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Thu Sep 22, 2022, 09:28 PM

Where Will We Live? A Review by Bill McKibben of New Books On Climate and Earthling Migrations

Last edited Thu Sep 22, 2022, 10:03 PM - Edit history (1)


Nowhere Left to Go: How Climate Change Is Driving Species to the Ends of the Earth
by Benjamin von Brackel, translated from the German by Ayça Türkoğlu
The Experiment, 278 pp., $26.95

Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World
by Gaia Vince
Flatiron, 260 pp., $28.99

Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism
by Harsha Walia
Haymarket Books, 306 pp., $19.95 (paper)

... By burning the remains of hundreds of millions of years of flora and fauna in the course of a few decades, we’re forcing the planet through changes that usually take eons; deep time is suddenly running like one of those films of a flower opening in seconds. In a geological instant we’ve raised the annual global average temperature one degree Celsius, and the second degree will come faster still; on our current course we’re headed toward a third degree. Astonishing shifts in precipitation, forest fires, sea level, and many other systems are happening month by month and season by season. The pace is truly savage.

But that experiment in time is playing out even more dramatically across physical space. The rapid rise in temperature is causing plant and animal species, and people, to move toward the poles and higher, cooler ground. This exodus has not only begun, it’s begun to overwhelm biological and political stability...

... Let us state succinctly the most obvious point: none of these crises are caused by the people suffering from them. The average Somalian, at the epicenter of that withering drought, produces barely one two-hundredth as much carbon as the average American; the average Honduran a fifteenth as much; the average Vietnamese a seventh (and much of that comes from manufacturing stuff for export to us). The US, with 4 percent of the world population today, has produced a quarter of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere; the carbon we pumped into the air during our industrialization and (especially) our suburbanization will linger there for a century or more. No country, not even far more populous ones like China, will come close to catching us. Somalian famine, Honduran hurricanes, Vietnamese inundation—these are crises caused by us, and given that many in industry and government have known the consequences of burning fossil fuels for decades, you could fairly say the climate crisis is a kind of crime Americans have been committing.

And not the first crime. The global scope and historical perspective of Border and Rule, by the Canadian activist Harsha Walia, reminds me of the impact of the 1619 Project—it forces the reader to grapple with the relentless and ongoing use and abuse of power by rich countries and their political and economic leaders. Walia is not a trained journalist, so the book is light on storytelling (and a little heavy on jargon), but it is devastating in its deployment of data and evidence.

We often hear talk of an “invasion” of immigrants creating a “border crisis,” Walia observes, but “mass migration is the outcome of the actual crises of capitalism, conquest, and climate change.” She documents centuries of coercion that have taken place along the US-Mexican border: the US annexed northern Mexico, worked to thwart the Mexican Revolution, and with the North American Free Trade Agreement began “prying open domestic industries in Mexico to a global regime of production.” This was neoliberalism at its apex, theoretically “opening” the economies of the US and Mexico to largely unhindered cross-border trade, but the results were as predictable as they were brutal: more than a million Mexican farmers were forced into bankruptcy within a decade, while corn exports from the US to Mexico increased 323 percent. This flood of cheap corn particularly damaged indigenous communities that were both economically and culturally dependent on a crop first domesticated on their lands.

“Millions of Indigenous people, farmers, peasants, and [villagers] from rural areas were dispossessed and then proletarianized into low-wage factory and farm work,” Walia writes. Employment in the maquiladora factories along the border “exploded by 86 percent within the first five years of NAFTA,” in cities that soon became deadly for women; 90 percent of these factories were US-owned, and they “set the de facto wage floor for manufacturing across the continent,” costing 700,000 factory jobs in America. It’s easy to see how this simultaneously drives migration pressure in Mexico and brews resentment north of the border. A border turns out to be a very useful device for controlling people on both sides. (You can, for instance, get undocumented people to do low-paid jobs others won’t take, and then use their status to keep them from complaining; according to one study she cites, 52 percent of companies in the US threaten to call immigration authorities on workers during union drives.)

Walia makes a similarly detailed case in country after country, demonstrating the dynamics behind Australia’s hideous island prisons for migrants and Europe’s extensive system of deals to keep African immigrants away from the continent. She demolishes one piece of conventional wisdom after another: for instance, she asks, in an exploited and rapidly heating world, what is the difference between a worthy refugee and a scheming “economic migrant”? By the end of this remarkable account, it’s hard to disagree when she writes:

More on climate driven human migrations



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Reply Where Will We Live? A Review by Bill McKibben of New Books On Climate and Earthling Migrations (Original post)
ancianita Sep 22 OP
AZ8theist Sep 22 #1
ancianita Sep 22 #2

Response to ancianita (Original post)

Thu Sep 22, 2022, 11:19 PM

1. "the carbon we pumped into the air during our industrialization and (especially)......

..... our suburbanization will linger there for a century or more."


According to that eminent science EXPERT, Hershel Walker, our "good air" is being replaced by China's "bad air".



How ANYONE could vote for that imbecile is mind-boggling.....

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Response to AZ8theist (Reply #1)

Thu Sep 22, 2022, 11:32 PM

2. Right on, climate science.

We can be pissed at those who pander to the wishful thinking that anyone's ignorance is equal to anyone else's expertise, or we can buy our opponents books to get them to think beyond their politics of science or anything else -- covid, history, women, etc. -- so that we don't have to drag others along as we try to constructively cope with humankind's massive mistakes that will kill us all.

I hear you.

But my belief is also that we have to educate Americans who still walk around with no more than the introductory knowledge of high school. So when I buy books like Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Starry Messenger -- Cosmic Perspectives On Civilization, I buy several copies and give them to my trumpy neighbors (at least the ones who read), hoping to move the needle toward our common existential work ahead.

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