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Extraeconomic systems to deal with African refugees

Europe is struggling with africans being shipped by human trafficers across the Mediterranean sea. Many lose their lives in rickety boats, and once in Europe they have to make money to repay the people that smuggled them here, or harm will come to their relatives at home.

Whether these people come here to find fortune or be free of war or prosecution, the response right now is not adequate. If they land in Italy they are now practically quarantined there, shipped back from France and Switzerland. Their ability to cross the channel to the UK is also being stemmed, also because they damage cargo passing through the channel tunnel.

The people themselves can be illiterate or engineers, usually this is not found out by anyone because most of them are not allowed to work in Europe. The potential for wealth wasted this way is obvious. In a society where so many jobs are lost because of automation (and more will follow), it makes no sense to claim that a few able africans cause to much hardship for Europeans. After all, if they work they create wealth, which benefits all.

In a ideal world one could dispatch some special forces to deal with the traffickers themselves, but the complexity of the network of criminals and corrupt officials that allow the human trade to go on may be underestimated. Too many people involved, too many eager to get involved, not enough governmental care, maybe even officials that see the trade as a nice source of additional income? Who knows. Even in the US the law enforcement system can be semi criminal (for example the ability of cops to take any cash you may have on your person without reason if they stop your car, a practice that is now being abolished).

Some politicians have stepped over the (send back/let enter) false choice by suggesting the refugees are send back with some assistance. This seems a great solution, because in a way it deals with the economic motive of many to flee. However such a plan would be sensitive to the same problems as every 3rd world aid program, and many of them have been unsuccesfull (except the ones that where covert subsidies to European companies).

But there is another crisis brewing in Africa, the climate crisis. Rainfall will drop 50% by 2020 in most of Africa, meaning widespread drought, problems for farmers, famine etc. The epically autistic Robert Zoellick, former World Bank CEO suggested africans stuck without irrigation would have to buy ‘rain index futures’, insurance against drought. First : Which poor farmer gets the idea to go insure his harvest this way? Second : Which insurere is stupid enough to insure for drought if the trend is predicted and shown to occur? Third : How do you feed half a continent suffering from drought even if you have your money (food prices would go through the roof) ? Supid, insane, irresponsible World Bank advice.

The african climate crisis will produce many more refugees than are already coming here, some of which are exactly that. Fleeing climate change however is a losing strategy. If arable land is destroyed and lost to the desert it has to be reclaimed, because it isn’t getting better, it is only getting worse. This is something Europe can assist in, and perhaps in doing so it can employ africans that where looking for a better existence in Europe. A project of climate resilient carbon sequestring development may even produce so much wealth that it can sustain itself without outside financial support.

It is naive to think one can simply start some kind of program in Africa, in any of its countries. It is also naive to think that one can simply recruit refugees to start a project. Short term there is a lot to do even in Europe for people that want to work. There’s endless farmland that lies fallow, recieving annual money to be plowed but not used. The plowing money goes directly into the pockets of the fossil fuel suppliers, and the land loses carbon from being exposed. Why not plant carbon sequestring biomass, trees on that land. Trees bring rain, so dry regions will see more rain and biomass in general. Silvopastural woods (ones meant for wildlife) can increase biodiversity and create a pool of CO2 neutral biomass (although this should not be the goal). The more we grow where we don’t have to grow food, the more perpared we are for climate change.

In Africa one could go down the routes travelled by refugees and look for places they might want to stay on their route. Of course one would have to deal with the traffickers as well. Countries like Niger should be assisted in creating centers of eco restoration, desert farming, even if it is a super dry desert. With solar energy this doesn’t have to be a pipe dream at all.

Renewables create new economic opportunities, ones we like to call Extraeconomic or Roboeconomic, because economics is about the “Maximization of utilization fo fossil fuels”. Extraeconomics is about creating a renewable based autonomous system including peope, food production and some kind of climate related service (carbon capture, biodiversity protection) without interacting with the world economy. These systems can exist in regions with economic activity, but they can also be set up soley based on the renewable energy resources.

Instead of viewing Africa as a lost continent and waiting for the millios of people to find their way to places that will remain relatively fertile (Europe will fare well initially) on can assist them in protecting them against climate change, while at the same time learning about extraeconomic systems and protecting the planet as a whole. There are even interesting export opportunites for Europes innovative horticulture industry. The driver can be renewables and the goal can be to create places where refugees can find opportunity without having to risk their lives..