If nothing else this book will show you just how subject to ordinary human frailty the scientific community is and has been since science was called natural philosophy.
Until this century, then, first natural philosophers and then scientists have been perilously nearly united in their determination to prove that animals, vegetables, and humans all three evolved in place. There were no great migrations of monarch butterflies or Arctic terns or Polynesians. Especially not Polynesians, or Africans or Asians, either, because they’re all human beings. If it was true that human beings have been moving around, it was also true that they have also been intermingling their genes since the beginning. Which means a case can be made that human beings of every race belong wherever they want to be, and we can’t have that, because we need to keep those others over there where they belong, while over here we build walls to defend what can only and ever have been our own.
The truth is that every living species on this planet moves and has been moving since the dawn of time (Shah doesn’t say so but, hell, the earth itself has been continuously moving and still is). And it turns out that Darwin is even smarter than we already give him credit for, and that his second book, The Descent of Man, was even more important than his first. For Linnaeus
species belong ipso facto wherever he found them.
Linnaeus in fact envisioned a sedentary world. Nobody and nothing never went nowhere. Darwin, on the other hand, conducted actual experiments and believed the evidence of his own eyes.
[Darwin’s]findings suggested that 14 percent of all plant species produced seeds resilient enough to travel nearly a thousand miles.
Sedentary scientists (how I love that label, it is so very apt in every respect) were determined to remain convinced they were right. It didn’t help that science popularizers like Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Walt Disney (White Wilderness) convinced all of us to go along with them. FYI, the lemmings didn’t commit suicide, they were murdered.
And then came DNA, and then GPS, and now there is ICARUS, an antenna bolted to the exterior of the International Space Station, which
would scan the surface of the earth sixteen times, picking up data from thumbnail-sized solar-powered tags ecologists across the globe had fitted on the backs of fish, the legs of birds, and behind the ears of mammals.
So there is no doubt now that we’re all constantly in motion. Including, and this is Shah’s point, people.
…scientific findings have made it clear that migration is not an exception to the rule. We’ve been moving all along…Migration is a force of nature, rooted in human biology and history, along with that of the scores of other wild species with whom we share this changing planet.
Our bodies, Shah writes, are made for migration. “As the myth of a sedentary past evaporates,”
a previously obscured question emerges: not why people migrate but why their movements inspire terror.
There is no answer, only speculation, as we watch children drown off Mediterranean islands and pay US border agents to rip other children from their parents’ arms.
I spent 7 weeks on a ridealong with the US Coast Guard. One of our missions was migrant mitigation; i.e., we were supposed to intercept illegal immigrants trying to sneak in. We never saw a one, but here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter, because migrant mitigation whatever form it takes doesn’t stop them. It doesn’t even slow them down. Shah writes
Before it was implemented across the U.S.-Mexico border, [Trump’s] “zero tolerance” policy had been rolled out along the border near El Paso, Texas. Between July 2017 when it began and November 2017 when it ended, the number of families caught trying to cross the border did not decline. On the contrary, it rose by 64 percent.
64 percent. When you read the story of Jean-Pierre’s family’s nightmarish journey from Haiti, you have to ask yourself if it wouldn’t be much easier, incredibly cheaper, infinitely more humane, and a whole lot more beneficial to the nation to just let. people. IN. Take a tiny sliver of our taxes to ensure that they enter the US legally, make sure they have all their shots and a social security number, and then let them rebuild their lives and become productive members of our society.
Well, the UN is trying, Shah writes. They created a non-binding compact for more humane treatment of immigrants. Because it’s non-binding plenty of nations have signed on, but so far only one has incorporated it into their government policy: Portugal.
This is a book that you finish one night and is the first thing you think of when you wake up the next morning. Try reading this book while unlike scientists since Linnaeus leaving your prejudices at the door. There is a lot to learn here.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.