The World Bank anticipates the number of people migrating on account of climate catastrophes to touch 140 million by 2050. The very nature of human mobility—and arguments about the right to move—are unthinkable without understanding the relationship between politics and the planet, between borders and heat. Whether it is overcrowding in the megacities of the developing world or the endemic violence associated with racially segregated housing in the developed North, nothing aggravates the partitions of our globe more glaringly than the disparity human beings are confronted by when they face increasingly unbearable heat.
Every inequality is today magnified under the stress of a warming planet. Every escape route a migrant takes as she becomes a refugee flows directly from the suffering unleashed by the changing oceanic currents. Grasping the logic of human migration demands that we grapple with movement as not simply a political and legal question—that is, as a function of national sovereignty, citizenship, and borders—but as a planetary one that fundamentally transforms those classical questions. At their intersection—that is to say, at the intersection of the political and the planetary—appears the need for a new thinking about borders (and war) itself. What borders feel like, what borders do to human life, and what they must be changed into are no longer settled questions. We must ask these questions again, in a new language for global politics attuned to planetary peril.
At the Institute, we seek to develop theories and studies of migration in active synchrony with the question of technology. We do this both because, on the one hand, new technologies enable new forms of surveillance of those who want to move across borders and therefore assist in their detention and their killing, and on the other, because technology is now implicated in another form of migration: extra-terrestrial flight fueled by the belief that an affluent chunk of humanity can leave earth itself. To investigate the coming forms, compulsions, and duress of human movement requires that we pay attention to the language of international institutionalism and its rhetoric in times of war and peace alike. Migrancy is the first post-planetary universal. Human beings might eventually come to inhabit a planet of migrants.