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No human being is illegal?

New wave of asylum seekers could be coming our way

As the nation panics over a small number of asylum seekers, we're left to wonder how Australia will respond to the millions of anticipated "climate change” asylum seekers?  How are we to respond?

According to the Australian Greens, Australian society, culture and the economy has benefited, and will continue to benefit, from immigration of people from around the world.   We won't continue to benefit if immigration continues to drive our population growth beyond sustainable limits. The environment, and ecological forces, and Nature's devastating powers transcend humanitarian concerns and economic requirements of an economy that needs to be fed by constant growth. We still haven't, despite advances in science and technology, solved the limitations of nature, and we still can't harness extreme weather or reign in natural disasters.

The Australian Greens are being inconsistent with their environmental and climate change policies by supporting limitless population growth.

Australia's fragile food security

The Chief Scientist's report to PMSEIC (Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council Oct 2010) on food security, reported that we currently feed nearly 40 million people on top of our own 22.5 million. If our population grows to 35–40 million as planned, and climate change reduces food production, we can expect to see years where we will import more food than we export.

We can no longer rely on increased water, land and energy use to drive the transformation of food production systems.

The PMSEIC report suggests increased challenges to the important food exporting industry including land degradation, population growth, long-term climate change, competition for arable land in peri-urban areas, scarcity of water, nutrient and energy availability.

With the high level of foreign investment in agricultural production much of our food production is committed to overseas consumption. There are now a large number of properties owned by middle eastern companies using them as feed lots to prepare animals for the live stock export trade. WA is responsible for 50% of live animal exports. There is also feedlot livestock for export to Indonesia and the USA.

In 2008, following prolonged drought, our wheat exports dropped to nearly match the level of our domestic consumption. Wild fish catches are declining in Australian waters and productivity in the agricultural sector declining.

Status of Refugees – at present

According to the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention), a refugee is someone who is outside their own country and cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their:  This definition does not at present include those fleeing from climate change, overpopulation or natural disasters.

From the Australian Human Rights Commission webpage:
Governments have traditionally approached climate change as an ecological problem, or more recently, as an economic one. So far, the social and human rights implications of climate change have not been widely recognised .....As a signatory to the major international human rights instruments, Australia has an obligation to protect people against the threat that climate change poses to human rights. But the challenge is to develop a response to climate change that distributes rights and responsibilities equally.

...a human rights-based approach to policy development could, and should, be adopted to provide a standard for evaluating policy and resource allocation.

Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person with a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Environmental and climate change factors are largely irrelevant.  Will it be changed?

Surely there needs to be a lot more emphasis and policies, on "responsibilities" , not just rights.  There is a lot of talk and words related to "sustainability" and mitigating climate change, but little is being done in real terms, especially in Australia.

The Hon Tony Burke MP is Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. He is not a minister for Sustainable Population any more! There is a lot of use of the word “sustainable” but little action.

Australian Greens – “No human being is illegal”

The Australian Greens want an immigration program that is predominantly based on family reunions and other special humanitarian criteria as defined by international human rights Conventions.  They want migrants to be given access to a full range of culturally sensitive, appropriate health services including a comprehensive medical examination on arrival.

"No human being is illegal"

They are also lobbying for the planning for climate change refugees with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

It is vital that Australia needs to develop a considered, long-term approach to asylum seekers and refugees because many of them could be heading our way. 

Australian Greens Deputy Leader Senator Christine Milne thinks so. Australia is historically one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis. Whether we are legally obliged to or not, we certainly have a moral obligation to help those who climate change will hurt or displace. However, we are not responsible for their over population, their unsustainable environmental use, or their cultures that encourage fertility. 

Environmental refugees set to increase six-fold

Norman Myers of Oxford University has estimated climate change will increase the number of environmental refugees six-fold over the next fifty years - to 150 million. 
Australian climate scientist Dr. Graeme Pearman, has predicted that a 2°C rise in temperature would place 100 million people “directly at risk from coastal flooding” by 2100.

Asia Pacific region

Most of the 22 nations in the Pacific are low-lying atolls, with limited land space, small populations and little financial resources. More than 50% of Pacific Islander people live within 1.5 kilometres of the shore. They are all under threat of natural disaster and rising sea levels.

The Asia Pacific region is home to over 60% of the world's people, of which according to the United Nations two-thirds of whom live in extreme poverty. With such large proportion of the current population living in poverty, climate variability already has a significant impact on the health and livelihoods of people across Asia.

Climate change will exacerbate natural disasters, health problems and threats to water and food security.  It  will undoubtedly affect the lives of those who are without social and economic resources to adapt to the changes in climate.

At the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres- G-Magazine report , predicted that climate change will become the biggest driver of population displacements within the not too distant future. The numbers we're talking about are astronomical. His agency predicts between 50 and 200 million people to have moved by 2050.

