Adapting to climate change will take cooperation. Gaia Vince is hopeful.

Although the picture appears grim, “cooperation is in our DNA,” says the author of “Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World.” 

Phil Fisk/Flatiron Books
In “Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World,”Gaia Vince predicts large swaths of humanity will migrate as a changing climate reshapes the Earth.

As the Earth warms up, large swaths of the planet will become uninhabitable. So where will the people go? How will they live? In “Nomad Century: How Climate Migration Will Reshape Our World,” Gaia Vince posits that they will migrate to northern regions like Siberia, Greenland, and the Arctic, where warming temperatures will offer more livable conditions. But such a scenario suggests huge upheavals of cultures and systems. “Nomad Century” is both a public manifesto and a scientific blueprint for how to address these problems. Ms. Vince spoke with the Monitor recently about her book, and her vision of a cooperative future for humanity. 

Q: How does your book differ from Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction,” Bill McKibben’s “Falter,” and Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us”?

I agree with what they are saying. But what I am trying to do is move beyond the problem to the solutions. Pragmatism. These solutions I propose [like seeding the oceans with iron and the clouds with sulfate] may not be palatable, but we are super-cooperative by nature; it’s in our DNA. We have achieved this preeminence, the cities we have built, the technologies we have created. It’s easy to forget that.

Q: How do you respond to people who say that, even with all of the evidence in front of them, people still haven’t made the choice to live in a more ecologically sustainable way? 

Look, we need to stop distracting ourselves, draw a line, and say, “What are we going to do about this?” But we have to do it cooperatively. It can’t be solved by two or three countries. We will need an international organization where everyone is represented. I admire U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. He is addressing climate issues quite aggressively. 

Q: In your last chapter, “Restoration,” you list strategies such as introducing more seagrasses and mangroves, cloud seeding, white roofs, surface films, and lifestyle changes. What should we be doing to address this crisis right now? 

I don’t believe any one strategy is better than another. All of them should be tried. This is going to be an incredibly tough century with huge upheavals. So the main thing now is to move the conversation forward. We need to wake up to the reality that we have to transition to a new global environment.

Q: Jared Diamond in “Collapse” says that human civilization tends toward decay and disintegration. Do you agree?

I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Diamond about that. Look at us. We are talking on this device, communicating over thousands of miles. I did nothing to create this. I go shopping and can find and buy almost anything I desire. These are examples of cooperation, investments by people in science and technology. There are amazing structures in place that are the result of human cooperation. Ants and bees organize and cooperate and function quite efficiently, but they are all clones of one another. They’re a family. Humans are the only species that cooperates with complete strangers. That’s our greatest attribute.

Q: If you could speak to any entity or governing body, who would it be? The United Nations? Davos? The G-7?

All of them. What I am trying to achieve with this book is to start a conversation. If we talk about this crisis, then something will get done. The book starts the conversation, and there are plenty of positive future possibilities. If you look at history, you see that really large social change has occurred only because people discussed it. That’s what I’m promoting.

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