We are excited to announce that Outrage + Optimism is now part of the TED Audio Collective. This news represents an exciting continuation of the collaboration between our organizations, which began with our strategic partnership with TED Countdown.

The TED Audio Collective is a curated collection of podcasts sharing ideas on a range of subjects, including psychology, business, and design. On TED Climate you’ll hear talks from some of the leading minds in the field on crisis solutions, challenges, and insights that give listeners the information and hope we need to keep fighting.

You can view the full list of TED Audio Collective podcasts here, and listen to them wherever you get your podcasts.
Outrage + Optimism logo

Behind the scenes on the politics, investments and actions meeting the climate crisis head on

Global Optimism logo

Stubborn optimism is a choice. Join us in tackling the climate crisis with conviction, scale and speed


251: World Refugee Day: Migration in a Post-Climate Change World

With Gaia Vince

Watermark of logo

About this episode

This week, Outrage + Optimism celebrate World Refugee Day with an interview with Gaia Vince. The hosts discuss how extreme heat, floods or natural disasters cause tens of millions of people to leave their homes behind. They look at how climate migration is happening now and will only happen faster and with greater impact. With each degree of temperature rise, a billion people will be displaced and huge swathes of the world will become uninhabitable. 

Gaia Vince, author of Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval talks to the hosts about the need for what she calls ‘honest pragmatism about human mobility’. With Gaia’s steer, the hosts and Gaia discuss ways we might manage this inevitable movement of people; why the right wing, anti-immigration narrative might resonate but is not rooted in the fact that migrants historically enrich societies, both culturally and financially, and how to implement long-term solutions rather than patch-ups.  


Please fill out our 2024 Listener Feedback Survey!
Vote for Outrage + Optimism in the British Podcast Awards Listeners’ Choice Category!

Gaia Vince
Website | LinkedIn | Instagram | Twitter (X) 

World Refugee Day
Refugee Week: 17 - 23 June
What is the ‘human climate niche’ and why does it matter?
‘Simple Acts’ for Refugee Week!

Learn more about the Paris Agreement.

It’s official, we’re a TED Audio Collective Podcast - Proof!
Check out more podcasts from The TED Audio Collective

Please follow us on social media!
Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

Full Transcript

Christiana: [00:00:00] So listeners, lovely to share with you that Outrage + Optimism is officially in the running to win the British Podcast Awards Listeners Choice category. Sorry, that's quite a mouthful, it almost sounds like a UN organization, but it is, it is the British Podcast Awards, and we would love for you to support us here so you can vote from anywhere in the world, not just in the UK. The link is going to be in the show notes. The name of the link is BritishPodcastAwards.com/voting.

Paul: [00:00:38] And we've also officially launched our 2024 Listener Feedback survey. And it's only one page to fill out and listeners get to give feedback, suggest guests and topics and more. So please, we want to better and better serve you, our beloved listeners. You are why we do what we do, so please fill that in and let us know how we can do better.

Christiana: [00:00:59] And we look forward to hearing from you as ever.

Tom: [00:01:15] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:01:17] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Paul: [00:01:19] And I'm Paul Dickinson.

Tom: [00:01:20] Today for you and World Refugee Day, we are bringing you a conversation about the consequences and the causes of forced migration around the world. We have a conversation with author Gaia Vince. Thanks for being here. Okay, so, as ever, World Refugee Day falls on the 20th of June, and this is incredibly consequential and something more people are paying attention to and should pay attention to, because this is an issue of increasing importance in our changing world. We all know that the issue of migration is deeply connected, forced migration, deeply connected to climate. And it's also true that the once stable climate that people have lived in for millennia is now shifting rapidly, and that is leading to droughts and floods, which are forcing many people to leave their homes in search of a better life, and that this is one of the real places where climate interacts with other factors, conflict, economic opportunity and politics that drive migration. Now, migration can be a valuable adaptation strategy, but it also contains real vulnerabilities and challenges, not only to the individuals lives that are, of course, so profoundly affected by needing to leave their homes, but also to the politics of other countries that might end up being places where they try to make new lives. So this is what we're going to talk about for the next 15, 20 minutes before Gaia joins us. Would either of you like to kick off with any words of reflection? Christiana, I know this is an issue that has exercised you, in which you have thought about deeply for many years. So why don't you start? Load More
Christiana: [00:03:01] Yeah, not just thought about.

Tom: [00:03:04] Yes, right.

Christiana: [00:03:04] It, it just hits me very deeply.

Paul: [00:03:07] Felt about.

Christiana: [00:03:08] Felt, yeah. Sensed, felt. It's it's a very painful issue, but, you know, Tom and Paul we usually try to be clear about the terms that we use. And I think this is one time where it would be very helpful to differentiate in the conversation that we're going to have here between displacement and migration.

Tom: [00:03:30] Yeah.

