Everyone has weighed in with some form of response to the refugee crisis by now.
Hell, even the Pope had some guidance for the rest of us, although I'm not sure that I've heard of many Syrians relocating to Vatican City.
Despite many valid objections to the hasty influx of people, governments are bumbling onward as the perpetual-drivel crowd screams “demagogue” at any critic. Discussion has reached echo-status.
As more information comes to light, especially from Europe, it appears as if officials have approached the matter with all the urgency of a common publicity stunt. Decisions have seemingly been made based on the quality of the associated sound bite rather than with any regard for physical reality. With refugees arriving in many countries faster than they can be accommodated, real problems are surfacing. These range from logistical issues such as extended hotel stays or "poor accommodations" to social and cultural issues such as highway piracy, the groping of women in public, and a shocking rape culture.
Isolated incidents? Perhaps, but with rhetoric ramping up, the migration is not likely to subside any time soon. It makes sense to examine other, medium or longer term solutions in hopes of providing a better model for others to follow.
An interesting alternative has been proposed and is in the early stages of development. An American, Michael Reynolds (architect by trade, rebel by nature) is endeavoring to acquire a plot of land in the Middle East and construct a community for refugees. From the ground up.
His highly unorthodox work spans well over three decades, on a style of construction he calls Earthships. He's written a number of books, been the subject of countless articles, and his story is nicely documented in the film Garbage Warrior.
In spite of his obvious leftwardly leanings, his buildings have evolved to be highly effective and innovative. After run-ins with various agencies and organizations during his early years, he drafted a bill that allowed testing sites for experimental buildings -- and managed to get New Mexico to pass it in 2007.
Earthships are relatively cheap and require comparatively little technical expertise to build. Using earth pounded into recycled tires like bricks to form the main structure, they heat and cool themselves, they collect and filter their own water, produce electricity, treat their own sewage, provide space for growing food, and more.
Everything needed to sustain life has been accounted for in the design and they provide nice living quarters once finished. It’s the perfect combination of high and low tech, old and new.
The speed at which these dwellings can be erected is limited only by the number of people available to work, which shouldn’t be a problem in a refugee camp.
If one accepts the idea that they have a moral obligation to help, it follows that the same obligation applies to as many people as possible. If your goal is to provide aid, the built environment can help minimize or solve many of the challenges in responding to this crisis.
One way or another, people need to be housed, fed and integrated back into the realm of a decent human existence. Given a limited amount of resources, the efficiency with which they’re deployed will dictate whether more or less people actually benefit.
In a sense, the moral obligation then, is to act as efficiently as possible in carrying out the solution. This is where the left is usually lacking, with their hurried and simple-minded responses. It's not enough to just volunteer someone else to solve a problem, eventually you'll run out of other people's money to steal.
Earthship communities built in crisis areas have the potential to provide very cost effective, permanent solutions for displaced people. The cost to support a person in North America is 10 times what it is in the Middle East. The cost of labour, land, and materials for a project would be far less in Syria.
The money spent so far on refugees' airfare and hotel stays alone could house and feed thousands of people for years in an Earthship Community. In the Middle East.
There aren’t many reasons to object to the project. Various groups can continue their paid cheerleading gigs, governments can still have their photo-ops, and private citizens can continue sponsoring refugees in the various tax farms, as they always have.
As far as EarthshipVille goes, those who wish to populate such a community would be doing so voluntarily, as would those who wish to fund and realize such a project.
The work ethic involved is likely to attract a decent variety of human being, which bodes well for the community's well being in the long term.
Realistically, the most difficult design criteria to satisfy would be security. After all, the region is prone to various roaming gangs of ideologically motivated homicidal maniacs.
Maybe Trudeau could reclaim Canada’s status as a peacekeeping nation and send some battalions of our finest along to help build EarthshipVille.
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