The Missing Ingredient in the Tamil Refugee Debate

August 28, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Tim Murray for this article.
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The Missing Ingredient in the Tamil Refugee Debate
490 good reasons are advanced to challenge the acceptance of Tamil boat-people but not one of them is ecological

Have you noticed? As could be predicated, the vast subterranean disgust and frustration with Canada’s dysfunctional refugee determination system has hatched out. Even the mainstream media failed in its mission to suppress popular anger and quarantine dissent to the margins. My goodness, even CBC Pravda had to acknowledge that not all is well in the Republic of PC Trendydom. As they discovered before with previous waves of “boat people”, it is difficult to keep a lid on a volcano of discontent. But what is disappointing is that none of the objections to the entry of Tamil refugees has been framed from an environmental perspective. Retired Canadian consul to Sri Lanka, Martin Collacott, among others, rightly raised the concern that many of the asylum applicants could be terrorists. Another voice, an academic, told the media that our refugee system was a shambles and that refugees need to be processed overseas in the camps, where superior judgments can be made. And Maureen Bader of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation correctly pointed out that refugee processing comes at an unacceptable cost. Some 490 Tamils will cost a minimum of $100,000 per person–or $49 million dollars in legal and welfare costs alone. Imagine if even a fraction of the world’s refugees were to make that trip. And we ain’t seen nothing yet. With climate change and the inevitable collapse of agriculture from the coming oil shock, civil strife, resource wars and dislocation that will follow at an unprecedented scale and the number of refugees will skyrocket. Think in terms of hundreds of millions. Do human rights advocates, clerics, and “progressives” really think that our lifeboat can be infinitely accommodating? Do they even know that we are living in a lifeboat? And if they do but they see it as a global rather than a national lifeboat, do they not understand “slosh dynamics”, that is, that any vessel can capsize if even a relatively small portion of its cargo, human or otherwise, shifts to one side?

Since several voices have spoken on behalf of the Canadian taxpayer and the need for public security, let me presume to speak on behalf of Mother Nature. She doesn’t distinguish between refugees and migrants. She doesn’t notice if they are legitimate or illegitimate, or whether they are skilled or unskilled. She doesn’t really care if they will assimilate into our culture or remain apart. Nor does their fiscal burden impress her, or their crime rate, for that matter. What counts for her is the fact that they and the chain migrants who follow them will impose an ecological cost. Initially, of course, it will not match the Canadian average. Migrants take, on average, a decade to climb up to the average Canadian income level, and accordingly, to average Canadian spending. But eventually either they, or their children and sponsored relatives, will mimic Canadian consumption patterns. This observation will be interpreted, as it always is, to use Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s pat phrase, “immigrant-bashing”. Wrong. It is immigration-bashing. There is a difference. No one would suggest that refugees or migrants invented our profligate life-style. But nevertheless they aspire to it—as those who came before us did. After all, that is why people migrate—to improve their lives. This is not a blame-game. It is about carrying capacity—a concept no longer fashionable even among some ecologists. After all, there is that old standby, “human ingenuity”—technological innovations, efficiencies and “planning” will ‘grow’ the limits–or so we are continually assured. These growth-apologists obviously never heard of the Jevons Paradox or the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, and remain blind to the failure of ‘smart growth’ strategies to contain sprawl or protect farmland and nature reserves. You just can’t keep population growth under wraps forever. You deal with it.

Critics will attempt to say that this argument is merely a smokescreen for a more sinister agenda. Anti-immigrationists are merely grasping at environmental straws to justify their despicable desire to keep Canada white and European. Racism has gone up upscale, they say—it is all a manifestation of the famous “Greening of Hate”—a drum they beat loudly to drown out politically inconvenient truths about sustainability and population stability. What if they are right? So what?

Let us suppose that I hate “people of colour,” or people of Asian or African heritage, or gays, or Muslims or people who wear funny clothes. Let us suppose that I am just an all round nasty guy— a hater, a misanthrope and a curmudgeon who drowns kittens and mugs little old ladies. But then suppose, that in addition to all of these horrid things, I pointed out that no ‘humane’, or ‘tolerant’, or ‘morally responsible’ policy can trump biophysical laws, and that a lifeboat can carry only a limited number of passengers. How does my contemptible character or shameful motives invalidate that fact? It doesn’t. Would we repeal the Law of Gravity if it was found that Newton had been “racist, sexist and homophobic’? But if you play the ad hominem game, focusing on hidden agendas and heinous motives works almost every time. Just ask Morris Sleaze of the Southern Poverty Law Centre and the ruling clique of the Sierra Club who resorted to his assistance. Emotion reigns supreme and allusions to historical injustice decoy attention from where it needs to be—on the number of consumers and what and how much they consume.

Even celebrities can be counted on to gang-tackle emerging questions about the limits to growth. Showcasing the ecological IQ of the typical Hollywood liberal, liberal icon Michael Moore, frump and folksy, told CNN host Larry King on July 27th that in future he would stipulate that his films not be shown in Arizona to protest that state’s “disgusting” immigration law, because “We are all immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants–unless you are a Native American or if you are African American, (and) you are either here originally or forced to be here… It’s a huge country, there is lots of room—have you ever driven across Kansas–it goes on forever….there is lots of room.” It sounded like a rendition of John Lennon on the Dick Cavett Show four decades before, when the pop star told his TV host that “it is a bit of a joke that overpopulation has been made into (this) myth….There is enough food and money to feed everyone….there is enough room for us and some can go to the moon anyway..” It seems that many have gone to Arizona instead—more than a quarter of a million of them illegally since 2000, and from his mansion in Torch Lake, Michigan, Michael Moore can’t see a problem with that. Forty years of ignorance and hypocrisy and American liberalism is still going strong, threatening to make the far right look relatively sane. Carrying the ball for the hypocritical left, Moore accused tea-baggers of serving the corporate agenda. But growing the labour pool by turning a blind eye to the avalanche of cheap immigrant labour by the non-enforcement of federal immigration law is an approach custom-made for ADM and the big corporations. Strange corporate bedfellows these liberals—or are they just Wall Street’s useful idiots? It is amazing that Moore manages to spout this nonsense while once offering support to Ralph Nader’s Presidential bid in 2000 and now to his latest political heart-throb, the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, since both politicians have made strong objections to an open borders position.. But who said Michael Moore was consistent? Attacking corporate tax shelters while using them to subsidize his films? Attacking corporate outsourcing while outsourcing production work himself? Praising European profit and power-sharing arrangements but denying union benefits to his disgruntled staff? The contradictions are many. For the record Michael, it is not how many people a country can contain, but how many people it can sustain. And if a Tea-bagger gets that and you don’t, he’s a smarter man than you, Gunga Din.

Despite the race-baiting tactics of the Green-Left McCarthyists, we must persist in making the ecological case against population growth—from whatever quarter it comes. It is about time that someone got up and told the environmental movement that refugees too have an ecological footprint, and that along with the rest of us, will compete for non-renewable natural resources that have, for the most part, already peaked and for which no substitutes exist. Their current numbers are but a trickle that issues from a cracking dam. When the dam bursts, a whole new set of ethics and priorities must be in place or the torrent of refugees will make refugees of all of us. We will need triage ethics—but before that realization can be publicly understood, we have to first introduce the concept of carrying capacity. We have to impart the bad news that the Long Emergency is already beginning to make itself felt, and that we can’t stay afloat with too many passengers on our side of the boat. If climate change is your fixation, and it is your contention that global warming does not respect borders, you need to appreciate that each migrant to our continent will roughly quadruple his Green House Gas (GHG) emissions upon settlement here. We cannot make amends for “climate injustice” by shifting tens or hundreds of millions to that sector of the globe that generates more per capita GHG—the very source of the displacement that guilt-mongers cite.

Meanwhile, we can and should help those desperately unfortunate people on the other side. How can that best be done within our capabilities? By the dramatically more cost-effective provision of resources to where they are most impactful—where people live, or to the closest regions where they must flee. But it must be conditional on the determined application of measures to restrain and reverse population growth, the unseen silent killer and prime mover of so much that captures media attention.

Tim Murray
August 18, 2010


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