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Nomad Century: How to survive the climate upheaval by Gaia Vince

23 December 2022

David Chillingworth on a migration argument

THIS is a remarkable and important book. It takes a hard look at what our world may become as the effects of global warming gather pace.

While Gaia Vince hopes that global temperature rises may be held to 2°C or less, she thinks that we should plan for a global temperature rise of 4ºC by 2100. If that assessment of potential failure is correct, the consequences are alarming.

First, large areas of the central belt of the globe will become uninhabitable, as fire, heat, drought, and flood take their toll. These areas will include, most obviously, Sub-Saharan Africa and then large areas of South-East Asia, southern California, Australia, and even Southern Europe. Beyond that lies the toll taken by rising sea levels, which will particularly affect countries such as Bangladesh and the Pacific islands. The majority of the world’s mega-cities are also vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Vince suggests that the response of humanity to these challenges must be the one that it has always used: migration. Migration is “not the problem. . . migration is the oldest survival trick.” Hence the title, Nomad Century.

Anyone who lives in the UK will have become accustomed to anti-migrant rhetoric. Migrants risk their lives daily in flimsy boats. The — sometimes unspoken — fear is that they will drain the resources of the NHS and take jobs from their host community. Vince is convinced that these fears are unfounded. The reality is that the ageing and diminishing populations of the global North desperately need the renewal that migrants will bring. Far from draining the resources of their host countries, they will revitalise them. “Migration is inevitable; people have no choice. It must be facilitated.”

Nomad Century also attempts to set out a picture of the provision that will need to be made for waves of migrants who will be moving towards the cooler North of the globe. The estimate is that the equivalent of a million-person city will need to be built every ten days over the next 80 years to cope with that level of migration.

But is all this really necessary? Yes, unless we can take control of our own future, “and that means making a plan to protect the well-being of all humans, rich and poor, from every continent as we enter the challenging environment of the coming decades.”

The Rt Revd David Chillingworth is a former Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Nomad Century: How to survive the climate upheaval
Gaia Vince
Allen Lane £20
Church Times Bookshop £18

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