“We are living in an age of mass migration,” two-time Pulitzer winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek told the 19 Million Project audience during a Skype interview with Fusion’s Laura Wides-Muñoz on Tuesday.
Salopek is currently crossing the Republic of Georgia on foot and headed for China in what will become a 21,000-mile, 7-year journey that began in Ethiopia and ends in Chile. The journalist is retracing the migration routes of our ancestors while documenting modern migration flows such as the Syrian refugee crisis.
“One of the first things that happens when you become a refugee is you walk, you lose your home, vehicle and you become a pedestrian,” he said. “Human beings are basically made to move. What’s unfortunate is that a lot of that movement now is involuntary.”
While on his journey, Salopek has encountered thousands of Syrians fleeing violence and ISIS. “We are living in a time of some of the biggest displacements in human history,” the journalist said. “I believe our grandchildren will still be dealing with the after effects of this.”
It’s important not only to understand the impact and policies in the countries of arrival but also go to the source countries to understand the drivers of migration, he explained. “It forces us to be better journalists, we have to go and cover migration from the beginning, middle and end,” Salopek said when an audience member asked for advise to better understand the Syrian refugee crisis.
As part of the walk, Salopek is working with teachers and kids in dozens of countries who are using the project to learn about history, geography and their own communities.
-Rafa Fernandez De Castro of Fusion