Mass migration, the omega phase and emerging resilient systems

Some of us are nomads.  Some of us aren’t.  I split my time between the flat Delta and the mountainous Ozarks with occasional trips to other countries.  I like the big skies of the Delta, but head for the Ozarks to escape the hot weather, bugs, and industrial agriculture.

I love experiencing two An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.different ecosystems, two different sets of wildlife, two different micro-climates.  It awakens me to the pleasures of both, though the attractions of Meadowcreek far outweigh any others.  My deepening appreciation for Meadowcreek has led me to gradually lessen the number of overseas trips I do every year.  Less need for the stimulation of a foreign place when I’ve got two ends of the geologic and social spectrum right here in Arkansas.

Yet the urge to move from place to place is still there.  On the surface, my nomadic ways violate the first command of resilience: thou shalt be locally self-organized. However, each place is locally organized, though neither gets my full attention.  Local disturbances occur, like a cherry tree falling on the dorm entrance or a heavy downpour flooding the shed of the Resilience house and I’m not there to adjust and adapt.  But other good managers are present and capable and deal with the disturbances perhaps better than I would have.

Nomadic societies can be highly resilient.  If they follow the movement of prey species such as antelope and buffalo, they participate in creating a more resilient system by harvesting the weak and strengthening the herd.  The Siberian hunters who followed the herds into the Americas discovered an untouched continent and developed resilient systems.

Alaskan tribes continued to be semi-nomadic until American civilization encouraged them to settle in one place.  Now when floods  threaten, they don’t pack up and leave.  Instead, their houses get wiped out. Then when the waters recede, good Samaritans such as Mennonites come in and rebuild their houses for them.  Then they move in and await the next flood.  The Mennonites are good at relief, but not at resilience.

Likewise, Germany and other Western nations, by encouraging the current mass migration from Syria and the Middle East is showing they are good at relief, but lousy at resilience.  The war in Syria and Iraq is the omega phase of an adaptive cycle.  All the human resources are being released as the government and social system crashes down.

The stable leaders and social structure of Iraq and Syria and Libya were attacked by Western nations.  They destroyed a stable societies and unleashed untold chaotic forces.  Then the conquerors tried to reorganize the societies using a model, Western democracy, which is foreign to locals and imposed from outside.

Such non-local organization is never resilient and quickly dissolved.  But instead of encouraging local self-organization, Western nations are encouraging people to leave by providing generous benefits for migrants.  The key resources of any nation, its people, are leaving in mass migrations.  And they are bringing their foreign culture.   When it encounters those of western Europe, the disturbance will create a new omega phase to be followed by a reorganization no one can predict.

The radical Islamists are locally organizing based on local resources and local history.  Resilience research tells us such an approach always wins in the long run.  No matter how they violate our social norms, the system they are creating has more of the qualities of a resilient system than what Western countries tried to impose in the region.

A resilient system need not be productive or efficient or socially just, but it will survive.  Until Western leaders wake up and begin promoting resilience, non-Western systems will fill the void.  They won’t be Christian, they won’t be socially just and they won’t like democracy, but they may well survive.

In the US, we have our own, more gradual, mass migration from Mexico.  It’s so much slower than today’s migration of Syrians into Europe that we hardly notice it.  And at Meadowcreek we seem untouched by any of this.

We do enjoy the mass migrations of birds flying to more hospitable locations.  We watch the populations change at the bird feeder outside the dorm.  The stable, resilient pairs of pileated woodpeckers stay throughout the year as the migrants go through.

A few long-term residents stay at Meadowcreek as the young people flow in and out.  Migration, especially peripatetic migration, does not promote resilient systems based on local food production.  However, a resilient management structure can accommodate the migrants while maintaining the structure of a resilient system.

The pileated woodpeckers do so.  All they require is that we leave a few dead trees standing.  Will the Germans be able to do that as the Syrians flood in?


For more background on the adaptive cycle see the introduction to our free online book which you can download here.

Other useful resources on adaptive cycles are the first two in this series of three consecutive essays addressing adaptive cycles.  You can see the first, which uses woolly worms as a departure, at this link.  The second focuses on 9/11 and is at this link.