Christiana: [00:03:31] So displacement is the term that is used when people have to flee their homes, often very suddenly, with an extreme flood or a storm, that's displacement. Migration is actually when you have the quote unquote option, but it's a painful option. So it's a decision that you take over a space of time to move out of your home, leave your ancestral home very often, leave your forefathers, where they are underground and, and, and you have to leave, leaving your cultural roots everything behind because you know that it is the only way to have a better quality of life, or in fact, even to survive. And migration then gets divided into two. One is internal migration, when people move to a different place in their own country, as we have seen in Panama, and we can talk about that. Or migration cross-border, which is usually the topic that gets most attention, because the migration that crosses borders is the one that has political implications, is the one that some people think has security implications, and that's the one that gets most attention. But interestingly enough, it's not even the most frequent one.

Tom: [00:05:05] Christiana, why don't you give us some of the numbers around what's really happening here?

Christiana: [00:05:08] So so first, let's just look at the top five countries that have the highest number of new internal displacements due to disasters in 2023. Obviously we're in 24 now. So, China 4.7 million, Turkey 4.1 million.

Tom: [00:05:25] First of all, that is an astonishing number. 4.7 million people internally displaced in China. I mean I know it's a big country, there's a lot of people. But that is a huge number. Sorry I interrupted.

Christiana: [00:05:34] Well, Turkey 4.1, Philippines 2.6, Somalia 2 million, Bangladesh 1.8 million. I mean, those are astonishing numbers of people who are, as I said before, internally displaced, which means the press really doesn't cover it very well. And those internal displacements that are now over nine, almost getting to 10,000,000 in 1 year, in one year are mostly due to floods, and and and storms. But, but it is just amazing that we have those that, that volume of people who have to leave their land, even if they stay in their own country. And A, the human pain that that represents. And B, the broad international blindness to that issue is the one that really astonishes me.

Tom: [00:06:39] Yeah.

Paul: [00:06:39] And sorry, I was going to say, at the heart of this is essentially food is the main one. If you're if you're not able to grow food because the climate's changed so much, you move, so many of the refugees at the southern border of the United States, for example, are have come from countries that have had extreme stress put on their food growing capabilities. But, I mean, just just a framing point, you know, we think that we don't move, we don't migrate. But just for a moment, spend a second thinking about the sheer amount of stuff that moves around the world to allow us to stay where we are. Where does our food come from. There's a whole international system that supports us to stay where we are. The migrants are not benefiting from that system, and they have to move. And it's heart-breaking that, you know, some people will mischaracterize many of them as economic migrants seeking some kind of better economic opportunity when they're being forced. Nobody really wants to move from where they grew up. That's a very unnatural thing to want to do. But sorry, Tom.

Tom: [00:07:36] No, I was just going to, I mean obviously as you've pointed out, Christiana, people are forced to being migrants either internally displaced or refugees for a multitude of reasons. And conflict has historically been the largest. But now disasters caused by extreme weather is now rapidly replacing conflict or disasters caused by extreme weather is driving conflict, which then is driving more so that climate is a threat multiplier. But just to kind of look at the potential impact of this going forward, which of course is a is a is a dark scenario. So the stable climate that humanity has relied upon for millennia is, of course, as we know, shifting. And we're now 1.1 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels. And a recent study identified that an average annual temperature of 29°C is the upper limit of the human climate niche, and after this, regions become unlivable. So now, if you go back to the pre-war post war period, 1969 to 1990, only around 12 million people, so 1% of the global population lived in regions where the temperature was higher than 29°C was exceeded. However, today, with the change both in population but also in climate, more than 600 million people, 9% of the global population live in areas that have been pushed above that temperature threshold. And if we do and you know, in this podcast, we don't for a minute believe this is going to happen, but this is where we're currently heading, end up with 2.7 degrees of warming, which, remember, is what we're aiming for based on current policies. Around one third of all the people on the planet could be pushed to living in regions outside this niche. Exposure outside this will lead to increase morbidity, mortality and the necessity for further displacement. The impact of that around the world would be completely transformative in a very negative way. Obviously, for the people that have to move and for the other countries that these people are heading towards, this would be a permanent issue around how do we deal with this moral and practical crisis.

Christiana: [00:09:41] Yeah. And thank you, Tom, because that I think that really hits, hits the nail on the head. And, you know, in case we need to hammer that nail one more time, what is very, gosh, I don't even know what adjective to use, but it's it just grips me at the bottom of my gut is that if you consider human evolution, where during the Holocene, and we've talked about this for many times on the podcast, the last 12,000 years, we were able to move out of human beings being nomads and moving around the earth according to where nature would support them best. We were then able, because of stable climatic conditions which we're now disrupting. We were then able to move into the Holocene, where humans, unlike all other animals, decided to settle and adapt everything around ourselves, food, home, roof, everything. We adapt everything around ourselves to make it possible for us to live where we are. That has been the story of stability of the Holocene. And now that we're disrupting that, now we go back.

Tom: [00:11:03] Such a good point.

Christiana: [00:11:04] To instability of our surroundings. I don't know, it's a very odd concept of Anthropocene nomadic life. I mean, it's just inconceivable that we are now almost countercyclical in our human evolution and our, our relationship to the natural environment.

Tom: [00:11:28] Now, Paul, do you want to come in? I think we've got our guest arriving in just a moment.

