast migration movements as the rivers and food bowls of China, India and Africa dry up and deadly tropical diseases such as the malaria and dengue fever, spread.

In turn these factors will result in increasing social chaos and conflict unless managed on a global basis.

To stabilise the situation, the 1951 UN convention on refugees will need to be strengthened and expanded to establish a world humanitarian body with the powers to override national sovereignty and mandate the number of climate and conflict refugees that each region will be required to accept, according to capacity and demand.

Migration has always been a routine way of coping with floods and droughts going back to the earliest civilisations, when there were few borders and the numbers affected were trivial in comparison with today’s 7 billion population and its vast infrastructure.

The magnitude and frequency of environmental hazards is now beginning to place enormous pressure on the capacity of many communities to survive. The recent IPCC / Stern Review of the economics of climate change estimates that climate refugees will reach 200 million by 2050.

An idea of the coming wave of human migration can be glimpsed from a sample of recent natural disaster statistics, which do not include earthquake, volcanic or tsunami events.

Mexico was a source of 1 million environmental refugees a year during the 1990s with increased hurricanes and floods also the root cause of its economic crisis.

Large-scale government enforced relocation programs in Vietnam and Mozambique moved hundreds of thousands of people to cope with worsening floods and storms in 2000.

Six million environmental refugees in China have been created by the expanding Gobi desert. Migration in China and India has also been greatly amplified by development of projects such as China’s Three Gorges, which displaced 2 million people.

The 1998 monsoon floods in Bangladesh covered two thirds of the country and left 21 million homeless.

In 2008, floods following the Burma cyclone forced hundreds of thousands to flee, with little assistance from the Burmese junta.

In 2010, record monsoon rains in Pakistan caused the Indus River to burst its banks, causing millions to relocate.

Although most of these events created internal rather than external migration, it is unlikely that this will continue to be the case, with rising temperatures forecast to force tens of millions to move from tropical to more temperate regions, due to ongoing droughts over the next twenty years.

There are also an increasing number of conflict refugees from autocratic and despotic regimes and failed states. Tribalism and fear and suspicion of the ‘other’ is still strongly embedded in the DNA of human evolution, leading to scapegoating of migrant groups in tough economic times. Examples include Muslim harassment in Christian countries, Neo-Nazism in Europe targeting African refugees and inter-religious conflict in Asia and the Middle East.

The refugee diaspora has greatly expanded in conflict zones across the globe over the past two years, driven by upheavals in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast, as well as persecution of ethnic minorities in China, Burma and Bhutan. Criminal violence, as now endemic in Mexico, is likely to add to this misery.

It is estimated that almost a million people are smuggled and trafficked across international borders each year, using increasingly sophisticated methods by criminal organisations linked to a range of other crimes- identity theft, corruption, money laundering, and violence ranging from debt bondage to murder- earning of the order of $10billion.

By 2030 mounting humanitarian crises are likely to make assistance to all climate and conflict refugees mandatory as it is realised that a piecemeal national approach will result in far worse disruptions to society in terms of the uncontrolled spread of violence in a very unstable time.

Any country that avoids its international obligations and attempts to free ride the system will be ostracised and severely sanctioned.

Europe already contends with a growing number of refugees from North Africa, which include economic, climate, disaster and conflict refugees, but with the upturn in Middle East violence and difficult economic times is battling xenophobia in its member states.

By 2040/50 most of the new migration infrastructure will be in place and communities will have to adjust accordingly. In an already largely globalised multicultural world where most nations have already accepted other cultures for several generations, even if begrudgingly, this will not be as revolutionary a development as many might expect.

It is therefore likely that the paradigm of controlled but flexible migration worldwide will cease to be controversial, endorsed and managed under the auspices of the UN, as a globalised One Planet philosophy gains traction.

It will be the only solution capable of managing cross border refugee flows in a time of looming climate disruption, but also the most economic means of allocating valuable human resources in a globalised educated world to areas of greatest need, as humans fight to save their planet.

No comments:

Post a Comment