Researchers and workers in the field of development have known for several decades that the best and surest way to reduce birth rates is to improve the condition of women. To give them more opportunities, more education, and more power over their own lives. When women can choose, they choose to have fewer kids. In an overpopulated world, that is a good thing.
The irony is that societies that respect women and treat them fairly are losing the demographic contest. They are having fewer babies. Too few. The population of progressive, liberal countries is declining. Societies, or social groups, that don't recognize the equality of women-- in fact, treat women as little more than male property-- are booming. The Middle East has the highest birth rates in the world. Iraq, for instance, has 4.5 births per woman, compared to the world average of 2.5 (2.1 is needed to maintain population). Iraq's population is expected to triple in size by the end of the century, to over 100 million. In Yemen, another country troubled by civil war, the birth rate is even higher.
The 'Arab Spring' is fueled by the stagnant economies and booming populations of the Middle East and North Africa. Their youthful societies-- especially when so many youth are underemployed-- are part of the reason the region is so violent. It is not a coincidence that Yemen and Iraq-- the two countries with the highest birth rates in the region-- are embroiled in civil war. (Yes, the American invasion is also to blame in Iraq.) Improving women's rights is vital: it would reduce the population surge, release some of the economic pressure, and lead to more stable and peaceful societies. But the politics of the region is moving in the other direction, towards less liberal, more 'Islamic' attitudes towards women. Women are losing what few rights they had. This will only make the population crisis worse.
Meanwhile, birth rates in North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, and other countries where women have equality are declining. In Latin America, too, it is dropping. In Brazil, it is now only 1.9 births/woman, about the same as the U.S. rate. Without immigration, Brazil, like the developed world, will begin to decline in population. Why are birth rates falling in Brazil? Urbanization and less poverty are factors, but the main reason is that young Brazilian women are better educated and more assertive than older generations of women.
Perhaps this is why matriarchal societies of the past-- assuming they are not mythical-- lost out to patriarchal societies. They simply did not have as many children. If so, we are seeing history repeat itself in this century.
Now, already, I have made some people angry. "It isn't a 'European' crisis!" "It isn't a 'crisis'!" "They aren't 'refugees'!"
Well, whatever your terminology, I am referring to the influx of migrants into Europe (mostly).
First, let's clear up a few misunderstandings with some pertinent facts: first, while many of the migrants are from Syria and Iraq, and therefore can generally be considered 'refugees', two of the major contributors are Kosovo and Albania, and many more are coming from Africa and even as far as Bangladesh.
So let's look at just the Syrian and Iraq refugees. Under the UN convention on refugees, UN member states have a clear duty to give shelter and protection to refugees. They do not have to give them permanent homes, though. Or citizenship. Which creates a dilemma, since no one expects the Syrian and Iraqi refugees to return to Syria or Iraq. This is a different situation from the millions of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, who everyone expects to return, and where there is not the slightest attempt at integrating them or setting them on a 'path to citizenship'.
I think the solution is to have processing centers in Turkey, or the Greek islands, where most of the refugees come through. All migrants who are not considered refugees should be refused entry into the EU, or if they have already arrived, sent back. Europe probably cannot accept all refugees, but those that are accepted should be given a visa for the destination host country, and allowed to pass through intermediate countries on their way there. All EU countries should be asked to accept a quota of refugees.
For example, the Bashar family, from Syria, arrives in Patmos, Greece. They are interviewed, deemed to be legitimate refugees, and given visas for Sweden. They are given rail vouchers to pass by European railways north through intermediate countries, where they will show their Swedish visas and be granted passage. They might also be given food vouchers, if they are poor. They cannot stay more than 2-3 days in any intermediate country. Alternately, if they can afford it, or a charity pays for it, they can fly to Sweden.
The host country has the right to screen refugee applicants, of course, so each EU country can, if they wish, have their own interviewers at the processing centers. Or they can ask EU interviewers to do the screening for them.
Non-European countries, such as Canada, the US, Australia, etc., should set up processing centers as well.
In return, refugees should be asked to sign a pledge that they will respect the laws and traditions of the host country. This means that they will not ask for any special privileges as Muslims, they will not wear any face coverings, and they will not support extremism. They will try to find employment to support themselves in their new country, and they will learn the language (Swedish, German, etc.).
Managing the refugee situation will be difficult, and no solution will be perfect. I think that it can be handled more effectively and humanely, however.
Both refugees and the people of the host country will have to make adjustments to live together. The refugees, however, because they are a minority and newcomers, will have to make the biggest adjustments. They should be prepared to accept that they will have to change to fit into their new homeland, rather than demand that their new homeland change to suit them.
The narrow road to the school I take every day, but that is where I always stopped. At the school. Beyond the next bend I had never been. So today, at lunch-- we have a long lunch-- I turned my bicycle that way, and went right instead of left.
Sometimes the road ahead is much like the road behind. But sometimes there are surprises. Turning that corner beyond the school I found myself, quite unexpectedly, in a small village! Like many Chinese country villages it was a mix of ancient tile-roofed homes, built during the Qing dynasty, and just-finished or not-quite-finished styleless modern mansions by the nouveau riche. There was an old man cutting another old man's hair, outside, in an armchair in front of his house. There were chickens strutting beside the road. Someone frying lunch in a big wok on an open fire. Well, I'd seen all that before.
Beyond the village, turning another corner, suddenly there was a weird, multi-leveled tower, and then just in front, a gate with painted columns and mantel above. The paint was eroded, and indecipherable, yet looked somehow religious. A church? A temple? Or just some old villa from a century ago, fallen into disuse? I couldn't tell. I was able to peek inside though, to see a perfectly trimmed lawn, and buildings in much better repair. I will have to go back some other time to investigate.
Finding no restaurants, though, I turned around and headed back down the more familiar route. I stopped in the shade of some tropical trees, birds singing overhead, for an iced coffee and a plate of baozi (steamed buns stuffed with meat). The breeze swayed the branches above and rustled the leaves as I read my novel and ate my lunch, feeling just a little bit sleepy. Ah, life!
With new advances in DNA tracing, anthropologists have made some surprising discoveries regarding past migrations. These include traces of apparently Polynesian DNA in a group of aboriginal (pre-contact) people in Brazil. How this particular group, which lived far to the east of the Andes, could have Polynesian ancestry is a mystery. The anthropologists have not been able to advance any theory that they themselves are satisfied with. Which leads me to wonder if maybe the science is flawed. I don't mean that the sampling was done in an unscientific way, but rather that the same mutation which arose among Polynesians, and is considered a marker of Polynesian heritage, might have happened independently in South America. In other words, it may be nothing more than coincidence.
Similar coincidences may explain other apparent genetic relationships which are hard to explain historically, between groups on different continents with no likely contact with each other. As more DNA sampling occurs, such coincidences are likely to appear with ever greater frequency.
Yes. I have returned to my 'second home.' Fortunately, we have found a truly gorgeous place to live, called Zhuhai. The campus where I live and work is in a valley surrounded by forested hills. Everyday I ride to work past bamboo thickets and swaying palm trees. There are beaches not far away. It's lovely.
And there is a McDonald's and Subway on campus. Pizza Hut and Starbucks are a little further away...
It's unfortunate that I'll miss the birth of my sister's first child, and Thanksgiving. Well, there's always a trade-off, I guess.
Ironically, with all the sites that are blocked, I now have Firefox again, which means I can write in my blog! So I expect to do a lot more blogging in the days ahead.