The Coming Crisis of Immigration

It has been with great sadness that I have followed the news over the last months about the immigration issue in a number of countries and the rising cost of food and fuel. Seems we are gearing up for a great crisis of (probably) Biblical proportions as the perfect storm of climate change, economics and population collide.

Climate change has been making some places wetter than they have been for many years, but more places are getting drier. Think of California and Arizona that have been desirable places to live — seems we encountered them at an unusually wet period and they are now returning to the more normal dryness. But the millions of people who moved there and are now dependent upon a diminishing water supply, what will happen to them?

On a more serious note, think of the large areas of India, China, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the US Great Plains that are drying out — and the populations that depend upon these areas for food. Or on the other hand, the populations that live in areas just above sea level that are gradually losing their land to rising sea levels and increasingly fierce storms.

A technical solution to these problems would be to use energy to move water great distances to provide irrigation. But with the demise of interest in nuclear power and lagging research in solar, the only real power source is to burn things. This of course adds to the problem of climate change.

In the past, when climate change made an area inhospitable, the populations would move on to someplace else. I suspect that is why mankind spread from its cradle in Africa to cover the globe. I think that historically, changing conditions has been the driver for huge migrations from one place to another — not just seeking something better but fleeing something worse. Remember, at one point the Sahara desert was a place of water and green where our ancestors lived and left their marks. I am sure those people went someplace else — though it would have taken a while.

So here we are — conditions building in a number of places around the globe where people will be starving in large numbers. But the globe has been Balkanized into numerous areas that jealously guard their particular turf and try to protect it from all comers. The barricades are up, so to speak. And woe to anyone who is caught inside without the right papers. (See recent news items about US Immigration raids and the involvement of local police in deportations.) And let us not forget that ‘terrorists’ are likely to be people unhappy about their situation, angry and willing to do something to express their anger.

So just try to imagine this — pressure building around the world for another huge wave of human migration. And the guys on the border armed and ready with hardened attitudes and hostile intent. I do not think it takes much imagination to see how these will collide. And I do not think that there is anything that can be done to keep the affected populations where they are — except to kill them all (most likely by neglect).

It would be much more hopeful if there were any signs that our ‘leaders’, anywhere, could see this coming and work to prepare for it — what may be the greatest migration in human history. And such huge areas that were once inhospitable, like Siberia or Northern Canada, that are sparsely populated now. But such vision seems non-existent. Seems like they are far too concerned about their golf buddies getting a chunk of the public purse ‘reconstructing’ a country those same leaders destroyed or … (the list seems endless and penetrates into almost every corner).

I fear for the world that my children will be raising their families in. The rich growing more rich and arrogant, the rest pushed into poverty. The growing forces for people to move elsewhere and the treasury squandered to make sure they don’t. How many will die before the barricades come down? How much will be lost — besides our humanity?


Robot Vacuum Cleaners — What were they thinking?

Today I hit a point of total disgust with my Roomba 560 robot vacuum cleaner. It replaced an older Discovery model that had been in use for several years before it started to fail (that did not seem unreasonable). The 560 has been in service for roughly six months — but it seems like longer.

When we first got it the thing seemed wonderful — quiet and effective, it pulled dirt out of places that seemed clean after being recently hand vacuumed. We put it on automatic with three cleaning cycles per month. The honeymoon lasted for a few weeks. Then it started… (or more precisely, stopped.). We would find it on a scheduled work day stalled someplace — usually under a bed or other easy to locate place. When we pushed the go button it would give two plaintive beeps and demand that the brushes be cleaned before it would do anything more. We did this for a while but got tired and complained to the vendor — iRobot, Inc. The first answer was that there were technical issues with the brush module, so they sent us a replacement. Then it was — we know there are problems and we are working on fixing them, please be patient.

Today I was on their site and saw that the new recommendation is that the user must strip and clean the machine after EVERY cleaning cycle. It is no longer a problem — just a documented user maintenance shortcoming. Now, let me be clear as to what is involved: There is a spinning side brush held on with a screw — this must be removed and the dirt and pet hair that accumulates removed and the area wiped clean. Then the main brush assembly must be opened and the two rotating brushes removed, disassembled, cleaned meticulously of all dirt and hair (mostly hair) and then reassembled. The front wheel also needs to be pulled off, the cavity wiped out. And of course, the dirt catcher and filter (where the crud ends up) should be cleaned. This is roughly a 30 minute job with a screwdriver — save that the side brush mount point is not designed for repeated unscrewing so will likely be another major module replacement. Not bad for six months of use.

What really upsets me is that it is actually easier to vacuum our house by hand then to use the robot and then painstakingly maintain it. At least a vacuum cleaner can be used multiple times before requiring the messy job of changing/emptying the bad and cleaning the brushes. But not this new and improved robot. The maintenance time mounts up real fast and in truth I cannot disagree with my wife when she makes fun of this ‘labor saving’ contraption. Maybe the design objective was not to reduce the labor requirements for cleaning the house, but just clean me of $500 for this object. Its predecessor the Discovery model was not this neurotic.

So clearly, the question of ‘what were they thinking’ needs to be answered by someone. We have other robots at work and none of them are as neurotic and demanding as this thing. I am certainly hopeful that some Korean manufacturer will release a competitive model. I am certainly annoyed enough that I will no longer suggest to my friends that iRobot cleaning robots are assets. (Unlike the dilligent and undemanding italian robot that cuts our grass…)