Initially talking about the coronavirus breakout and her last book, Pandemic, Sonia Shah shares in an interview what the reality is - there is no cure in the short term. In the long term, what needs to change is human behavior, that migration has 'lifesaving power in the face of climate change,' with the crisis of biodiversity as the fundamental driver.
Human behavior needs to change regarding interaction with 'nature and the crisis of biodiversity, which is the fundamental driver of all these spillover pathogens coming into human populations - like COVID-19, EBOLA, Zika' Shah shared, and all other hosts of pathogens that infect humans as a result of the animals' destroyed wildlife habitats.
Shah has written a new book called 'The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move.' She drew inspiration from Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy. As a Christian and like other naturalists during the 18th century, he believed that nature was an expression of God's perfect love, thus, everything was in its rightful place.
His classifications of belongingness were extended to human taxonomy, that logically, people in Africa belonged in Africa, people in America belonged in America, and so on. Linnaeus decided that people without shared ancestry or shared migration history were in fact separate subspecies of humans. He even classified Africans as less than human; as a hybrid between humans and mythical species called troglodytes, or a type of caveman.
'When a wild creature crosses from a different place into a new territory,' it is thought as invasive and an alien. This is evident 'in the way we make policy around immigration and newcomers in places around the world,' shared Shah. Unfortunately, Linnaeus' theories became an open door for 'race science,' which is echoes into immigration causing a biological catastrophe.
If these 'aliens' 'started to partner with 'native' people, with local people, that they would have these hybrid children that would be like deformed, essentially degenerated and deformed,' concluded Linnaeus. Shah also told a few stories of feeling displaced as a natural-born American citizen with Indian parents, who had migrated to New York.
With animals, Shah shared that 'what's funny is we've created all these parks and reservations to kind of protect animals, and when we've actually now studied well, where do they actually go?' More and more animals are crossing borders because of the climate crisis.
Migration is the Solution
'Far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing. Climate changes triggered the first human migrations out of Africa.'
Today, all nations have walls and barriers, which have failed to repel movement and immigration. 'It's just made migration a lot more deadly,' said Shah, because people are commonly fleeing from places of war and poverty.
'So that was what was most striking to me,' she continued, that migration was happening anywhere she traveled to. 'So what I wanted to do is look at, well, where are people getting stuck? Whether it's refugee camps or border checks or dying in the desert on the U.S.-Mexico border.'
Without borders like today, 'migration allowed our ancestors to people the planet, catapulting us into the highest reaches of the Himalayan mountains and the most remote islands of the Pacific, creating and disseminating the biological, cultural, and social diversity that ecosystems and societies depend upon.'
'In other words, migration is not the crisis-it is the solution.' Correcting 18th-century classifications and anti-immigrant policies, 'The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.'