Paul: [00:11:32] I mean, I would just say I knew a climate scientist called Arla, and he used to say to me, the problem Paul is where am I going to live. And he would describe why all these different regions of the world were going to be climate challenged in various different ways. The question is really how to bring this home so you can really feel it. It was 2016, some of you will remember when, at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, alongside every single nation in the world, the refugees marched under the refugees flag. And it it was a way it was, you know, a simple but powerful way to bring home what it means to have essentially lost your ability to live in the nation you know. We we know that the elections that are going on around the world, in many countries, immigration is a is a very critical issue. It's one where so to say extreme right have made real advantage of this. I always think of the extraordinary reflections from those astronauts who talk about the overview effect, looking down at planet Earth and seeing no borders anywhere at all, and I, I'm, I'm very, very struck, about the the othering of people who need our help potentially, and could make enormous contributions to our societies. Now, it looks to me like Gaia's here, is that right?

Tom: [00:12:52] Yes, that's right. So thanks, Paul. And Gaia is in the waiting room so we're going to invite her in, and she. Christiana?

Christiana: [00:12:58] Sorry, can I just say one thing before we invite her in. Astonishing as the internal displacement numbers for 2023 are, we also have to remember, because our memories are short, that in 2022, we had an even worse situation. We had more than 32 million climate linked internal displacements that year. And listeners will remember the terrible flooding in Pakistan, which was, as a single event, the world's largest disaster displacement event in a decade, displacing 33 million people, which was 15% of the country's population, triggering that humanitarian crisis that we will remember, and years later, many of the displaced people still were not in adequate shelter and still seeking to settle for settle somewhere where they can actually have a better livelihood.

Tom: [00:14:02] Yeah. No, I agree. And and and you just said people will remember it. I hope people do remember it because the trouble is that as time goes on and we get so many repetitions of these disastrous events, it can be hard to kind of recall how familiar these are becoming to us because they keep happening. And that's part of this sort of frog in a boiling pot of water.

Christiana: [00:14:22] We are beginning to normalize this.

Tom: [00:14:23] We're beginning to normalize it, exactly. That's very dangerous. Now, Gaia Vince is a senior research fellow at University College London, a science writer and a broadcaster. Her particular focus has been the interplay between humans and the planetary environment. Her recent book is called Nomad Century, which is an urgent investigation into how climate change will force us to change where and how we live. So let's have a conversation with her and see the basis for her optimism and determination. So let's let her in.

Christiana: [00:14:56] Gaia, so wonderful to have you here on Outrage + Optimism. We're really excited to have a fascinating conversation with you, because our sense is that you're going to help us turn the tables on a very painful subject that we are focusing on this week. But before we go there, sorry, I cannot I just cannot let the opportunity go. I know, I know, Paul.

Paul: [00:15:23] Oh yes you can. We're very busy, we've got no time, we have to press on with this.

Christiana: [00:15:27] See, they're not letting me, so I can't talk about.

Tom: [00:15:29] It's not going to work.

Christiana: [00:15:30] Gaia's poster that says, okay, okay, okay.

Paul: [00:15:33] What does that poster say Gaia?

Gaia Vince: [00:15:36] So, first of all, it's a huge, huge pleasure and honour to be on this podcast, Outrage + Optimism, which is a fantastic name for a podcast, by the way, because that is exactly, what we're all experiencing, isn't it, in this terrifying time. So behind me, I have a poster from a TV series, that I, that I presented for Channel 4.

Christiana: [00:15:59] And what is, what is the topic?

Gaia Vince: [00:16:01] Escape to Costa Rica.

Christiana: [00:16:02] Da da da da.

Gaia Vince: [00:16:03] Yeah, exactly. And this was born out of my, absolute love for Costa Rica as a country. But I also, I use the example of Costa Rica all the time when, when I'm meeting, and I'm giving talks in, in, in basically in wealthy countries who say, oh, it's impossible to decarbonize. We can't possibly do that. It would massively affect our standard of living. It would, it would, it's just too difficult. And I say, well, you know what, Costa Rica has managed to grow its economy while not just, halting deforestation, but actively reversing it, increasing forestation by protecting nature and making it a really important part of its constitution. And, by aiming, it's already, you know, 100% zero net zero in terms of, electricity production, but it's aiming for net zero in terms of energy production. And that's really extraordinary. And not only that, it is the happiest country in the world, or one of them. It's always, it's always measured in, in along those. It's got, some of the world's longest lived people, you know, these, blue zones that occur in certain parts of the world. Well, one of them.

Christiana: [00:17:22] You know Gaia, I'm going to, I mean, I, I could sit here and listen to you for the next three hours, but I'm afraid Tom and Paul will absolutely, you know, they will either.

Gaia Vince: [00:17:32] I haven't even started on.

Tom: [00:17:34] Anytime you want to retire from the podcast Christiana, we have a replacement. Someone who will be equally.

