Indonesia Tribes

The climate crisis has been brewing since the 17th century, according to Amitav Ghosh

New Delhi: As the world grapples with extreme weather events and climate change becomes the buzzword of contemporary times, author Amitav Ghosh says the crisis has been brewing since the 17th century and that it is imperative to take the story into account before starting to tackle the problem. problem.

Climate change is not only a problem of the future but also of the past, says Ghosh, whose new book The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis comes at a time when unusually heavy rainfall has ravaged several parts of the country. , particularly the hill state of Uttarakhand and coastal Kerala.

In general, when we think of the climate crisis or the planetary crisis, we always think of the future, we think of ourselves as being in a completely new era.

But in fact, this era is completely anchored in the past. The continuities are so clear … going back as far as the 17th century. These continuities are perfectly clear to anyone with a good look, Ghosh told PTI in a Zoom interview from New York.

In his latest book, the author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable and The Hungry Tide provides much needed historical context to the modern climate change crisis as we see it today.

Picking through the many layers of the climate crisis, it chronicles what appears to be the history of climate change and takes its readers to the very beginning of when the planet could have started to change and not for the better.

This moment, according to the book, would be the colonization of the Banda Islands in 1621 by the Dutch East India Company who wanted to establish a monopoly on the nutmeg trade, then indigenous to the Indonesian archipelago.

To achieve this, the Dutch set fire to the homes of the Bandanese people, killing most of them and driving the rest deep into the forests. The Bandanese resisted the Dutch takeover but ultimately succumbed to famine and / or disease, writes Ghosh.

In simplistic terms, the Dutch, for their own benefit, almost completely wiped out an entire tribe. All over the world, in Connecticut in North America, the Pequot tribe was similarly wiped out by the English invaders for the benefit of the latter, he argues in the book.

It is this inherent nature of the pursuit of profit for the human race that Ghosh condemns and blames for the current state of the planet.

We have to try to understand that the whole idea that we, as human beings, exists only for profit, this is the first thing that we have to sort of let go.

It is only under a certain type of capitalism that it is accepted that we exist only for profit. We have to find other ways of life, we have to find other ways to meet our needs as human beings, said Ghosh.

Ghosh, 65, has become a reliable and influential voice on climate change following his latest non-fiction book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable which was released in 2016 with great success.

He had also addressed the issue many years before. In fact, it was his travels through the Sundarbans in West Bengal while he was writing his 2004 novel The Hungry Tide that piqued the author’s interest in climate change.

Already then, in the year 2000, it was quite clear that climate change was having many impacts on this region, he said.

His latest novel The Gun Island (2019) also deals with climate change.

Ghosh’s Bengali origins have only heightened his attention to the issue.

I am a Bengali, and more than any other part of the world, Bengal is incredibly vulnerable. We see this continually that the Sundarbans are essentially going underwater. And we can see so many displaced people from Bengal.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, the working class of Delhi, Goa and the West Coast of India has become mostly Bengal, Chhattisgarh and those areas and behind it all lies the specter of climate change, has he declared.

Emphasizing the need to examine climate change in the context of the planet’s past, not only ecologically but also politically and socially, the author explains how and why the contemporary perception of climate change is radically different for those who have historically been the colonizers versus the colonized.

For countries in the South, i.e. countries like India, China, Indonesia and African countries, climate change is a problem rooted in the past.

If you ask people in the west, what is climate change? ‘ The West will always say that climate change is a scientific issue, a kind of technological issue. It can be solved by technology, it must be solved by science

If you go to India, China, Indonesia and Africa, they will say climate change is a problem created by the West. It was created by rich countries who appropriated all our resources when we were poor and weak, ”explained Ghosh.

He recalled that climate change could not be envisaged without the past and that it is fundamental that rich countries take into account historical emissions.

Rich countries are constantly trying to talk about greenhouse gas emissions today. They try to ignore historical shows. It is absolutely fundamental that they take historical emissions into account, and that is exactly what the countries of the South have always said.

We see such a marked division in the West (where) climate change is always about the future in the Global South and even among the poor in America these issues are completely framed in relation to issues like imperialism, racism and the stories that create these problems, he added.

In his book, Ghosh repeatedly pleads not only for the tribes and communities that have fallen victim to imperialism, but also stresses the need to consider the impact of human actions on non-human entities. including plants, animals, mountains and oceans, for the well-being of the planet.

In any case, it is increasingly clear that the Earth can and does act, except that its actions take place on time scales that reduce the 400-year gap between 1621 and 2021 the climate changes of our era do are nothing but Earth’s response to terraforming, he says in the book.

What is the instruction ?

I can’t really tell you which way to go in general, and I’m not particularly interested in it as such for myself. The thing that interests me the most is, what is the way forward for writers? What is the way forward in literature? How do we start to create literature for the world we currently live in?

And my answer to that is quite simple, I think what we need to start doing is what writers used to do in the past i.e. try to find to try to give voice to entities. non-human, he said in response.

Climate experts, political leaders and others will gather in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, from October 31 to November 12.

The Nutmeg’s Curse, published by Penguin Random House India, hit the stands on October 14.

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