I want to thank my colleague Dr. Pronoy Rai, who joined me on my Dispatch 7 podcast to discuss labor migration in India. I enjoyed hearing about how he does fieldwork with the migrants. Towards the end he talked about COVID-19, and how it’s impacting labor migrants in India now. You can find the podcast episode here.
Christine Armario has an outstanding article “I’ll walk in my broken shoes: Mom, daughter flee Venezuela,” which was just published by the Associated Press. In general, I try to avoid just sharing a link on this blog, because this isn’t a news aggregation site. Still, this article conveys the reality of what many Venezuelans are experiencing, as they escape a nation defined by starvation and hardship. Despite the fact that an immense amount has been written about this crisis, there is nothing like the human experience to grasp a process so immense it is difficult to fathom. As refugees flood into Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other states, Venezuela’s social collapse is having a political and social impact upon the entire region. In Brazil, I believe that it has pushed voters towards the political right, and is one factor that helps to explain the rise of Jair Bosonaro, who will likely be Brazil’s next president. The failure of the Worker’s Party to explicitly condemn Venezuela’s leadership has handed their opponents a powerful tool to damage their credibility. But all these political factors fade into the background when faced with the story of one desperate mother’s effort to bring her daughter to safety.
One aspect of cultural globalization is the movement of students amongst countries. Over the last few years I have noticed a strong trend as more of my undergraduate students ask me for letters of recommendation to apply to graduate programs in Latin America, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. In part, I believe that the rising relative cost of an education in the United States drives this trend. At the same time, just under a quarter of the students in our International and Global Studies department at Portland State University are international students. In my program, a discussion concerning migration will be shaped by the fact that there is often someone in the class who is either a refugee, or the child of refugees. This exchange is part of what makes higher education in the United States a cosmopolitan world.
I am very concerned that the travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States changes how our country is perceived as a place to study on a global level. If students are uncertain that they will be welcomed, why would they apply here instead of the University of Victoria in Canada or the University of Manchester in Britain? Sadly, we seem to be already seeing declining international enrollments at my institution, as this article by Stephanie Saul in the New York Times discusses.
Earlier on this blog I’ve talked about the evidence that the Syrian civil war needs to be understood in the context of a devastating drought, and the government’s inability to respond effectively. What is chilling, however, is what global warming entails for the entire Middle East and northern Africa. The recent Washington Post article by Hugh Naylor, “An epic Middle East heat wave could be global warming’s hellish curtain-raiser,” is a thought-provoking look at what this future might entail. In some respects, the future is already here in that nations in the region are experiencing record high temperatures, and a heat index that has reach 140 degrees in the UAE and Iran. Unfortunately, I no longer think that we can talk about preventing the worst aspects of global warming. It’s too late. The reality is that not only is global warming taking place, but also that the global community has waited too long to respond. The world is committed to a long course of climate change and sea level rise that will endure for centuries. Some of the arguments in Naylor’s piece are chilling: “A study published by the journal Nature Climate Change in October predicted that heat waves in parts of the Persian Gulf could threaten human survival toward the end of the century.” Of course, this will entail the massive migration of people from this region to Europe and Asia. Still, it would be a mistake to focus only on this region in isolation. Climate migration will be a key social, political and economic factor in global affairs not only for the lifetime of everyone who reads this piece, but also for their grandchildren. The impact will be particularly devastating in some areas, such as the cities of the Chinese coast, many of which (like Shanghai) will be largely flooded. In the United States, Zillo is trying to calculate impact the economic impact of rising seas to Florida. …
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the Syrian conflict, Europe has faced a wave of migration from the Middle East. One of the great achievements of the European Union has been the Schengen agreement, which creates open borders within the EU itself. As a tide of refugees has entered Europe, however, there has been a backlash, and many EU members are implementing what they call temporary border controls. For Greece, which is the typical entry point for migrants, many of whom come from Turkey, this represents a serious problem. If migrants or refugees are unable to follow the Balkan route to major Western states or Scandinavia, then they will remain in Greece, which lacks the resources to support them. The EU’s internal divisions on how to address this issue are creating serious internal tensions, at the same time that Britain is debating whether to exit the EU. To better understand the threat to the Schengen area, look at this map and blog post at Political Geography Now, which concisely describes the key issues involved.