Christiana: [00:17:38] Voila, voila, all right. Gaia, thank you for all that. I, I definitely, share your love of this country. And today we wanted to talk to you about, about another topic that you have researched deeply and have written your book about, and it's about the migration slash displacement slash refugee crisis that we are witnessing in, I would say, actually, in exponential scales, year after year after year, as more and more of the area of the planet becomes practically uninhabitable. And, we were we were just really taken by your book because you have such a different take on this based on your research, it's not, you know, that you're in la la land, but based on your research, you come out with a very interesting, almost guidelines, conclusion that we would love for you to share here. And you know, one of the people who reviewed your book, I think, captured the essence of your book in one sentence. And that is disruption is inevitable, but tragedy is not. And I thought it was such a brilliant sentence to summarize your book, but would you say that that sentence is a good summary and why is it a good summary? Why is disruption inevitable, well, we know that, but why is the tragedy not inevitable?

Gaia Vince: [00:19:24] Yeah, absolutely. So my book, Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval, is very much about this climate chaos that we are bringing on ourselves. And this is a chaos of, of course, the earth systems, which we've, which we've created by adding all this extra energy into our atmosphere and oceans, by trapping heat with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And that extra energy is driving these, well, heatwaves, drought, the hotter air holds a lot more moisture so we get these flash floods, we get these much more violent storms, coastal erosion, sea level rise, harvest failures, landslides, all of that which we are used now to seeing all around the world on our television screens and, these, these, this footage of disaster. And it really brings home the message that I, I really want to underline that we are now living in the post-climate change world. This is a different world. Climate change isn't something happening out there at some point in the future. It very much has happened. We've already experienced the first year of global average temperatures being 1.5 above the pre-industrial average, and temperatures are only climbing. We've seen month by month, by month of the hottest temperatures ever recorded. And what that does is it produces this increasingly unliveable climate, unliveable conditions, which largely are around the tropics but are spreading upwards.

Gaia Vince: [00:21:04] There is nowhere on Earth that will escape the negative impacts of climate change. But there are places that have a lesser impact along the top. And so, you know, if we're in 2024 and we're already experiencing disasters that are displacing tens of millions of people, as the decades roll on, of course that will increase. And what that does, of course, is provide this, huge social, economic, political upheaval in our human systems. And yes, in answer to your question, this is a very, very, provocative situation. Anything could occur. But we have the models, we have the climate models. We can see what is coming. And disasters that unfold will be largely, largely the, the result of lack of planning right. It is not inevitable that, you know, tens of millions of people are thrown into conflict or lose their lives or suffer horrific damage. We have the ability to plan. We need to be honest about what's coming, and we need to be pragmatic. And that involves planning. And that's really what my book is saying. It's calling for us to take this seriously, to have a conversation about what those solutions are and could be, and then start discussing them democratically and putting something in place, because burying our heads in the sand is not a solution.

Christiana: [00:22:37] Is not the solution. What what does planning mean for you?

Gaia Vince: [00:22:42] Right. Well, you know, if we look as the decades progress, we are seeing the areas of the planet, and this is a sort of belt of un-liveability, of increasing un-liveability around the tropics. And it extends, you know, as far south as Patagonia in the Americas, up to the Great Lakes. It doesn't mean everyone will have to move, but it means we need to take seriously adaptation. We need to have serious conversations about where we retreat, where we invest in, in huge, adaptation to, you know, basically, to create these artificial, liveable situations within an un-liveable climate. And, you know, in the Africa's, it's all the way down through South Africa, up to, up to the, you know, through the Mediterranean, up into parts of France, you know, Spain, Greece, Italy are already experiencing horrendous heat conditions where people are dying, you know, daily, fires, drought. In Asia, most of the subcontinent of India, across South East Asia. This is home to around one third of the world's population that is directly already being impacted in 2024. We're seeing, you know, deaths and unliveable conditions increasing. It is not impossible to live in these places. You know, we have Dubai, we have Qatar, but these are very heavily adapted, essentially artificial, you know, shopping malls that are air conditioned with very small, wealthy populations and everything is brought to them.

Christiana: [00:24:17] Not replicable.

Gaia Vince: [00:24:18] They're not replicable for a city like Mumbai of 50 million people, you know, 9 million of whom live in slum housing. It's not suitable for Caracas. It's not suitable for Cairo. You know, we have to be sensible. These places will still exist. There will be a Mumbai in 2040, 2060, but it will be a small, heavily adapted, city of much smaller population. So what about the others, what about the 9 million people in Mumbai who live in slum housing, which are, you know, essentially concrete boxes with corrugated iron roofs where the temperature is already up to ten degrees hotter than in the city proper, where they're on the edge of the ocean. And they're so they're inundated frequently where the water, actually the sea level rises through the ground, affecting sewerage, causing, you know, communicable diseases, you know, what about that. They are going to have to move. So we need to plan for that, and we need to put some sort of system in place. And that's going to take cooperation. It's going to take negotiation. And it is, above all, going to take some sort of honest pragmatism about human mobility. We're going to have to get out of this, very toxic narrative that has been produced around borders and around, around citizenship.

