We often here people like Nigel Farage speak out against high levels of immigration.
Common phrases he uses go along the lines of “X number of people enter the country each year, which is equivalent to the population of City X.” Or – “We’re adding a city the size of Birmingham to the UK every few years, adding strain to our roads, health care and education systems.”
In relation to Farage and people who use this argument, three things are going on here, concerning:
The idea of adding a ‘Birmingham’ to the UK every few years does indeed sound unsustainable. Sustainability is an over-used watchword these days with many of its users unaware of what it actually means. Anything ‘sustainable’ basically has to be able to last, essentially, forever. For example, sustainability in electricity production; fossil fuels are obviously finite whereas renewable energy like wind and solar power will last forever. Renewable energy is sustainable.
And so with immigration, can we keep on adding to the human population indefinitely? Obviously not. But that’s not just a problem of an ever-expanding UK population. It’s a global problem. We need to work out what a sustainable global human population is and work towards it; together. It might be the case that people live and work in higher populations in some countries than others, but ultimately, it’s our global population that needs to be sustainable. This will have local and regional implication for sustainability, like protecting the biodiversity of a highly populated country, and these are the sorts of things we’ll need to consider.
Capitalism runs contrary to sustainability. Our current economic system requires endless growth. It’s as plain as a UKIP lunch menu that this is ultimately impossible to achieve.
And yet, we continue to increase our exploitation of the Earth’s resources, running headlong into the obvious resource brick wall of ‘nothing left.’ Still we continue to eat all the fish, cut down all the trees, use too much fossil fuel and fill the oceans with plastic.
Farage and other right-wingers tend to be hard-line capitalists. They campaign to have various limits on capitalism removed. Some of these limits are there to impose sustainability criteria on otherwise unrestrained capitalism. Like for example, limits on Greenhouse Gas emissions. We can’t afford to burn all of the fossil fuels or the planet will fry under climate change.
People like Farage deny the existence of climate change, simply because that denial allows the pursuit of further business in fossil fuels. The denial of a serious global problem in order to make more money… in the short term.
Right-wing neoliberals are not bothered about sustainability. It’s about constant expanding growth at all costs – even if that means frying the planet!
So here we have a contradiction – Farage and his ilk want constant expansion of economic growth, more and more economic activity and therefore a greater workforce to work in various industries. That means an expanding population. That means filling up all of the UK countryside with endless housing, more transport links, more shopping centres, schools and everything that people tend to need and use. Slowly concreting over the UK.
So why would Farage want to put limits on UK population growth if capitalism wants that growth? It’s because he doesn’t want loads of ‘foreigners’ in the UK. He wants lots of workers but not ‘those’ workers.
His racist feelings are in conflict with his ideological position on endless growth. He wants limits removed from capitalism… er… while having some limits.
If racists realised that they were racist, life would become much more reasonable.
We do need to fashion a stable and sustainable global human population, whatever that means.
We also need constraints on an economic system that is running the planet and all of our futures into the ground.
As our system and hence its population become strained under unsustainable growth, people become stressed. A reaction to this is to lash out at the ‘foreigner.’ People feel that they need to blame ‘someone’ for their situation rather than look at the bigger picture.
The right-wing are on the rise across the world. It’s an easy reaction to blame ‘foreigners’ than to objectively look at the more complex problems unsustainability and dodgy capitalism.
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