... arresting ... Shah’s voluminous research shows that living things have been on the move for millennia, often improving the places where they land. She describes extraordinary migrations...all centuries before humans crossed the seas. In fascinating passages on mitochondrial DNA and GPS technology, she explains that the vast migrations of plants and birds was pretty much a mystery to scientists until very recently ... But Shah has assigned herself a much larger task, for the book also undertakes a critique of Western science since the 18th century, exposing the bigotry that has often poisoned its conclusions. The history of eugenics, 'race science' and population studies consume three long chapters—too long, in this reader’s view ... That said, The Next Great Migration is both a terrific work of science journalism and a valuable corrective to the latest wave of immigration hysteria sweeping Western nations.
... a deeply researched and counterintuitive history that much received wisdom about migration—human or otherwise—rests on a series of misconceptions ... Shah’s tone is neither smug nor triumphalist. She is clear about the power and the danger of xenophobic politics, tracing the anti-refugee backlash that has been mobilised by the right, as well as the threat to our lives posed by the climate emergency. Hers is an optimistic book nonetheless, because it tells us that this is just the latest chapter in a long story of survival and adaptation ... This is a vivid and engaging story that weaves in the accounts of refugees Shah has met to illustrate the harm done by today’s border controls. As a writer, she has an eye for the visual metaphor, likening anti-immigration arguments to puffball mushrooms ... Those arguments may indeed be hollow but they spread their spores nonetheless: we need books such as this to expose them.
... Shah explores the history of intellectual connections among all these migration phenomena, tackling with compassion and insight a deeply complex and challenging subject ... The scope of Shah’s story is vast, and she has taken some scientific shortcuts along the way, including a few that undermine her argument. Biologists recognize a diversity of plant and animal movements: daily movement within a home range, annual cyclic migration, dispersal from natal origin to a place of breeding, gene flow among populations of a species, historical range expansion, species dispersal over a geographic barrier, etc. Shah lumps all of these under the concept of 'migration,' which makes some of her discussion confusing. How does the African origin of so much human diversity relate to the challenges cougars face crossing highways in Los Angeles? Or to the myth of altruistic lemmings leaping into the sea to their deaths? ... Now, there are many reasons a book might make a reader feel hot under the collar, but reading Shah’s dismissal of the impact of invasive species while scratching my neck was a real trigger for me...Although there is evidence for this argument, she fails to engage with the genuine ecological damage that introduced species are causing around the world...Nor does her book address the enormous ecological impact that human migration has already had on the planet ... proof that her work addresses issues of fundamental importance to the survival and well-being of us all.
In our moment of ecological and political turmoil, mass migration is often framed as a grave crisis ... However, Shah offers a refreshing and crucially humane counterargument to the idea that migration spells societal catastrophe. Interweaving the human history of movement with parables from nature, she reframes migration not as an exception in an otherwise static world but instead as a biological and cultural norm—and one that should be embraced, not feared ... She largely dismisses the notion of 'invasive' or 'nonnative' species as the natural world’s analog for anti-immigration rhetoric, without engaging seriously with the ways in which ecosystems have been severely damaged by introduced flora and fauna. Focused on celebrating migration, she avoids reckoning with the ecological harm roving humans have done to the planet, the effects of which we are confronting with increasing intensity ... Shah’s book is a provocative invitation to imagine the inevitable migration of the future as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
Sonia Shah’s last two books...introduced her as a storyteller in a novel genre: travel books that went in search of the spread of disease - cholera in the former, malaria in the latter. That literature of track and trace, part detective story, part reportage, took Shah to remote corners of the world and to distant grid references of history. Her books were also prescient case studies of the way that human progress has been shaped by its love-hate relationship with microbes – how disease has caused empires to rise and fall and economies to stutter and implode ... This book – a wandering narrative about why people wander – is likely to prove equally prophetic in the coming months and years, since it asks two questions that are already shaping our geopolitics: what causes human beings to migrate? And is such mass movement beneficial to more settled communities and nations? ... [Shah's] compulsive investigation into these questions becomes a political history of the human urge to move from one place to another ... [a] fascinating study.
Shah’s overviews of the historical narratives of migration provide important context for our language related to migration. She demonstrates that much of our discourse as journalists, experts, and scholars has roots in mythologies shaped by nationalism and racism. The narratives of nativism and literally made-up theories should be disturbing and maybe will be to those readers who have never been exposed to them before ... It feels ironic to read this when much of the world has just spent months staying close to home and crippled by a global pandemic. But hers is a timeless message. Mass movement and the stories we tell about it, despite walls or other barriers, climate change, ignorant xenophobic, and anti-migrant policies, all have much to tell us about our human and biological nature ... As countries and cities begin reopening, it feels like a good time to draw on some of Shah’s calls to action in The Next Great Migration. Her writing is densely concentrated with facts and anecdotes with brief interludes into lyricism. Her book is a reminder that a more thoughtful approach to the beautiful, increasing movement of sentient beings is indeed close to our realm of possibility.