A report suggests billions of people will starve by the year 2050 - ABC online , unless farm productivity lifts around the world. 

Food production must be lifted or many people could go hungry, and there is a lot of pressure on food industries and farmers to increase their efficiency and output.  Australian food security expert Professor Peter Langridge has similar views. However, there are limits to what Nature can continue to provide.

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Norman Borlaug – the father of the “green revolution”

Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his "green revolution" that revolutionised food security for millions of people and for many nations. In his acceptance speech, he warned the world in the clearest terms that his breakthrough had not tamed what he termed the "Population Monster". He merely bought us about 40 years respite in which to do something about it.

"Big Australia"

With bipartisan support for a "big Australia" and ongoing economic immigration, there seems to be little empirical or pragmatic difference between the Australian Green's altruistic and moral justification for population growth, and the demands of our capitalistic economic growth argument.

Is it because Australia’s political elite, including the Australian Greens,  can no longer say ‘NO’ to immigration or accepting asylum seekers?   Our sovereignty is not being given due respect, or being sufficiently honoured.

Our first priorities should be to the Australian voters, citizens, our descendants, and any obligations to help other nations should be primarily through aid, crisis assistance, providing skills ( not poaching them!), health and family planning advice, training towards permaculture farming.

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Floods and fires have rendered many people homeless and carrying debts for useless properties. Insurers are raking in money from these situations. It is obvious that disaster is good for big business (which governments invest in) and bad for small business and ordinary people, about whom governments and political parties seem to care very little.

We don't need to go overseas to find climate refugees. That is the irony.

I recently received an email about the huge disparity between the vast amount our government gives to overseas disaster aid compared to the quite small amount that it gives local disaster victims. The figures were striking. I didn't republish it because I did not want to appear to endorse begrudging disaster aid to anyone and because most disaster aid finishes up in the construction industry's pockets. This is a really hard area to find solid ground in.

Sheila N

Italy has declared a humanitarian emergency after thousands of asylum seekers sailed across the Mediterranean Sea from Tunisia, overwhelming authorities.

People have come from nearby Tunisia, in the wake of the country's revolution recently. A brewing famine is an advantage for Islam as they will be able to immigrate to Europe and call "racism" if they are denied. This is despite high unemployment in Spain and Italy already. Food riots going on in countries like Egypt will mean access to Europe and more opportunities for immigration.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen famously said that famines do not occur in well-run, democratic countries. The same is almost always true for cholera epidemics.

Thirty years ago Amartya Sen wrote a report showing famines were not caused by a shortage of food. He was 10 during the Bengal Famine of 1943.

He said that many human beings, if not most, could survive on 15% less food than they ate the year before (easier for some of us than others). People die of starvation only in areas with no free media.

Mr. Sen said his writings on famine frequently noted the problems India has had in feeding its people, and he was baffled by the amount of attention his comments about famine and democracy had received. Mr. Sen's views about famine and hunger were reviewed by Dan Banik, an Indian-born political scientist at the University of Oslo. He found 300 starvation deaths in six months in India in the desperate Kalahandi region of Orissa. Mr Sen said there has not been a large-scale loss of life since 1947, only small numbers - not hundreds of thousands of deaths!

The Indian government has a national network of ration shops, but they have been undermined by widespread corruption and distribution bottlenecks.
During the Bengal famine Mr Sen experienced as a child, he found that food production in Bengal had not declined. Rather, food prices had soared while farm wages had sagged, making it hard for rural workers to buy food. Even more recently in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, Mr. Sen found that they, too, were caused not by food shortages but by lagging rural incomes.

Today Ethiopia is democratically governed, but as many as six million people remain dependent on food aid from abroad. In August 2008, the head of the dictatorship in Ethiopia flatly denied the existence of famine. There are millions of fertile hectares of land under “lease” or sold outright to foreigners to feed millions continents away when millions of Ethiopians are starving. Foreigners in democratic countries?

Belief and adherence to democracy is no cure-all for problems like hunger and illiteracy.
Overpopulation may cause poverty, hunger and water shortages.
Overpopulation may cause violence and war.
Overpopulation may cause refugee flows.

Democracy may not be enough to protect us from famine any longer.

We can't negotiate with our planet. Earth is a bounded sphere, and human population growth and consumption growth will eventually be reined in. We must give up at least some human rights if we are to avoid nature's solutions to overpopulation - famine and disease and conflict over limited resources.
In April, 2009, head of dictatorship Zenawi gave an interview in which he openly admitted that famine is rearing its ugly head once again in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa.

According to Sen, such a thing would be unthinkable in a functioning multiparty democracy!

