Monthly Archives: April 2016

Global Refugees Increasing

More displaced people and refugees exist now than ever before, around 60 million people from Syria (over four million refugees, half are children), Afghanistan, Iraq, MENA and Africa by the end of 2014.[i] More than a million refugees traveled to Europe in 2016, and 80,000 arrived by boat during the first six weeks of 2016.[ii] Most are women and children: UNICEF estimates that 30 million children are refugees.[iii] They flee wars and drought, changing the countries where they find refuge including flaming nationalist parties in Europe. A video discusses the problem of recent immigrants to Sweden.[iv] Predictions are climate change will send 200 million more refugees to Europe by 2050.

The refugee children who can’t go to school are called a “lost generation” who have to work to help their families buy food. A British NGO, Save the Children created a film to show what it would be like if an English girl was a refugee.[v] “The global north must be prepared that the global south is on the move, the entire global south. This is not just a problem for Europe but for the whole world,” warned Sonja Licht of the international Center for Democratic Transition.[vi] About 63,000 minors fled Central America to go to the US from 2013 to 2015 to escape from gangs and sexual assault. An additional 800,000 people are trafficked each year in modern slavery, according to the US State Department.

More than 800,000 people had to flee their countries in 2011 due to political upheavals. Millions had to escape from their homes due to wars in Syria, Congo, Somalia, Burma, and Afghanistan. When the people who had to leave their homes but stayed in their countries is included, the total was 4.3 million, the highest number in 11 years, according to the UN refugee agency. Most of these refugees are women and children. Nearly 30 million children are driven from their homes by war and other violence, not just from Syria but Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Honduras, El Salvador, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.[vii]

The number of migrants jumped to 51 million refugees globally in 2014, not including people who fled violence in Iraq caused by battles by radical Sunni militants called ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant).[viii] This was the most number of refugees since World War II, with the top three sources being Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Sudan. Most (86%) live in developing countries that are least able to support them. French President Hollande told journalists, if an agreement didn’t emerge from the December, 2015 Paris climate conference, “It won’t be hundreds of thousand of refugees in the next 20 years, it will be millions.” All 195 countries at the conference did agree in December in what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called a good agreement.

[i] “Worldwide Displacement Hits All-time High,” UNHCR, June 18, 2015.

[ii] Katie Reilly, “Rate of Refugees Arriving in Europe Increased in 2016,” TIME Magazine, February 13, 2016.

Rate of Refugees Arriving in Europe Increased in 2016

[iii] Lori Robertson, “Stretching Facts on Syrian Refugees,” Fact Check, September 15, 2015.

“2015 Was the Worst and Best Year for Kids,” UNICEF, December 29, 2015.



[vi] Rod Rod Nordland, “A Mass Migration Crisis, and It May Yet Get Worse,” New York Times, October 31, 2015.

[vii] Jake Silverstein, The Displaced: Introduction, New York Times, November 5, 2015.

[viii] “War’s Human Cost,” UN News Centre, June 20, 2014.

Paris Occupation/Protests Spring 2016

The snowball of occupation of squares rolled on to France in March 2016 in #NuitDebout, on our feet in the night. The original trigger was President Hollande’s proposed labor law that would make it easier to fire workers, even though the unemployment rate was 10%. A petition against the law gathered over a million signatures, a video was created called On Vaut Mieux Que Ca (“we’re worth more than that”), and a general strike was called. Instead of general strike it was called Reve [dream] General in a play on the word grève (strike). High school students blockaded their schools as part of the strike and planned another one. A collective of young activists called for a demonstration on March 9, “L’appel du 9 Mars,” which attracted around 500,000 protesters in the Place de la Republique on March 31 with a night-time sit-in despite the pouring rain. Slogans were, “The youth are in the streets. Your law is gone,” “Generation Revolution,” and “Youth in pain, elders in misery, that is not the society we want.”

Activists decided to occupy the square overnight, with the familiar direct democracy’s general assemblies starting at 6:00PM with hand signals, working groups such as gardening and poetry, free food, a medical tent, live music, a choir, films, and other prefigurative creations seen in photos on their Facebook page.[i] They kept coming back each night. NuitDebout is compared to the Spanish indignados with “similar magic in the air and a felling like anything is possible,” but with stronger support from unions.[ii] As in other occupations, issues expanded to their disappointment with Socialist President Hollande, the state of emergency security measures after terrorist bombing in Paris, climate change, unemployment, and migrant evictions. A law student named Cecile, 22, explained her motive for participating, “To me, politics feels broken. This movement appeals in terms of citizen action. I come here after class and I intend to keep coming back. I hope it lasts.”[iii] The French activists aimed for international unity, calling for a “Convergence of Struggles” on May 7 and 8, called #GlobalDebout. Preparation occurred for the International Day of Action on May 15.


[ii] Sam Cossar-Gilbert, “#NuitDebout: A movement is Growing in France’s Squares,’ ROAR Magazine, April 6, 2016.

[iii] “Nuit Debout Protesters Occupy French Cities in Revolutionary Call for Change,” The Guardian, April 8, 2016. Includes photos.

Jr. high students speak out about their schools, city, and adults

I talked with about 20 students from three junior high schools in or near Chico, California, leading a changemaker workshop in April 2016. I asked, “If you were principal of your school what changes would you make?” They didn’t bring up academic issues or teachers except for too much homework, but rather focused on schedules—like wanting more time between classes or at lunch, rules should be clear and enforced—the dress code shouldn’t be so strict but it should be enforced, structures—need recreation areas and to fix holes in bathrooms, and peers—bullies and “big shots” have too much influence. When asked what changes they’d make if they were mayors of their cities, they mentioned helping homeless and other poor people, alleviating racism, and having more fun activities. When I helped organize a Youth SpeakOut over a decade ago, the major theme was wanted more activities and places to hangout.

What they would like adults to understand about them is that they want more freedom such as to wear what they want or hang out with friends and not to be too protective so they can learn from their mistakes. Also, they’re changing quickly as they grow up. They said they live on their phones, so adults shouldn’t take them away. A girl, age 13, said, “When you’re a teenager a lot of things are hard and stressing.” A girl, 14, requested, “Respect kids like you treat your friends,” another reminded us, “We are human,” and another “Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I’m incapable.” A boy said, “You should take us more seriously. We want to help make decisions.” Some confirmed a theme of this book that they’re altruistic; a girl age 12 said, “We are smart people; we will change the world.” A boy, age 15, said, “We are smarter than adults.” Another boy said, “People think we are all on our devices. We do that, but our generation is working to make our world better.”

Half of Millennial women don’t id as feminists

In a US 2016 poll of Millennial women younger than 35, 53% said they weren’t feminists because: 49% don’t like the label, 34% of them disagree with its goals, and 17% didn’t give a reason. (Their top concerns were economic inequality and student debt and 60% favored Clinton or Sanders for president.)
Calvin Freiburger, “New Poll,” Live Action News, April 18, 2016.