March 25, 2005

Directed migration

In Nature (subscription needed), Sujatha Byravan and Sudhir Chella Rajan suggest a way to deal with the coastal dwellers that may some day be displaced by the rising sea levels. They propose that these people (maybe 50-200 million by year 2090) should have “an early option” to move out to more secure places. Specifically, each rich country would receive a number of immigrants proportional to the country’s cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases. According to Byravan and Rajan, there are “several ways”, which they do not identify, to decide “who should be considered for immigration benefits” and “which countries should bear the costs of immigration”. And they conclude that we should figure out the details now rather than later.

In Spain we say “hombre prevenido vale por dos” (a prepared man has double worth). But, can you imagine political institutions in year 1920 deciding how to redistribute millions of people around the face of the earth in the subsequent 90 years for some humanitarian (by 1920 standards) purpose? I have a more parsimonious proposal: let me be free to move where I want, and let me be responsible for my choice.

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