cover image The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move

The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move

Sonia Shah. Bloomsbury, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-63557-197-4

Science journalist Shah (Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond) delivers a masterful survey of migration in both nature and humanity, countering some long-held misconceptions. The biggest of these is the notion that “migration is the anomaly” to a settled existence in one place; in fact, Shah conclusively shows, life has always been “on the move,” as demonstrated in recent decades by new technological tools. DNA analyses indicate widespread human migration goes back further than previously thought—for instance, humans first arrived in Tibet 62,000, not 15,000, years ago. Likewise, real-time tracking of animals using GPS has revealed more extensive migration routes than scientists expected—Arctic terns “logged 70,900-kilometer migrations, nearly twice as long as previous estimates.” In addition to the “scale and complexity of both human and wild movements around the planet,” Shah discusses how a faked nature documentary popularized the myth of mass lemming suicides (thus implying the “appropriate conclusion to the migratory act [is] death”), and how early geneticists’ assertion that “people who lived on different continents were biologically foreign to one another” encouraged racism. This is a valuable treatise on how humanity can “reclaim our history of migration” and adopt a more pan-global perspective. Agent: Charlotte Sheedy, Charlotte Sheedy Literary. (June)