Reflections on “Move: The Forces Uprooting Us” by Parag Khanna
I was one of the people given a courtesy copy of the book. Here are my reflections. My frame of mind is a bit gloomy due to the omicron variant and because I live in Wisconsin. The verdict in a recent high-profile trial continues to weigh on me. In addition, my home town is where, sadly, someone recently drove a vehicle through participants in a parade. And it’s winter. The next three weeks have the least sunshine of the year. Under other circumstances, I might have been more upbeat. The book is good.
Reflections on Movement as Destinyby Seasons4
Given the news headlines in early December 2021, it is surreal to read about the importance of relocation as a necessary human strategy in Parag Khanna’s persuasive book Move: The Forces Uprooting Us. Movement is destiny, he proclaims, in a provocative sound bite. Overpopulation is not the world’s major problem. Instead, there are too few people, and too many of us are living in unsustainable places. Adaptation to a changing environment requires that we make it easy for people to move into and out of the neighborhood, region, country, and continent.
Where we live on the planet and whether we are able to adapt to disruption by moving are key variables in determining our likelihood of survival in the future. To survive in the year 2050 and beyond, Parag Khanna writes, we need to move inland and move northward, eventually perhaps to areas of Canada and Russia that are relatively unpopulated today. Those areas will probably be able to sustain agriculture in the year 2050, in contrast to many population centers today.
Can we get there from here? I am not feeling optimistic. We need movement of energetic, talented people to places of opportunity, yet often we are emotionally stuck defending NIMBY (not in my back yard) or OIMBY (only in my back yard). There is no guarantee that we can develop the broader perspective necessary to exercise enlightened self interest as individuals and larger social groups. Obstacles to enlightened self interest include travel bans, restrictive immigration policies, supply chain breakdowns, toxic politics and political deadlock, rising crime, climate change (disproportionately affecting poor people and people of color), and new virus variants emerging from the pandemic pressure cooker.
My attitude is shaped by my social location as a white middle class American who is retired. I am more conscious of my physical limitations than my prowess. Relocation requires the stamina and risk taking of youth, I suspect. As the lifespan gets longer, it often gets harder to muster the wherewithal to make big moves. With age come vulnerabilities that make staying put, even in a danger zone, feel like a better option. In my work life, I encountered quite a few older people who were living with cognitive decline. Perhaps by the year 2050, the young will be in Canada and Russia, checking in by videoconference call to elderly friends and relatives in assisted living bubbles bobbing in the rising seas.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought emotional trauma to places and people who had managed by class, race, or other characteristics to evade such trauma in “The Before Times.” If we manage to find a way forward to a future worthy of human beings, I believe we will have to prioritize trauma-informed care for the long term. How will that look in what may be a future of “postmodern feudalism”? I am intrigued by Parag Khanna’s views on the potential for city-states to re-emerge along the lines of ancient Greece or the medieval Hanseatic League. It is smart to pay attention to what is local – and the next locale, and the next, and the next.
Quality of life matters, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for acquaintances, and for strangers whose fate is entangled with ours. As people with an orientation toward preparedness, we do well to read and reflect on Move: The Forces Uprooting Us.