Demographic doom

The ongoing massive migration is not a one-time media event; this is a historic turning point that we have only just begun to comprehend.

Migrants (photo credit: DAVID W. CERNY / REUTERS)
(photo credit: DAVID W. CERNY / REUTERS)
THE CURRENT wave of migrants flowing into Europe did not begin in 2015 and it will not terminate at the end of the year.
This mass migration of refugees is a global phenomenon that is reminiscent of other historical migrations, such as when the Jewish People went out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land or the movement of ethnic peoples that brought about the downfall of the Roman Empire.
The media is capturing footage of hundreds of thousands of people as they flee their homes and seek refuge in foreign lands. All this is so difficult to watch, perhaps because it reminds us of World War II and the tragedy the Jewish people suffered.
We are now dealing with the migration of between 300,000-800,000 war refugees, climate refugees, migrant workers who are leaving poverty-stricken Africa and the war-ravaged Middle East with the dream of reaching Western Europe. Some experts are connecting the dots between war, demographics and climate change. What they need to consider is that when these variables come together, they create a huge long-lasting atomic explosion.
The population growth that has occurred in the Middle East over the last 60 years has been unprecedented in the history of mankind, and the same can be said about population growth the world over during the last 80 years.
Already two decades ago, climate change experts began expressing concern over weather changes, but they did so mainly in theoretical terms. Today, however, we can actually feel the results, and the intensity of these changes will most likely continue to increase. The following is a list of ways in which we are being affected.
Demographics: The population in the Middle East and North Africa doubled over a period of 30 years (1950-80) and doubled again in even fewer years (28) between 1980 and 2008. Currently, about 1 billion people live in Africa and within one decade this number will increase by another half billion.
Is it plausible that we will be able to construct enough housing and infrastructure for all these people? Is it possible to maintain an infrastructure in Egypt for a population that doubles every 28 years? Of course not! In other words, the personal situation of each person in Egypt or sub- Saharan Africa will only deteriorate. So what are the people of Africa doing about this dire situation? Anyone who is young enough or whose life is in danger is leaving and seeking refuge in better places.
Climate change: And as if the demographic situation were not nightmarish enough on its own, we must understand that a rise in average temperatures by just one degree leads to a 30 percent increase in violence. Even if this claim is unsubstantiated, the direction of change is clear: Every upheaval in climate conditions (increased rain and flooding, or, alternatively, drought) leads to social upheaval and violence.
The two underlying causes for the current mass migration are rapid population growth and climate change.
Israel has been experiencing this phenomenon firsthand for the past decade.
The fence Israel built along its border with Egypt has, for the time being, put a stop to the infiltration of hundreds, thousands and maybe even millions of miserable Africans who are searching for a better place to live.
But Israel must not rest on its laurels, for the threat of invasion also exists across the border from Jordan, Eilat, the Mediterranean Sea and even Gaza.
EUROPE IS, of course, the most sought after destination, and the continent is currently receiving wave after wave of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
Physical fences and detention centers can in fact slow down the infiltration of refugees, such as has happened in Israel, but even the use of machine guns won’t stop the current mass migration. The bombing of ships and boats along the shores of countries of origin (Libya, Morocco and Turkey) has not led to a decrease in numbers of Africans trying to get to Europe.
During the 11th century BCE, a powerful climate change took place in the Middle East. In the words of historian Fernand Braudel, “the Middle East returned to the starting point of history.”
In the 4th century peoples from Asia began moving west toward Turkey in an attempt to reach Hungary and the Balkans.
In the 5th century a huge number of people migrated to Europe: the Huns, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks and Vandals. Most of the above-mentioned peoples moved due to a variety of reasons, but climate change was always one of the forces.
In the 7th century, Islamic horsemen rode up from the Arabian Peninsula and began settling throughout the Mediterranean Basin.
In the 11th century, the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea underwent a climate shock and warm Mesopotamia suffered cold waves. The Nile River dried up and the Egyptian people went hungry and thirsty. Entire tribes began migrating and, as a result, Fustat, the ancient Muslim capital of Egypt, was destroyed. Waves of people fled a cold front in Russia and Siberia, and moved toward Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
In the 13th century the Mongols arrived on the scene in Iraq and destroyed everything in sight. To this day, Iraq still has not completely overcome the shock from the destruction wreaked by Genghis Khan and Timur who followed him.
And now, back to the present. How many people do we estimate will migrate to a foreign land in the years to come? Four hundred million people currently live in the Nile Basin. The water in the Nile is drying up so quickly that even plans for desalination will not suffice. And so everyone who can is running away from there. How many can actually escape? Let’s assume that 100-200 million people can walk by foot toward Egypt and Israel, and then make it across the sea to Europe.
A huge number of infiltrators from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia have already begun this voyage.
Over the last two decades, 800 lakes in Africa have dried up. Under these conditions, and in conjunction with the rapid demographic growth, another 100-200 million people are expected to leave the African continent and its myriad conflicts and corrupt leaders.
There are 450 million people living in the Middle East, and another 80 million living in North Africa. Most of these people are living hard lives and would love to escape to somewhere else.
Let’s assume that only 20 percent actually do leave. That’s over 100 million people! If climate changes continue to wreak havoc and North Africa, the Nile Basin and the entire Middle East continue to dry up, then the numbers of migrants could double and then we would be faced with the largest movement of people that humankind has ever experienced. It’s possible that half a billion people or more will be on the move. Also, the Himalayan glaciers, the source of the six largest rivers in Asia, could shrink drastically, which would limit drinking and agricultural irrigation water for some three billion people.
What would happen to Europe in such circumstances? It will become a place unlike anything we have ever known in our lifetime. Perhaps it will no longer be Christian at all. Western civilization will have to make way for a different way of life. How many global wars will we fight as we attempt to stop this tsunami? Some 400-450 million people currently live in Europe, 25 million of whom are Muslims.
If even another 50-75 million Muslims migrate to Europe over the next twenty years, the continent will still retain a Christian character because the ratio of Muslim to Christian will be 1:3.5. However, the Christians do not have nearly as many children, so the percentage of Muslims among young people is constantly growing.
And how does all this affect Israel? Will Israel continue to survive as the only Westernized country in the region? If we want to survive, we will need to change the terminology we use and our priorities.
Terms such as liberalism, brotherhood, and peace will need to be replaced with words like survival, food independence, water desalination, determination, nationalism and maybe even cruelty.
This massive migration is not a onetime media event; this is a historic turning point that we have only just begun to comprehend.
The writer is professor of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Haifa University – Translated by Hannah Hochner