The mainstream media are all over it: the "crisis of kids at the border" — children, not baby goats. Some outlets are joining in with the right-wing echo chamber to make this, finally something, into "Obama's Katrina."
In fact, the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors being sent norte has its origins in an obscure and well-intended law signed by President George W. Bush. You know, the one with the real Katrina. The situation has been made worse by corrupt Central American governments, our appetite for drugs and cheap labor, and federal austerity.
I will leave it to others to report more clearly on the children at the border — other than to note that the $3.7 billion requested by President Obama to respond to the situation represents 0.1 percent of the federal budget. But more than twice the annual federal support for beleaguered Amtrak.
My mission is different. It is to pose the question of what happens when climate change and all the disruptions it brings really kicks in? It is already at least partly to blame for conflicts and dislocation, such as the Syrian civil war. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
Human-caused climate change, especially if left unaddressed, has the potential to cause such damage on an overpopulated planet that any sober discussion risks sounding alarmist. So what happens when millions upon millions of the displaced huddled masses show up on the southern border?
I can't imagine a thinking person who disputes the settled science. But some cling to the positive outcomes. Faster shipping routes through an ice-free Northwest Passage! A warmer Arctic opened for drilling more oil! Championship golf on the melting permafrost (watch the methane traps)!
And — although rarely spoken — the conceit that climate change is something that will largely affect what was once called the Third World, brown and black folks. Not real Americans.
In fact, the tribulations of the coming years are likely to send the Third World to us. Massive movements of population would come not merely from rising temperatures, loss of food and water supplies, and increases in tropical diseases. Before those sources become clear, we and Europe and even Mexico would experience the consequences of more subtle destabilizations, as have happened in the Middle East.
The Republican scorched-earth policy on immigration was poisonous on many levels. It was hypocritical. It was racist. It was cynical politics to draw in the scared Anglos that wanted Des Moines in the desert. Perhaps worst of all, it made a real, highly complex and serious issue into another shrill GOPer trope. To be, unless you are a True Believer, dismissed or resisted with equal and mirror-image fervor.
In this, the Republicans once again prove to be the Party That Wrecked America.
Let me explain.
The immigration "issue" of SB 1070, the Badged Ego, Russell Pearce, Jan Brewer and countless election victories in Arizona was always bogus. Illegal immigrants were (and remain) essential to the state's economy, helping make the Anglo elite rich and giving average people cheap lawn care and housekeeping. And the pluses of cheap, malleable and fearful workers became apparent to companies nationwide. I have written about this before, including here and here.
Deportation was never going to happen for 12 million or 15 million illegal immigrants already here. Neither was "sweeping immigration reform." Fear of the brown people was too politically potent for the GOP to actually try to solve something.
The same thing is true for "secure the border." That means different things to different people. To the rubes in suburban Arizona, it means fences, minefields, a new Berlin Wall. The people they elect generally hold a more, well, situational approach. You don't expect a good God-fearin' Anglo contractor to pay union wages to citizens, do you? To the extent that SB 1070 has been implemented — and the reputation it has given Arizona — it has been devastating to the state economy.
(And yes, I am old enough to remember when the border was a line in the sand, as Cal would say. People came and went easily. That was a much less populous Southwest and Mexico. And no, we can't go back to 1491.)
But none of this means there aren't real issues surrounding immigration. For example, with 314 million people, a stressed environment, and an economy in secular stagnation, how many more workers can and should the United States allow via immigration? This is a discussion barely glanced at amid the hysteria about the illegals already here and making your goods and services less expensive.
Things get really dicey as 7 billion-and-growing earthlings start to be kicked around by abused Mother Nature.
This is why it's important to be keep most of the carbon in the ground through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, engage in aggressive research and conservation, seed new clean industries, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, rebuild our passenger-train system, enhance transit and build high-speed rail. Do all that — and yes, America acting alone if necessary is a great start.
And figure out intelligent, constructive aid for countries at risk. Again, we haven't even been thinking about this amid the meme that a bunch of Mexicans put guns to our heads and forced us to pay them below-legal wages for back-breaking work.
Some progressives take the attitude that all immigration is good, brings no costs; that immigration at any levels carries no risks or unintended consequences; that America should be prepared to fix every humanitarian trouble that arrives. This is lazy thinking caused in reaction to the hate of the right.
In fact, immigration, the economy, the environment, social justice and climate change are tied up together. America has become ungovernable. So that means we can't engage in thoughtful debate or responses.
Unless that changes, many bad things will transpire. Among them: someday the "crisis on the border" will be beyond imagining.