Amitav Ghosh regrets environment was not a poll issue in India

Despite India facing serious threats to its environment, it was not an issue during the recent election, nor was it discussed beyond some mention, acclaimed writer Amitav Ghosh regretted during an interaction at the London School of Economics on Tuesday.

Ghosh, who launched his latest book, ‘Gun Island’, at LSE’s South Asia Centre, dwelt during the 70-minute session mostly on the issue of climate change that has been a key focus in his recent work, including his 2017 book, ‘The Great Derangement’.

He said: “There is no country that is facing a more dire climate change situation than India. It is not just climate; it is climate plus other environmental impact. Look at the brown cloud hanging over India, specially concentrated over cities. The air is so poisonously bad”.

“Most of all, the water stresses, absolutely disastrous. Look at what is happening with the monsoon, which is the scariest. There so many sorts of crises…It is not that it was not mentioned, but never really discussed. It never became an issue”.

“It almost became an issue during the agrarian crisis, when the farmers started protesting that that withered away. It was the most disappointing thing in the election”, Ghosh said.

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Discussing climate change and his latest book with Mukulika Banerjee, director of the centre, students and others, Ghosh said across the world the people are aware of the “disaster that awaits them”, but seemed to have decided to look away.

“Anyone who says at this point of time that humans are wise is deeply deluded”, he remarked.

Referring to migration, history and his experience of writing, Ghosh said the main literary challenge now is trying to give voice to the non-human, such as trees and animals that featured prominently in pre-modern texts such as the Mahabharata.

He said: “That is the central literary challenge, to give agency to the non-human, simply because the non-human does not have language. How do you do it? But throughout history, that has been the role of stories”.

“Even pre-modern western texts were filled with non-human voices, voices of the gods of animals, of the sea, of the snakes. Our Mahabharata too, the first part of it is all about snakes. In India you could never think of dominating nature in the ways that is possible in the west simply because these creatures exist”.

Ghosh’s session on Monday at the ongoing Hay Festival in Wales was one of the most popular during the annual literature event.

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First Published:
May 29, 2019 15:28 IST

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