GDI: Last fall, you published “Move: The Forces Uprooting Us”. In this book you describe a number of factors for human migration. In historical context, what has been the role of food?
Parag Khanna: The issue of food is linked with human migration, because fundamental both are geographical questions. We have taken for granted the physical location of food production and our physical location of population distribution for many centuries. In fact, most of the human population lives north of the aequator, and optimally in the 20 and 30 degree northern latitude. But given climate change, we are seeing that the geographies of agricultural production are changing. Instead of the traditional food production centres, we have a lot of drought and volatility in the US, Brasil, Australia, India and China. And at the same time, we have new centres of food production in places like Canada and Russia.
And some of these new geographies are unpopulated areas, so people are moving away, migrating from drought stricken regions eventually populating new agricultural zones of production. The linkage between food, agriculture and migration is just starting to accelerate and become a very major issue for us to focus on in this century.
For human migration, there seem to be pull factors like hunger and push factors like more fertile ground. Which one of these categories are more important?
It's not necessarily about whether push or pull factors are more important. But first of all, they are happening and very powerful, but they play out at different time scales.
The push factors can certainly be a drought, a political crisis, a wide range of factors that are driving people away from their present geographies.
The pull factors can be labour shortages and it can be demand for rectifying the imbalance in generations in northern countries. In the OSCE countries, there is a significant gap between old and young. But politics have not allowed for the immigrating of younger people to bridge those labour shortages and those include agriculture, manufacturing, construction, healthcare etc.
Find out more on the interrelation between migration and the foodsystem, and the role of novel foods in the video: