Sunday, September 6, 2015

The 2015 refugee crisis and the complicity of far too many academics

What upsets me, as an academic, is that a minority of writers have been predicting things like the current refugee crisis, reflecting desperation in many developing countries since at least 1960, and yet in the 1980s they got sidelined, essentially by people loyal to a "market forces know best" view of the world. I don't know if it is now too late, or not, to change the world in ways that reduce this desperation. But a revolution within Western academic thought is needed, even if it comes too late to be of much help. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s most complacent Western politicians and societies could turn, if they wanted, to mainstream academic literature which claimed that everything was getting better, via market forces. That surely has to change. "Business as usual" will not see steady improvement for most people. Fundamental changes are needed and it's a really difficult route. But more of the same is even worse.

It would be possible to assemble a collection of desperate images, but this one will suffice for now: Its shows a refugee from Guinea hiding under a car bonnet. Note that the caption in The Age likens this to smuggling from East Berlin, but that is a few kilometres. This refugee is reported as from Guinea. He may have hoped to cross thousands of kms hidden that way.

See my forthcoming blog on the "Cornucopian Enchantment" for more references, also my PhD thesis: "Inequality and Sustainability" published in 2002. See especially, Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg and D Gale Johnson, as examples of complacency. See Paul Ehrlich, Maurice King and Tony McMichael as counter-examples; far more rational and realistic views shared too by Frank Fenner, though Frank published little on this. See also the Rockefeller Foundation/Lancet commission on Planetary Health.

This refugee crisis could herald civilisation's collapse, but it could presage an awakening to the reality of limits to growth and the associated reality of human carrying capacity. We must not lose hope.