Shah convincingly argues that politicians against immigration distort and misuse data to create unnecessary and cruel barriers. She tells gut-wrenching stories of struggling families on the move, and presents evidence that migrants are generally healthier and less apt to commit violent crimes than are the residents of the country they move to ... I found it odd that [Shah] tends to group together many kinds of biological movement that specialists think of as quite different.
... a bracing book ... This book convincingly places these modern-day political debates in an intellectual history that is essential to understanding how they came about ... Shah, a science writer, manages to link questions of migration, race and ecology more fluently than most political or social affairs journalists.
It would be better, Shah suggests, to drop the labels, recognize human beings as a migratory species, and build institutions around that fact. This is a far-reaching argument, yet when it comes to specifying what those institutions might look like, Shah has disappointingly little to say. The sole policy she endorses in her book is the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration ... But it does not abolish borders or establish anyone’s right to cross them ... It’s hard to see how such an approach could suffice in an age of climate change or how it could free us from the myth of the sedentary world. There are also deeper questions raised by the history Shah explores that go unaddressed. Racism doesn’t manifest only in border controls, which Shah discusses at length, but also in colonial conquest, removal, gentrification, and dispossession, which she says much less about ... If The Next Great Migration does not resolve such issues, that is because its aim is more to trigger a conceptual shift. The world isn’t fixed in place, Shah rightly argues.
The statistics Ms. Shah marshals are eye-catching ... Ms. Shah’s book, at times tendentious, is always humane ... There are a few places in this thoughtful and eloquent book in which readers will take issue with Ms. Shah’s narrative. For instance, having made the perfectly good assertion that economists have 'long struggled to detect' any negative economic effect of migrants on locals, she makes the overwrought claim that, in a 2015 study, George Borjas, a Harvard economist, 'overturned' a near-consensus on the positive nature of migration. Mr. Borjas is a longstanding pessimist when it comes to immigrant labor’s effect on U.S. wages. And while his work isn’t scoffed at by other economists, it is not embraced either. He is an academic outlier.
Sonia Shah’s scientific and literary prowess can be felt in the way she dissects xenophobia as a crude immune response ... This style is what makes Shah’s new book so compelling. Readers initially drawn to her in-depth and meditative look at the nature of migration will stay for her storytelling ... While it has a few blind spots, The Next Great Migration convincingly argues that the constant movement of plants, animals, and people from one place to another is natural and signals health. Chapter by chapter, the author debunks the centuries-old ethos that most living things come from one stagnant habitat, and that moving to a new place is a rare and often extreme change brought about by dire circumstances ... Shah, for her part, argues that the concepts of 'invasive' and 'native' and a 'population explosion' have deep roots in anti-migration sentiments. As a reader deeply moved by Leopold’s essay collection A Sand County Almanac, I was disturbed by her analysis. While the author’s explanation makes sense, it also glosses over the mass eradication of predators and indigenous people by European settlers in the United States, which brought about drastic alterations in the landscape. Leopold doesn’t address eradication perfectly, but he does address it ... Another issue is that Shah does not discuss indigenous communities and the destructive impact of some invasive species. She also fails to consider how the impact of invasive species has drastically deepened due to the speed at which we move around the world in the modern era ... Shah’s ability to make me question the notions I once viewed as gospel is useful in 2020, when coronavirus and the systemic inequality it exposed has sent the world into a spiral.
... this is a book that captivates and educates on so many levels ... Part travel journal, part reportage, part investigative journalism, it’s a work impeccably researched but heartfelt and driven by eloquent descriptive storytelling. These myriad components all serve to make the book’s core argument that migration, far from being a problem, is in fact the solution to the crises that confront so many species today, not least humankind ... Shah takes the reader on a fascinating kaleidoscopic historical and geographical journey. From the southern Californian habitat of the checkerspot butterfly to the high Himalaya and its shifting forests, to the teeming refugee and migrant camps on the Greek island of Lesbos, the eyewitness accounts and interviews from these locations are the work of an accomplished journalist ... This diversity and juxtaposition of insights into many aspects of migration are, however, both the book’s greatest strengths and occasionally a weakness. I say weakness only because of the odd moment of uncomfortable jarring in certain comparisons between human migration and that of other species. Can there really be parallels between the infinitesimal territorial relocation of the checkerspot butterfly and, say, Syrian refugees? But then again both are stories of adaptability and the necessity of mobility as a means of surviving in threatening environments ... Over the course of the book’s 10 chapters and conclusion, some readers might at times find this scattergun sweep that draws from the natural, scientific and geopolitical realm slightly disorientating. Some nitpickers might argue, too, that it occasionally takes the reader too far off course in terms of the book’s main thesis ... But such shortcomings are minor irritations and more than compensated for by the way Shah convincingly pulls these disparate ends together to reveal how migration and movement are as much a necessity to existence as breathing ... Shah does a tremendous service to our understanding of the malign manipulation of the supposed 'migrant threat' ... Totally fascinating, and extremely well written, this is a book of our times and one all of us should take the time to read.