Tom: [00:25:37] So I'd love to just ask you about that. So I totally take the point on planning, and the world you're describing is the one I want to live in, right, where we can look at real problems and we can sort of make plans and we can think practically about solutions to complex problems. But as is evidenced by just two elections going on at the moment in the UK and in the US, and there are lots of others in the world, actually, the a compounding risk is that the reality of migration leads to political swings. And actually it doesn't lead to sober analysis and planning around what do we do about all these people. It leads to panic, both amongst the people who have to move, and also amongst the people who think everyone's coming over here because of these changes.

Christiana: [00:26:19] Who feel threatened.

Tom: [00:26:19] Who feel threatened as a result of it. And there will always be people who will take advantage of those instincts politically. So given that reality and the fact that we're already quite a long way down that road, how do we adopt the more sober, pragmatic planning approach that you're talking about, because at the moment, the sort of sober, pragmatic planning approach in the UK and other places like, stop the boats, no one's coming here, all that, you know, that type of approach, which is devastating and awful for everybody.

Gaia Vince: [00:26:49] Yeah, absolutely. So we are in a situation where we have allowed the narrative around human mobility to be completely led by populist, nationalistic, ethno nationalistic in some places, sentiments. That's very dangerous. It's destabilizing. It causes divisions within society, and it, you know, as a short term sloganeering in order to get elected, it works very well, which is why it is, which is why it prevails, particularly in, in national elections where we have these very short term cycles, you know, election cycles. I mean, in Australia, it's just three years. In Britain it's five. But we've already had, you know, who knows how many leaders. And, and it works, particularly when, when, you know, the economy is stagnant, when there hasn't been enough investment, when people feel left behind. We know the reasons why populism succeeds, but we absolutely have to challenge it okay. It is not okay to appease these, these cheap slogans and this sentiment that, migrants are, are bad, that they're a security risk, that they're somehow it's abnormal to move, all of those things right. Migration is completely natural. It is part of our evolved behaviour as a human species, you know, we emerged in Africa some 2 to 300,000 years ago, and we're now dispersed everywhere. And part of the the absolute profound foundations of our success as a species that is, you know, given rise to things like, the industrialized greenhouse gas emissions, you know, all of that, it actually comes down to our incredible cooperative ability, the fact that we can solve our problems through our social networks that we, we, we come together, complete strangers, to, to try and make things work. You know, even though we have at the moment several really horrific conflicts around the world, isn't it incredible, actually, that most of us are living in pretty much peaceful situations, even though we have gross inequality, even though, you know, we don't live in police states, and that is because we are fundamentally cooperative with complete strangers. We need to play on our strengths. We need to use this cooperative ability as a strength.

Paul: [00:29:25] Gaia, before the interview, I was quoting you talking about really the sheer amount of stuff that has to move around to allow us to stay where we are right. So that that whole infrastructure, it was it was really kind of a penny really dropped when I was listening to you talking about that. One other thing that I heard you talk about on another podcast, which I'd just love to get your response on. It's not like the G7 has one view about this, or the OECD has one view about this. Am I right in thinking that Canada is considering tripling its population and building like extraordinary new cities? Can you talk a little bit about how there isn't just one, one way of looking at this from the point of view of advanced economies?

Gaia Vince: [00:29:59] Yeah, of course. So, you know, leaders around the world have different priorities. And if you look back at just borders, anyway, they're pretty much all recent, you know, and where borders have existed in the past, it's always about keeping people in, stopping them leaving and trying to, there have been raiding parties to go out and, different ways of like either coercing or persuading more people in because leaders know the economic benefits of enhanced productivity and increased innovation in, you know, economic growth that comes from a larger population, larger labour force. And we also know, of course, that almost most countries are suffering from falling birth rates. We're not having enough babies to support our aging population. And that really is a demographic crisis that is going to hit our economies. The only way to solve that is through immigration. And leaders know that, you know, with one hand, they're turning people away and coming up with all these xenophobic policies. And with the other hand, they're like pulling people in, you know, and creating all these, secret ways to get people to stay, because actually, we need them. We have vacancies everywhere, and there's no way to to maintain our current living standards without immigration. They know that. And so, you know, in the past, we've had many of ways of bringing people in, whether it's in Britain, I'm talking from Britain now.

Gaia Vince: [00:31:25] We've had the Windrush scheme to bring former colonies in. We've, we've encouraged people to come from all over, to Britain. In Australia they had the £10 poms. And this is a strategy, of course, that many leaders are very openly also embracing now, like Canada, for example, has big plans for economic growth over the coming decades. It's planning to treble its population so its existing population will be a minority, okay. And of course, not everybody is along with this scheme. You know, there are detractors, but this is the, economic program, the political social program, of the elected government in Canada. And to go with that, they are rolling out new house building, so there are enough homes. They're developing, industry and innovation in, in their cities. They're expanding. They are planning to be a major, a major force in the 21st century right. They're not going to look back in decline and say, oh no, we don't want anything to change. We really like the kind of mysterious idea of a 1950s country which was all homogeneous. That country doesn't exist, of course.

Paul: [00:32:42] And it had, if you look back to the 1950s, it wasn't it wasn't all plain sailing back then, you know, underneath this, this, this sort of picture book, there was all kinds of ghastly stuff going on.

