It’s a curious situation when fiction runs into reality. While in the midst of a second novel in which climate change and immigration are essential forces within the narrative, I’ve found that it gets increasingly hard to unravel fiction from reality.
The novel is decidedly dystopian in genre. It’s not too much of a giveaway to say it’s the story of a brother and sister who grew up in the coastal enclave of Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Titled, “The Travelers: Anno Domini 2095,” the setting is the end of this century. The siblings are trekking from their family home by the waters of Long Island Sound to one of the few places left in North America where climate and weather patterns are close to what was normal 95 years before, and that place, in this story, was Minnesota.
As the narrative unfolds, the United States are no longer united, but fiercely independent states struggling to survive, and the lucky ones are struggling to protect their good fortune of relative normalcy. It’s an “every state for itself” situation where visas are required to go from one state to another, National Guard troops keep out the unwanted, lawlessness is pervasive within many states, food deserts pervasive among most, and safe havens anywhere in the world are rare. Yet the still better off North America is the objective of millions of migrating people.
Layered over the book’s apocalyptic backdrop is an intentional effort on the part of certain nefarious nations to create further chaos by weaponizing viruses and immigration.
That’s as much of the narrative as I’m going to uncover, but it’s enough to expose how fiction can run uncomfortably close to an emergent reality.
The novel is in many ways a personal expression of my worries about the future, the pandemics, climate change, and immigration. So it came as only a little bit of a surprise for me to see a piece in the Wall Street Journal recently written by James Marson and Drew Henshaw, about how Belarus, a client state of Russia, has been “weaponizing” immigration, almost certainly with the encouragement of Russia, to destabilize Poland and strike fear into other European nations. It’s a red flag potentially of things to come. Here’s how it works.
Belarus purposefully invites desperate migrants from the Middle East (Iraq, Syria and Yemen), by issuing them tourist visas and then channeling them to specific border checkpoints with Poland. The authors draw “the imagery of cold and hungry migrants, directed by Belarusian troops, towards these checkpoints (and how this) has played out on social media for days, roiling European politics.”
Poland’s Prime Minister has said, “What we’re dealing with is a new type of war.” It is indeed a new kind of passive-aggressive war that “stops just short of actual armed conflict.”
New threats abound. I am not one ready to accuse China of deliberately, or even accidently, letting the COVID-19 virus loose. For now, that’s an insinuation too far, but would I put it past a desperate North Korea? Russia has already shown a deliberate interest in sowing chaos, trying to disrupt our government, our politics, our ingenuity, our inventiveness, our truths, our ideals and our economy.
Last October, less than one month ago, U.S. intelligence and security agencies and the Defense Department all issued reports saying that the warming planet will intensify discord and conflicts between nations and increase migrations of people across the planet. These two phenomena, the reports suggest, are certain to increase instability among nations around the world.
This was the first time that the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and the director of national intelligence decided to collectively issue such warnings. It’s not too much of a stretch to see a real long-term narrative about these threats turn into something resembling bleak.
The reports exhibit ample evidence of what is occurring and what can worsen. Food shortages, fights over water, minerals, changes in fishing domains, heat indexes, fires and flooding driving migrations of people seeking safer places to live, and catastrophic weather events disrupting economies, exacerbating all of these other problems.
The New York Times recently reported that, “As of Oct. 8, there have been 18 ‘weather/climate disaster events’ in 2021 costing more than $1 billion each, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (and that) … perhaps the broadest and most sweeping of these reports was a National Intelligence Estimate, which is meant to collect and distill the views of the country’s intelligence agencies about particular threats. The report, the first to look exclusively at the issue of climate, said that risks to American national security will only grow in the years to come.”
NATO nations are concerned about what Belarus is doing to weaponize desperate migrants, but climate change may ultimately be the bigger non-nefarious cause of swarming migrants worldwide that will ultimately affect our national security.
When my generation and my parent’s generation thought of national security concerns, we instinctively thought of massive conventional forces, force multipliers like tactical nuclear weapons, and the triad or three-pronged force structure consisting of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear missile-armed submarines, and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles.
Yes, those threats still exist, but it’s a new world out there and the ultimate force structure affecting everyone on the planet is the uncompromising force of Mother Nature. This is no fictional narrative, it’s reality.
Bill Sims is a Hillsboro resident, retired president of the Denver Council on Foreign Relations, an author and runs a small farm in Berrysville with his wife. He is a former educator, executive and foundation president.