Forced Migration

Human Flow, a new documentary by Ai WeiWei, the Chinese dissident artist, cites a statistic from the U.N. that over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II. The text that accompanies the film's trailer asks: will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity?

I think a more significant question is: how will our global society do this? Or, more precisely, how might more individuals, groups, and larger communities learn to open in the face of disruptive new realities, rather than closing down? And where do we already see examples, in the words of my friend Chris Corrigan, of meaningful large scale hope?

The forced migration crisis, of course, is just one massive symptom of even deeper, more complex and larger scale challenges. To address the root causes of forced migration, we need to look at (amongst other proximate causes) war and famine. To address war and famine, increasingly we need to look at the impacts of climate change. To address climate change, we need to change the dominant economic paradigm. If we hope to make progress changing the dominant economic paradigm, we need to accelerate a shift in awareness — basically, re-aligning the (often unexamined) mental models we as individuals and larger stakeholder groups hold onto, with the deeply interdependent environmental and social realities we actually live in.

Given this, it’s hard to think of a more significant moral, ethical, or economic imperative for our generation than addressing the root causes of forced migration, and to do so in a way that embodies openness, compassion and love for those who are already experiencing the greatest suffering.

Where might we begin? As individuals with some relative privilege and leverage to influence change, we want to have an impact on issues that are global and systemic, but what’s the first step toward creating more openness in the world? I find it's helpful to think look at this question from four different perspectives:

  • What inner shifts are needed within myself?
  • What measurable, concrete actions might I take to make a difference?
  • What types of conversations do I need to have, and relationships I need to develop, across boundaries?
  • What are the systemic changes needed for our institutions, communities, and broader societies to respond to this emerging reality from places of openness, freedom and respect for humanity?

These are topics and questions I will continue to explore - and would like to shape much of my work around, in the weeks, months and years ahead.