Gaia Vince: [00:32:52] Of course, of course, of course. But if you listen to the populist narrative, it's a very, very nicely curated, tale of this mythical, wonderful time that we could just go back to with, of course, this, this leadership, and all your problems will be solved. And, you know, as soon as you dig into any of those things, they don't work. So what we really need is we need true leadership now, we have multiple global crises around the world, which cannot be solved by individual cities, cannot be solved by individual states, even regional alliances. These are planetary problems, whether it's global climate change, whether it's, you know, large scale human mobility. And by the way, this migration really can be seen as an opportunity not just for our economies, but it's, it's it's the movement, not just of humans, it's the movement of resources, of capital, of industry, of expertise, of agriculture, of everything right. It's a horrible, horrible disruption, particularly for those most affected and most vulnerable, for whom, you know, as part of our shared humanity, we have an obligation, I would say, to make sure that it is done in a in a way that is as respectful as possible and gives enough agency to those people moving as they join, our project of enlarged citizenship. And, you know, this idea of building these, green clean cities of opportunity in safer places, you know, where where young people have a chance to be part of a progressive economy, part of a new society, part of a greener restoration project for our entire planet.

Christiana: [00:34:42] You know, Gaia, it strikes me that, what what you've described, requires a very deep mindset shift. And we we humans, we are very predictable in how we react to fear, when we feel threatened, when we feel afraid, what we do is we crawl up into a little ball and protect the very, very tight boundaries around ourselves that we think are the protective universe that we need. And what you're suggesting here is a mindset shift exactly in the opposite direction, which is not to crawl up in a little ball, but rather to move from a mindset of fear in a universe of scarcity to a mindset of opportunity in a universe of abundance and possibilities. And it's not just about the political policies. It's not just about, honestly, it's it's elections for me, the ones that all of you have described are the consequence of the lack of that mindset shift. And, you know, we've we've talked so much about how systems change are actually deeply personal because they start in our head, they start in our head. So for me, the challenge is how do I step out of my fear, how do I step out of my little cocooning, protective armour around myself, thinking that I'll be okay if I just protect myself. No, I won't be okay. That's the problem. Either we're all okay or none of us are going to be okay, but that mindset shift is so difficult to bring about.

Gaia Vince: [00:36:43] Yeah, I mean, absolutely. And I'm so glad that you brought that up because fundamentally that is the issue, right. It is about fear and it is about changing that mindset. Now, this idea so, so fear does shrink our world. It does shrink our vision. It shrinks our imagination. We we conserve everything and we try and protect things as they are. So first of all, we have to recognize that change is happening whether we like it or not. It is going on. We cannot keep the moment still. Stasis is death, right. The, you know, the London of the 1950s is different from the London of 2024, will be different from the London of 2080. Same New York, same Cairo, same San Jose. right. This is changing. The other thing is, first of all, we need to realize that we cannot survive alone. None of us can survive alone. We are part, all of us, of a bigger project, of a bigger society, which we are all reliant on. And that society itself is reliant on these earth systems from which everything comes. The genesis of all of our resources, of our energy, of our food, of our life giving oxygen. And they are all intertwined. In other words, it is in my interests for the interests of society to be aligned. It is in my future interests and the interests of my children, for the society's children, for the next generation to live in a calmer, peaceful world. You know, I don't want my kids conscripted into armies to fight, fleeing Bangladeshis, fleeing Nepalis, fleeing Nigerians.

Christiana: [00:38:34] Exactly, exactly.

Gaia Vince: [00:38:34] I want them much more. I would much rather they were living in, you know, more compact cities with a Bangladeshi neighbour, right. A Nepali neighbour where everyone is working together to produce a better, cleaner society. We can do this, but we have to do it together. None of us can do it alone. And I'm just going to say that, you know, go back 100 years to 1924, okay, it was a different world, completely different. No one would have imagined the world that we have now. It was much smaller. The the shape of nations, the empires that people lived under, the professions, the jobs, the manual labour, the economies based entirely on agriculture almost everywhere on Earth. Everything was very, very different. And they could not have imagined that 15 years later, a world war would utterly disrupt everything, would lead to mass migration, would lead to demolished cities reduced to rubble, leaders that hated each other, you know, millions dead, utterly transformed world, nations redrawn redivided, languages disappeared, changed all of that, identities completely smashed and reconfigured right. We have now information about 15 years that they could not have dreamed of in terms of climate models and in terms of where will be affected, in terms of what sort of agriculture will be possible, water availability, sea level rise, all of that. We are so much more able to plan ahead. And you know what, after that war when everybody really did hate each other, when people had been at war and their cities were destroyed, they nevertheless were able to come together in that utter devastation and say, we want to create a better world. We want nations to come together under a new United Nations. We want to eradicate things like scourges like smallpox, like polio for all the billions of people out there as individuals, we're going to make a program to do that. We want a a charter, a human rights, a universal declaration of human rights. And they did it.

