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The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh

by Venky


Very rarely does a book appear with the quintessential element of relevance crying out from every page. Amitav Ghosh’s”The Great Derangement” is exactly one such book. In a time characterised by an undesirable and unfortunate transmogrification where Riparian states wreak vengeance upon one another over what has been contrived into a contentious issue such as water sharing, and where fossil fuels are recklessly and rampantly exploited to the point of abuse, this work by Amitav Ghosh serves as an empathetic, elementary and essential reminder not to view the consequences of Climate Change as yet another set of an Emperor’s New Clothes.

Ghosh’s perpetual lament that threads its way throughout the contours of his book seems to be the ‘unjustified’ neglect accorded to the topical issue of Climate Change by litterateurs (himself included in the offending phalanx), artists and filmmakers. He attributes this defect to a tendency of ‘uniformization of the bourgeois life’ where exceptions to stereotypical norms are decreed as belonging to the realms of surrealism and magical realism. The carefully structured form of the novel has a general tendency, in the view of the author to preserve and protect the typical and not dwell too deep into the probability of the atypical. In the words of the author himself “Making a difference isn’t the point; the point is to examine the meaning of the arts. If we believe that the arts are meant to look ahead, open doors, then how is this huge issue of our time, absent from the arts? It’s like death, no one wants to talk about it.”

Ghosh also has an axe to grind on the economies that are carbon dependent and whose carbon footprints have the potential to wreak wanton ecological damage. He also mulls in despondency the future fossil fuel consumption patterns that might characterise the functioning of two of the largest economies in the Planet today – India and China. He also takes a very skeptical and scathing view of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, viewing it as an irascible and irrelevant fall out that is the contrivance of a handful of economic super powers that are bent on manipulating outcomes to suit their selfish needs. The poorer countries in Ghosh’s opinion are the real sufferers who are forced to bear the brunt of the avoidable consequences arising out of the perils of global warming.

Mulling about the preparedness (or the lack of it) of a mega city such as Mumbai to tackle the effects of climate change, Ghosh concentrates more on the preventive rather than the post mortem efficiency. Bringing the reader to the fact that the acts of reclamation and ursurpation of space from the seas have put the city of Mumbai in a perilous position vis-a-vis a probable natural disaster in the form of a Force 4 or 5 Cyclone, the author proceeds to detail the inefficient preventive measures that are currently in place for avoiding a catastrophe of gargantuan proportions. He also lays the blame on unscrupulous real estate developers who harrumph the luxuries of plots and condominiums that boast a magnificent sea front view to boost the value of properties when in reality these structures of opulence would be the ones that would be directly in the path of destruction of a venomous tsunami or a remorseless cyclone.

In summary, The Great Derangement serves as a clarion call for all the ‘denialists’ of climate change who instead of facing up to the real and present threat of global warming, bury their heads into the sands of complacency and callousness. This Ostrich like behaviour in the opinion of Amitav Ghosh will only ensure to blacken and blotch our maturity and sensibility in the eyes of a future generation which will look back startlingly at the anodyne and inane foibles of a populace that stood by their attitudes of tepidity and stupidity instead of heeding to an umpteen number of timely warnings that was delivered to them by Mother Nature.

Before that happens though there is still time for us to rouse ourselves from this self imposed slumber of negligence and act to save a Planet which is under a real threat of destruction.

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