Climate Change

Sunita Narain in conversation with Amitav Ghosh

In his new book, novelist Amitav Ghosh examines our inability-at the level of literature, history and politics-to grasp the scale and violence of climate change

Published: Wednesday 13 July 2016


“Climate Change poses a powerful challenge to the idea of freedom”
The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

In his first major book of non-fiction since ‘In an Antique Land’, acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh examines our inability-at the level of literature, history and politics-to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.

Book Launch: Penguin India, in association with Centre for Science and Environment, invites you for the launch of
Amitav Ghosh's 'The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable' on July 19

The author will be in conversation with Sunita Narain,
Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment.

Exclusive excerpts:

"It is instructive in this regard to look at an area of the humanities that has been unusually quick to respond to climate change: the subdiscipline of philosophy represented by climate ethicists. The dominant approach in this discipline is again posited on rational actors, freely pursuing their own interests.

A philosopher of this tradition, in responding to the argument that the moral imperative of climate change comes from the need to save the millions of lives in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, might
well quote David Hume: ‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.’ Climate activists’ appeals to morality will not necessarily find much support here.

Last, we already know, from the example of Mahatma Gandhi, that the industrial, carbon-intensive economy cannot be fought by a politics of sincerity. Gandhi invested himself, body and soul, in the effort to prevent India from adopting the Western, industrial model of economy. Drawing on many different traditions, he articulated and embodied a powerful vision of renunciatory politics; no reporter would have had the gall to ask him what he had sacrificed;
his entire political career was based upon the idea of sacrifice. Gandhi was the very exemplar of a politics of moral sincerity.

Yet, while Gandhi may have succeeded in dislodging the British from India, he failed in this other endeavour, that of steering India along a different economic path. He was able, at best,
to slightly delay a headlong rush towards an all-devouring, carbon-intensive economy. There is little reason to believe that a politics of this kind will succeed in relation to global warming today.”

Down To Earth’s upcoming issue carries more excerpts from the book and an exclusive interview with the author. Subscribe and grab your copy
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