Tom: [00:40:58] Gaia, I love the vision that you're painting there. I think the history of the collective goal versus individualistic objectives is the history of conflict in the world. And I hope that your story about how we can identify the collective rather than the individual, which would be a break from human history, but nevertheless, if we can ever do it, this will be the moment.

Gaia Vince: [00:41:19] Well, we have done it before.

Tom: [00:41:20] Now I have to ask you.

Gaia Vince: [00:41:21] We can do it again, we can do this, solve this nationally.

Tom: [00:41:25] I love the optimism. Now, I have to ask you very quickly, final question, one thing you're optimistic about and one thing you're outraged about, about the future as you look at migration.

Gaia Vince: [00:41:33] Well, I'm very optimistic about the energy transition that's going far faster than I could have dreamed of even five years ago. We have hit a tipping point now, and, you know, it is inevitable that we will reach zero carbon energy. And that is a phenomenal achievement, really, we have proved so many fossil fuel, evangelicals wrong. So that's great. And what was the other question?

Tom: [00:41:58] Outraged.

Christiana: [00:41:59] Outraged.

Gaia Vince: [00:42:00] Okay. I'm outraged at, the the lack of honesty about the climate chaos that we are already experiencing, let alone where it's going. We really need to be honest about that. We need to be pragmatic. We need leaders to actually, you know, actually describe to their citizens what we face, you know, and the the true costs of not doing anything versus the costs of doing it right now.

Christiana: [00:42:30] Such a good point.

Tom: [00:42:31] Such a good point.

Christiana: [00:42:31] Such a good point.

Tom: [00:42:32] Gaia Vince, thank you so much for joining us. We're very grateful for you taking the time. Lovely to see you.

Gaia Vince: [00:42:37] Thanks so much. 

Tom: [00:42:37] Everyone should read the book, thank you very much.

Gaia Vince: [00:42:40] Huge pleasure. Thank you.

Tom: [00:42:47] So friends, how wonderful to get a chance to talk to Gaia. I unfortunately have to leave in a couple of minutes, so maybe I'll kick off breaking with tradition and then we can pass to others. I mean, you've got to say, I love the vision, right. I mean, this has to be, she's absolutely right that this is what we have to do. We have to realize that it is in our collective interest to actually shift from individualistic thinking and mentality to collective thinking, and actually realize that if we end up in our little silos, I mean, you know, the old phrase, we either hang together or we all get hanged separately. You know, we actually all end up in a much worse situation if we can't do that. I don't completely agree with her historical analogies. I think that actually it is really hard to point to a moment when humanity has been able to do this before. And I feel like, the very significant political challenges of populism and the and the, the seduction of that narrative around, I can take you back to where you were in the past and, you know, make, you know, take back control, make America great again. Those are very poisonous, powerful narratives. And we're going to have to do much, much more than just say we need to rise above them. Because I do think it is, it's retelling a different story that honestly, is bigger than anything humans have done before. Now, that's not to discount her theory and her approach, because I believe it's necessary and I completely agree with that. But I don't think that there are historical parallels where we can say, actually, this is an example, and humans have proved themselves capable of this before, but nevertheless, that's what needs to happen. So bravo to her for putting it out there.

Christiana: [00:44:26] I would argue, Tom, that we can definitely find examples where we have done it in a micro.

Tom: [00:44:32] In a micro, yeah.

Christiana: [00:44:33] In, in, you know, in, in small regions in, you know, small topics, small I say as compared to the challenge that we have at hand.

Tom: [00:44:44] To the whole of humanity, yeah.

Christiana: [00:44:45] Because now we have to do it for the whole of humanity and for the whole planet, right.

Tom: [00:44:48] Yeah.

Christiana: [00:44:49] And so I think that is the completely unprecedented challenge that we have now. I would agree with her that we have it in us. It's the the issue is that we squash it out of ourselves, and we definitely squash it out of others. And so we do have it in us. And the question is, how do how do we evoke the best and highest use of ourselves, because that's not what we're doing now.

Tom: [00:45:19] Yeah. Now I'm going to discover what you two thought of the interview by listening to the episode when it comes out in a couple of days, because I've got to drop now. I'm very sorry about that, but lovely to see you both as ever. See you next time. Bye, bye everybody.

Paul: [00:45:30] Bye Tom.

Christiana: [00:45:30] Bye Tom. Paul, what did you think?

Paul: [00:45:34] I just want to make two points that I think are were triggered by her comments. I mean, one is, you know, she talked a little bit about Bangladesh and, you know, we all know that, you know, at least a third of that country is very much under risk, but there's an extraordinary migration story that I experienced. I knew, that the India, which has a long has a 4000 kilometre border with Bangladesh, had built this 3000 kilometre fence. And so I met somebody from the Bangladesh government and I said, you know, am I right in thinking people are leaving your country because of the sea level rise. And this person said, yes. And I said, where are they going. And he said, mostly to Malaysia, to the palm oil. And I was thinking about this fence. So I said, how are they getting there. And he said, he looked at me quizzically and he said, they're getting there on airplanes. And so what I realized is that the modern world has both fences, but air travel in a very strange combination. We're in an extremely unusual situation with different kinds of migration. We're familiar with, you know, in the UK, where people talk about boats coming across the channel.