... an original take on the oft-stultifying debate about immigration, most frequently argued over by unbending stalwarts on opposite extremes, or sometimes quibbled over by noncommittal centrists ... That half of the story is popularly understood: the world is on the move. What is less often acknowledged, and what Shah convincingly fills out, is its biological necessity.
In the book, she documents the evolution of our understanding of migration. The scale of migration among animals, birds, and plants is so vast that it continues to mystify scientists. Shah discusses how early European explorers were shocked by the diversity of humans they encountered, and naturalists of the time developed taxonomies reinforcing the idea of the superiority of the European race. The first wedge between familiar and foreign was forged with science.
[Shah's] compelling probe into these questions becomes a political history of the human urge to move from one place to another ... Tracking the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today’s xenophobic policies, The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.
Shah has crafted an illuminating exploration of how the concept of migration for plants, animals, and humans has been politicized and distorted throughout history. Drawing from a wide range of sources, including the migration patterns of butterflies, lemmings, and coral, the writings of national security expert Robert D. Kaplan, and the conflicting research of taxonomist Carl Linnaeus and naturalist George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Shah provides an enormously readable survey of how migration has been researched, written about, and blatantly misinterpreted by those seeking justification for their often nativist goals ... Her occasional inclusion of aspects of her own life story serves to lighten the tone, giving it a personal inflection that makes the historical dimension all the more powerful. This work’s beguiling synergy of science, history, and contemporary politics is impressive enough, but it is this intuitive author’s captivating narration that makes this such a bracingly intelligent and important title.
... consists of a sequence of illustrative examples and heartfelt polemics, designed to demolish the arguments of those joyless and controlling types who, throughout history, have in Shah’s view elevated their prejudice against the lively and sometimes messy dynamics of the natural and human world into a series of scientific theories often presented as fact, and designed to project a much more fixed and rigid picture of how nature and humanity 'should' be ... [Shah's] contempt for those who assume that migration is a bad and threatening phenomenon, and then repeatedly bend the facts to fit that largely false conclusion, is palpable; and as a result, her book probably stands little chance of persuading those who do not already share her views ... For those of us who grasp the central truth that human beings are all part of one family, though – born to travel, to meet, to get to know one another and to intermingle – her book is a hugely entertaining, life-affirming and hopeful hymn to the glorious adaptability of life on earth. Always, the argument is threaded through with delicious descriptions of the natural world and its endless mobility, from butterflies to hungry bears. And although Shah’s arguments may not be watertight, her luminous love for this changing world is surely a far better guide, as we face an uncertain future, than the dreary fear-mongering and lies of those she condemns, sometimes without much elegance, but always with a rich measure of gaiety, humour, and hope.
... a thoughtful and thought-provoking defense of migration ... One of the more original aspects of [Shah's] book is that it depicts human migration in the context of migration by plants, animals, and even viruses ... I disagree with the book’s premise that, the current global standstill notwithstanding, climate change will trigger a new great migration. Most sensible scholars agree, of course, that the effects of climate change will accelerate migration. But there remains little consensus concerning how many people will be forced to move, where they will move from and to, or how soon this migration will happen. But whatever the numbers, Shah is right to assert that we need to start respecting the rights of migrants and seizing the opportunities of migration ... Some of the book’s most powerful sections reflect on the author’s own migrant heritage ... Shah does not overdramatize or sentimentalize their stories. Instead, the reader is left with an overwhelming sense that people who migrate out of desperation are resigned to experiencing great hardship as a means to improve their lives ... Shah methodically dismantles the racial 'science' that still underlies certain attitudes toward those who migrate and rejects arguments for controlling migration on the grounds that it could potentially lead to overpopulation, an idea that originated in the work of Thomas Malthus. It is not particularly groundbreaking to take such attitudes and assumptions to task, but Shah does so in an engaging manner, weaving history with geography and storytelling with science...Still, I think Shah overestimates the importance of such ideas and beliefs in explaining the xenophobia, discrimination, and antimigrant sentiment and policies that abound today, which I believe are more driven by perceptions about the economic impact and security implications of immigration. I do, however, agree with her pessimistic prognosis that unless we shift attitudes, our default response to more migration will be to build more walls and enact more stringent border controls ... Her closing chapter is a grim litany of migrant deaths and the detention of immigrant children. Countless scholars, analysts, and researchers have produced evidence that migration overwhelmingly benefits economies and societies and that there is a higher rate of criminality and violent extremism among nationals than among migrants, but seemingly to little effect. Perhaps Shah’s more fundamental plea—that migration is normal, that we are all migrants, and that, like nature, migration can be both beautiful and terrifying—will have more traction.
... a masterful survey of migration in both nature and humanity, countering some long-held misconceptions ... This is a valuable treatise on how humanity can 'reclaim our history of migration' and adopt a more pan-global perspective.