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A Massive Loss of Habitat: New Drivers for Migration

Saskia Sassen: The paper examines three emergent migration flows, each with specific features that can be described as extreme. The effort organizing the paper is to understand conditions at places of origin that lead people to risk their lives in dangerous trips to escape those places of origin. As is by now known, these migrants are not the poorest of the poor in their places of origins. The rapid surge in these flows combined with the conditions they leave behind raise a question that organizes much of the analysis: Are the categories we use to understand and describe migrations—that is, the notion of people in search of a better life, who leave behind a family and home that they want to support from afar and possibly return to–enough to capture the specificity of these emergent flows. My answer is: not quite. One big difference from the past is that part of the story is a massive loss of habitat due to a variety of extreme patterns, from massive land-grabs to poisoning of land and water due to mining. The paper examines how the development models implemented over the last 30 and more years have enabled some of these negative conditions. Further, another major factor reducing the habitat of these migrants is a proliferation of asymmetric wars. Both sets of factors reduce the habitat for more people. One outcome of this combination of elements is these new migrations. Keywords:migration, development, globalization