Paul: [00:46:30] But there are also, as Gaia points out, migrants who arrive with assets with wealth, who want to contribute to societies. I, reflecting on the on the narrative of the populists, the extreme right against migration, I do detect to some degree, another dimension of our society, which is there is something whereby a, you know, a large percentage of the population is sort of chasing the crumbs at the bottom of the economy and the idea of people coming in, so there are more people chasing the same amount of crumbs. The problem is not so much that people are coming in, it's more that a large percentage of the population are living off the crumbs of the economy. And so I do think if we had a better integrated economy with, you know, better equality of opportunity, better transfer of wealth from the sort of super rich, you know, with very large assets that just generate gigantic income. The analysis of Thomas Piketty that I think is a dimension in this narrative. And so it's it is, as I think Gaia pointed out, a narrowness of perspective onto the problem.

Christiana: [00:47:32] Such a good point, Paul. Such a good point, the crumbs of the economy. Wow. What what a painful phrase. And so well put Paul. That's the fundamental problem.

Paul: [00:47:48] I think so.

Christiana: [00:47:49] That's the fundamental problem that there is such a large proportion of humanity that is scrambling for, for that the, the, the bottom of the pyramid is as is called.

Paul: [00:48:02] And I know, I know you and I both believe that's kind of an avoidable thing that can change, right?

Christiana: [00:48:06] Well, yes. And before we we go to that, just, just again to remind us how deeply, deeply, and I almost want to cuss here how deeply unfair that is. Because again, again, right here we have again another painful example of how climate is so unfair is so unjust, because it is those people at the bottom of the pyramid that are completely exempt from any responsibility for having caused climate change, whether they live in a developed country or not. But the bottom of the pyramid are completely exempt of responsibility. And the fact that they're the ones that are most exposed to the negative consequences of this, and the ones that have to compete for the few resources that are available there at the bottom of the pyramid. I mean, it is just injustice upon injustice, upon injustice upon injustice.

Paul: [00:49:10] But the democratic system has potentially within it the seeds or the mechanism to rectify that. So I remain optimistic that we're in some strange backwaters of the of the democratic human project. But I think we are going to make great strides ahead because we're being tested and it can be, you know, and Gaia herself talked about the ashes of World War II, it can be out of a crisis, the best of us comes forward both individually and collectively.

Christiana: [00:49:36] Well, from your lips, from your lips, to the.

Paul: [00:49:41] Well, to God's, from your lips, from our lips to, her.

Christiana: [00:49:44] To the universe's ears.

Paul: [00:49:45] To the universe's ears, thank you.

Christiana: [00:49:48] Thank you, thank you Paul.

Paul: [00:49:50] Thank you Christiana, thank you Tom, thank you Gaia.

Christiana: [00:49:52] Thank you, thank you everyone, and we'll see you next week.

Paul: [00:49:56] We'll see you next week.

Clay: [00:50:02] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. Thank you for listening. I'm Clay, producer of this podcast. Thank you to Gaia Vince for joining us on World Refugee Day. A link to purchase her book, Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval is in the show notes, as well as other links to her work and social media where you can connect with her. I'm sure she'd love to hear if you checked out our interview with her on the show today. So thank you to Gaia. Now it's Refugee Day, it's Refugee Week, and if you don't have plans to celebrate the contributions, the creativity, the resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary all over the world, I wanted to quickly highlight that on RefugeeWeek.org.uk there is a page made just for you called Simple Acts, on which there are some simple launching points for action and community that you can take. You can check it out with your family, your children, your friends. There are films, stories, events happening near you you can search for and join, and also toolkits to host your own community building activity or event, if that's more your style. I was reading through all these and I was reminded of, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior wrote a book that I love, and the title poses the perfect question for this week, which is, where do we go from here, chaos or community. So take a simple action and choose community. I can't wait to hear what you all get up to. Okay, last but certainly not least at the top of the show, Christiana and Paul mentioned you can vote for us in the British Podcast Awards Listeners Choice category.

Clay: [00:51:55] I said it, that was hard, but I did it. I have voted and they actually, yeah, they allow that it's legal. And, we're asking all of our listeners to go vote for us when you have a moment. It means the world, BritishPodcastAwards.com/voting. Every vote counts. So thank you for voting. And our current listener feedback survey is live. And we really, really really really really want to hear from you. So if you could please take a few minutes to fill that out so we can make this podcast better and we can stay close together as a community as we navigate the chaos. So, I should note that we do these surveys twice a year, so one leading into the summer and then one at the end of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. And so there will be our official 2024 listener survey at the end of the year. But that's too long to wait to hear what you think, what you want, and so we want to know now what's on your mind. So go check that out. Link in the show notes. Thank you for filling that out. Okay, all right. Closing up my pen box there. Looking forward to next week. Some of us from our team will be at London Climate Action Week. So if you see us, stop us, say hi. We love meeting listeners and we'll probably, you know, hand you our phone with the listener survey on it so you can just fill it out right in front of us. Hope to see you there and we will be back with another episode next week. See you then.


Latest Insights