Sunday, January 29, 2017

#29 / Oh My Ghosh

As I said in my blog posting yesterday, I enthusiastically recommend The Great Derangement: Climate Change And The Unthinkable. This blog posting, today, is an appeal for anyone reading these words to read the words of that book.

Author Amitav Ghosh is an award-winning novelist and essayist, and he should win some sort of award for The Great Derangement, which begins with a section called "Stories," and then confronts both "History," and "Politics."

In the "Stories" section, Ghosh talks about his personal experience with a 1978 tornado that hit Delhi, where he was then a student, and he also introduces readers to the Sundarbans (for those, like me, who knew, or know, nothing about them). He details the precarious existence of Mumbai, in a time of rapid global warming, and makes the case that this huge city in India, and New York City, in our country, will likely have a similar (and horrible) fate. Mostly, though, Ghosh worries, throughout his "Stories" section, about why climate change has been left so unaddressed within "the landscape of literary fiction."

In his "History" section,  Ghosh convincingly demonstrates that "imperialism," at least as much as "capitalism," has been the root cause of our entry into the "Anthropocene," a new "geologic" era in which the fate of the Earth has been stolen from Nature, as the integrity of the World of Nature has been subjected to a human usurpation that may quickly lead us to "the unthinkable" of the book's title.

In "Politics," Ghosh contrasts the Pope's Encyclical, Laudato Si', with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The comparison is not in favor of what was done in the French capital. Of course, because his subject is "Politics," Ghosh calls us to "action," since politics is, by definition, defined by human action, not human talk. This may be contrary to what many believe our "politics" is all about.

And what about the "Unthinkable?"

Ghosh never says, exactly, what he means by this term, but let's not fool ourselves. We know.

All of us, already, can scarcely think about anything else, about the end of human life on Earth.

Read this book, please, not as a warning, but as a prescription. Here are Ghosh's final words:

The struggle for action will no doubt be difficult and hard-fought, and no matter what it achieves, it is already too late to avoid some serious disruptions of the global climate. But I would like to believe that out of this struggle will be born a generation that will be able to look upon the world with clearer eyes than those that preceded it; that they will be able to transcend the isolation in which humanity was entrapped in the time of its derangement; that they will rediscover their kinship with other beings, and that this vision, at once new and ancient, will find expression in a transformed and renewed art and literature. 

And...may I say, since a "renewed art and literature" depends upon this...the survival of human beings on planet Earth.

Our estrangement and isolation from the World of Nature, the World that we did not create, the World that supports all life, is indeed a kind of "derangement," a kind of insanity.

Can we not subject ourselves, once again, to the sacred World that is our home, the World of Nature that we did not create, and that we can't replace, and that we can't (most important of all) ever live without?

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I've reserved "The Great Derangement" at our library.

    I'm not concerned about "the end of human life on Earth." From my perspective, the extinction of meddlesome, destructive and self-centered "Homo sapiens" would be good for all life on this planet, overall a positive development.

    Unfortunately, that's not in the cards, at least not within any time period meaningful to the on-going destruction of the natural world.

    Fortunately, we are indeed subject to the natural world, and despite our insistence to the contrary, Nature does bat last. So we might as well get on with it and develop societies that work in cooperation with Nature rather than, as now, in competition with Nature.

    Imperialism and capitalism are not the root cause of human destruction of the natural world. Non-imperialist and socialist countries have done as much damage as we have.

    It is industrialism that is the culprit, the deeply embedded faith in human progress and efficiency, the belief that raw materials of the earth, plants and animals are resources exclusively for human consumption, and economies based on exploitation of the natural world for human benefit and profit.

    Industrialism leads inevitably to highways jammed with unmoving cars, garages filled with useless stuff, warehouse stores filled to the rafters with thousands of brands of identical produce shipped thousands of miles by airplanes and ships from where they are mined, pumped, manufactured, assembled and packaged.

    The road to elimination of this insane economic and political system comes through fundamental changes in the way we all live, do business and conduct our governments. It's starts with locally shopping for groceries and embraces getting private money out of the political process, engaging in politics at the local level, and demanding an end to imperialism and economic colonialism. It starts with walking, bicycling and bussing instead of driving a car, getting rid of electronic distractions. It starts with ignoring the insane Washington D.C. circus and forming neighborhood assemblies to deal with neighborhood problems and interacting with local government.

    The "Unthinkable" is the Deep State that drives national policy in destructive directions, disenfranchises the public and destroys democracy.

    It time to turn our backs on the unthinkable and embrace the thinkable.


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