International organisations, politicians and the media talk about “food insecurity ”, “food scarcity”, “food insufficiency”, “food deprivation”, “severe food shortages”, “chronic dietary deficiency”, “endemic malnutrition” and so on just to avoid using the FAMINE word.

Maybe part of the reason why democracies avoid wholesale famines is their ability to compromise and exploit overpopulated and developing countries corrupted by lack of leadership.

Amartya Sen believed that a country need not force upon its people the concept of family planning. In Kerala, a state in India, he says, democratic discourse has helped bring down fertility rates. It has had a dramatic fall in family size, lowest birth rate, low infant deaths, and the women outnumber men. It has adopted a holistic approach--commitment to reading and writing, female literacy, good health care, better working conditions, supply of food to school children. As a result fewer children die; families are also smaller. Yet, Kerala has the highest unemployment rate and morbidity rate (suicides, tension, heart attack).
People above the poverty threshold have long since realized that two kids are just enough.

There is more complexities today than lack of democracy and corruption.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index hit an historic peak in January, protests against swollen prices seemed to erupt together across disparate corners of the developing world. Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, India, Mexico and Bolivia have all experienced turmoil. If climate change starts to affect agriculture, that would have bigger consequences beyond food security, disrupting the economy itself. Egypt is the biggest importer of wheat and it's not going to produce its own, yet their population continues to climb.

Read more: Food shortages caused by global warming may be cause of world-wide unrest - Whittier Daily News

We have climate change, population peak, peak oil, depletion of soils and limited potable water all converging this century. Food supplies grow slowly, Malthus said. But consumers multiply like rabbits. A geometric progression outstrips an arithmetic one every time.

Every scene of malnutrition and starvation revives the old Malthusian fear. Even if the planet can carry another 2.3 billion people, the equivalent of another India and China, where will the food come from?

A problem in a lot of this analysis is the confusion of democracy with capitalism. The USA seems to use the two words interchangeably and to treat corporate invaders as missionaries for democracy, when all they are doing is forcibly marketing the religion of consumerism. The public in the so-called democracies thinks that 'choice' is a 'human right' that is protected in Australia (read the Human Rights Inquiry). "Choice" has been marketed this way by commercial interests. Democracy has also been marketed by commercial interests. Why do we fall for it?

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Consumer "choice"

In truth, much choice that consumers should rightly expect in a competitive market does not exist.

Why is it that it is impossible to buy high technology devices that have standardised parts[1] and in which all the parts are durable beyond only a few years? Why is it that so many computers and peripheral devices are very hard to run to their full capacity or at all without and which don't depend upon the installation of expensive proprietary mostly Micro$oft proprietary software?

All this is what many consumers would want and should be easily possible within the technological and financial capabilities of manufacturers, yet nearly all choose not to and force consumers to buy computers which can be rendered useless by the loss of a small part which is very hard and expensive to replace and which are only expected to last a few years.

If the theory behind our supposed 'free market' competitive system causing consumer needs to be better met had any substance, then consumers would easily be able to buy good quality, durable and simple-to-operate high technology equipment. The fact that they are not able to can only be explained if manufacturers must have colluded to the point necessary to ensure that none offer such products to their consumers. (See also article by Sheila Newman Supermarkets acting as a cartel against farmers, cows and the rest of us.)

Democracy confused with capitalism?

I can't see where Vivienne Ortega has confused democracy with capitalism. Certainly, contrary to the Cold War propaganda that we were fed for decades whilst 'Communism' was seen to pose a threat to capitalism, 'capitalism' and 'democracy' aren't the same. (They should not be mutually exclusive either, but in practice, they usually seem to be.)

I find it striking how little 'democracy' is discussed by the mass media these days other than when it, of political necessity, describes our system of government as 'democratic'.

Rarely do we find the term 'democracy' used in articles or commentary habitually produced by our media in praise of our political leadership for making 'tough' decisions against the known wishes of their fickle constituents, the most striking of which have been the privatisations of publicly owned assets, almost invariable opposed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion-- Telstra, Government owned, Insurance companies, Government owned banks including the Commonwealth Bank, government owned electricity generators, public transport, etc.

In fact, nearly every such 'tough' decision has been demonstrably harmful to the public interest and economic efficiency.

If Australia had been run in a truly democratic way for the last four decades, there can be no doubt that much more would be still owned by the Australian people, we would be more prosperous, there would be little poverty (and much more of our natural environment would have been preserved).


1. Admittedly, standardisation would be hard to achieve in a true free market system and would, in fact, require collusion, even if a more benign form of collusion, amongst manufacturers. This is one field in which government regulation would obviously benefit consumers and make our economy more efficient. (In fact, German manufacturing is standardised today because of decisions made by Hitler. For all that man's monstrous crimes against tens of millions of Europeans, he should at least be given credit for that.)