Climate Change Refugees
The refugee tsunami flowing onto Greek shores is the first wave of climate change migrations likely to occur as a result of increasing global warming -- Syria experienced an acute 10-year dry spell, bankrupting farmers, and contributing to ethnic tensions and civil war. Canadians should learn how to respond because climate change is happening, and parts of this planet will be evacuated. Otherwise, we may elect a Donald Trump to keep refugees out by building walls.
Greek volunteers make food for refugees inside Moria, a Greek refugee camp for about 3,000 people on the island of Lesbos. And international volunteers, like my family from Vancouver Island, come to help them. Our Greek friends start cooking in an open area with many hungry families and bored young men, no crowd control except shouting, under a hot sun with no shade.
I decide, nervously, to organize the men's food line, and keep it separate from the women's.
I place my 69-year old body between the two seething sweaty conga-lines converging at the food table; raising my clasped hands in, I hope, the calming position of a buddhist monk. It's chaos from the get-go: aggressive pushing, kids running between legs, repeated misunderstandings regarding the cultural concept of "queuing".
Young men jump the queue, tempers flare, old ladies give reproving glances, kids gleefully avoid my simple instruction of "Wait!" I see real ethnic hostility, glaring eyes, flying fists. But unexpectedly, I have a six and half foot Pakistani helper who throws out some rowdies.
Hey, these young men are full of testosterone, many experiencing huge personal loss and suffering; only to find themselves cooped up with nothing to do. Under these circumstances, I too would be rowdy.
I am surrounded by yelling and a multitude of strange swirling faces, from Somalian to Syrian. For several hours, I sway and sweat between the two wavy lines; maybe exerting a calming effect. Maybe.
Where are those PhDs in human migration policy? Where are the trauma consellors?
I do admit to being angry immediately after this exhausting exposure to chaos. But my wife Margaret and I talk our way to composure, taking deep breaths in the meager shade of the prison wall.
On leaving, I see workers whitewashing that same wall. Just the right soothing metaphor, I thought, to match the camp commander's preparations for the Pope on his arrival the next day.
The shores of Lesbos - much smaller than Vancouver Island - received an unbelievable half million refugees this past year. Wrecked rubber boats litter its beaches. My son Roan uses his strong body to cut them up and carry them to disposal areas.
In my village of Scala Sikamenaes, a Greek fisherman named Stratis Valiamosis humbly rides by us on a bicycle. He is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. How great is that?
Governments, including Canada, are failing to look after these refugees adequately. But international volunteers are answering the call; an unprecedented, citizen-led, humanitarian response to a crisis caused, in part, by climate change.
Peter Nix, Maple Bay, BC