Climate Change and the Unthinkable
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Fair warning on the perils of ignoring climate change.

In this erudite, cautionary treatise, novelist Ghosh (Flood of Fire, 2015, etc.) questions why, even in the face of mounting proof, much of the general public remains unfazed by increasing environmental disruption and disintegration. He recalls, as a child, hearing a tale from the mid-1850s about the “ecological refugees” from his Bangladesh homeland being displaced after the Padma River suddenly changed direction, wiping out villages and their inhabitants. As that story and those he shares in the book’s first section prove, the planet’s natural elements, which many of us take for granted, “can come to life with sudden and deadly violence.” Originally begun as a set of four lectures at the University of Chicago in 2015, the book lays out the reasons for and ramifications of climate crisis denialism through three distinct yet interrelated sections: stories related to “global warming’s resistance to the arts” coupled with the history and the serpentine politics surrounding our shared environmental responsibility. Interestingly, Ghosh shares tales of “people who are waylaid by unpredictable events” and then references literature’s oversight and casual disregard for unpredictable, “improbable” weather phenomena. As he writes, “to introduce such happenings into a novel is in fact to court eviction from the mansion in which serious fiction has long been in residence.” Just as eloquently, the author incorporates a historical discussion into his hypothesis, spotlighting Asia’s swiftly expanding industrialization as “conceptually critical to every aspect of global warming,” as well as the multifaceted aspects of capitalism, colonization, the “carbon-intensive economy,” and the corporatization of climate change. In direct, streamlined prose, Ghosh nimbly assesses the calculated placement of ecological blame, from politicians and world leaders to artists and writers, upon whose shoulders the “existential danger” of climate erosion potentially rests.

A slim but certainly significant contribution to the climate crisis dialogue sure to provoke discussion and increased awareness about our imperiled planet.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-226-32303-9
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2016


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