The Council on Foreign Relations released an annual survey recently which delineates potential international conflicts and hotspots. It's a good idea to take a look at all of them, but there's one of particular note that I want to expand on, as it's a big, evergreen issue in this country and I see problems on the horizon.
Before I do that, though, I want to point out what–perhaps surprisingly–the Washington Post pointed out: this survey drastically underplays the severity of conflicts in Africa, and elides some of the problems facing Afghanistan. As a sidenote, barely anybody is talking about the continued civil war in Myanmar, which followed the 2021 military coup–outshined as it is by a war amongst white people. We should be sending commensurate aid to those fighting against the Tatmadaw.
A lot of the puzzle pieces to these issues are ones we've addressed here, so they shouldn't be too shocking, but climate-fueled weather impacts have made famine conditions increasingly severe in the Horn of Africa region, where internecine conflict has killed thousands on thousands of people and many more are facing malnourishment and starvation. This is worsened by the more darling war in Ukraine, which has hampered the harvest and delivery of wheat across much of Africa and the Middle East.
I don't know how to put this more plainly, and I wish I could say it louder: this sort of thing is only going to get worse. In an increasingly hot, climatically-unstable world, tensions from lack of food and water will only increase, which will result in more conflict, which–if it doesn't directly impact the United States–will eventually impact us through immigration*. Which brings us to the main topic.
*As if we needed to be involved for this to be important. Which we don't.
Climate Change and Immigration
There are more problems with South and Central American governments right now than I have fingers, (and I have all ten despite my ax usage). When you add onto that the instability created by climate change, like the eventual disappearance of Peruvian glaciers (upon which farmers and infrastructure very much depend), an increase in immigration to the United States from these countries is all but certain. If we were a just nation, or one that even walks our mythic talk, this would be a problem but not a crisis. We're greedy hypocrites, though, so this is a big, big issue.
The Council on Foreign Relations calls the risk for a spike in immigration from Central America moderately likely, with a high impact. That doesn't mean it's certain, but considering most anyone you talk to would already say our southern border is in crisis means that this risk is disastrously high. Now, what they mean by crisis and what you and I may mean are likely two very different things, but here's the picture on the ground:
With multiple nations in states of near-collapse–Haiti, for instance, has been virtually taken over by gangs in the wake of political assassinations–and the hope for lenient policy out of the Dems, immigration numbers have been at staggering highs. Despite the presence of Biden in the White House, those seeking entry have not been treated much differently than during the Trump era, when liberals decried children in cages (that are still in use). Arrests and detainments at the border are higher than ever, Trumpian policies for limited immigration are still in place, and cities across the border are on high alert as the number of refugees swell. Immigrants, waiting for the chance to cross into America through Customs, are forced to live in shelters at best, or outdoors on the street as they wait their turn. There, they are at risk of predation from cartels and gangs, kidnapped, trafficked, and subject to the heat and cold of the Chihuahua Desert.*
With more intense heat, rainfall, and droughts all but guaranteed in the near future due to climate change, the number of immigrants attempting to escape their conditions and being stopped at the US border will only increase. No matter your personal politics, it's the unfortunate truth of the United States that most of its citizens feel some kind of threat from immigration already, and that will quickly change from concern to outright fear and misplaced anger as these numbers rise.
*I don't say any of this to knock on Haiti, or Mexico, or Venezuela. I am not trying to buy into simple stereotypes of any nation. These are complex places with complex problems and the United States is not free from its own, nor is it remotely guiltless in the creation of many of the problems facing other nations.
Eco-Nationalism and the Denial of Humanity
There is already a term for where we're headed with regards to our national and governmental sentiment for immigration: eco-fascism. But in order to delineate between the absolute depredation of the far right versus the cloying, sometimes-better-than-evil opportunism of centrists like Biden, I would propose we call what's coming under democratic leadership "eco-nationalism." Under this banner, dems and lesser-evil republicans alike will call for limits to immigration, asylum, and stricter border enforcement in the name of national integrity. They'll say that due to climate change–which we helped cause–we must build walls, erect barriers, incarcerate, cage, and expel people seeking shelter from a very real storm.
Policies like Title 42–and likely others worse to come–will kill people. They kill people now and they will kill more as conditions around the world worsen. One of the unsung illnesses of the climate change era will be particularly acute for people awaiting entry to the United States at the southern border, as extreme heat withers the kidneys of refugees and laborers exposed to the elements. Kidney disease is extremely burdensome, as it often goes unnoticed until in its final stages, at which point the person could potentially survive, but only with a kidney transplant or dialysis. As the nation's collective belt cinches, these services will be harder and harder for people who do make it into the country to come by, if indeed they are able to stay at all.
What this boils down to is that whether our borders are draped in American flags or rainbow ones, there will still be people with guns atop the walls. The violence a border inflicts outstrips whatever supposed protection it provides a nation. America has helped to engineer a world that is turning to tinder while we keep making sparks, and our government's answer to this problem is not to stop what we're doing, it's to do it harder.
If it hasn't become clear to you by now, what is done to the least of us will be done to everyone, eventually. The Imperial Boomerang doesn't just apply to colonizing techniques. We've seen time and again that norms, once broken, do not heal, and that this country is at once marching toward a kind of planned obsolescence of critical infrastructure as well as a police state. A heavily-fortified and militarized southern border will soon become all borders, and the jurisdiction of the CBP and ICE will be extended or made irrelevant. With each mounting threat, the government will have to infringe upon us–or outright persecute us–in order to maintain control. That's coming. The hard things go last.