Nomad Century by Gaia Vince [8/10]

Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval” is a kaleidoscopic mixture of hard-headed prognostication and dreamy futurism. To Gaia Vince, a journalist with huge experience on climate matters and an amazing trove of internalised data (referencing is sparse and the book is all the better for that), migration has been an engine of human growth and will be so again in the Anthropocene. We need to welcome migration, plan for it, and guide it through policy. According to her, a better world awaits if we harness migration rather than wait for climate-change-driven exoduses to render the world chaotic.

The ambitiousness of Vince’s thinking is often apparent, for example: “Migration will remake the world in the coming century whether by accident or design. Far better the latter. Developing a radical plan for humanity to survive a 3–4°C-hotter world includes building vast new cities in the far north while abandoning huge areas of the tropics, and relying on new forms of agriculture. It involves adapting to a changed planet and our rapidly changing demography.” Am I convinced? Hardly. But the beauty of this book is that it challenges existing narratives and spurs new ones. For example, a fascinating chapter “Migrant Homes” covers the policy ingredients to make new migrant cities or cities taking in migrants blossom (to the extent they can).

This optimism produces assertions the reader can question, for example: “Most people will transition to a plant-based diet over the next decade with little effort or conscious decision-making on their part, given the right nudges.” (I’m vegan and can see little evidence of my cohort moving towards plant-based foods.) A predilection for high-tech futuristic solutions to everything from decarbonization and geoengineering to habitat restoration can be expected from a journalist accustomed to hunting for news, and of course it can be scoffed at, but I enjoyed musing over her buoyant futuristic views.

Overall, Nomad Century is unlike any climate change book I’ve read recently (and I’ve read tons). Written with verve and style, it challenges, provokes, and informs, and I think any reader will end up, as I was, the better for the read.

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