He’s brought the Dhaka of 60s to life in his book, The Shadow Lines. He raised questions about the concept of nationhood with The Glass Palace. He has even written the powerful medical thriller, The Calcutta Chromosome. Amitav Ghosh, who was in the Capital for the Outlook Traveller Responsible Tourism Conclave 2017, always chooses themes and ideas that affect him deeply.
In recent years, Ghosh has voiced his opinions on the pressing issue of climate change, a topic he discusses subtly in his novel, The Hungry Tide, which is part of his famous Ibis trilogy. It is one of the few fiction novels to take up the issue, and he hopes there will be more. “I don’t know why we elude this topic when writing fiction. I was writing The Hungry Tide, and that’s when the urgency of the situation hit me. It’s as if we are running towards the edge of a cliff, with a blindfold,” he says.
In his last book, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016), he’s written a series of powerful essays on the subject. Why did he use the term deranged to describe humanity? He answers,” I can give you a million examples. We are getting so many signals, but we are just ignoring them. Right after Chennai floods, I was told that a grand luxury building was going to be built…close to the sea. Look at Fukushima, Japan for instance. The Aneyoshi tablets or ‘Tsunami stones’ near the coastline, have straightforward warnings telling people to seek higher ground and not to build below this line. And what did people do? They built a nuclear reactor there. Isn’t this deranged? ” he says emphatically.
Amitav adds, “It’s ironic that despite the progress of science and technology, we are still not taking care of the environment. Scientists are shouting their heads off in places such as the US and Australia. They’re now being suppressed by the governments. However in India, our climate research community is at least making an effort.”
Speaking about the conclave, eco-tourism, Ghosh says, doesn’t mean responsible tourism. He laughs, “I don’t know what it is, or how it lessens the impact on the environment. Tourism is in itself a huge industry which contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Look at it this way, you go on a plane, travel a million miles, just to be near nature. The plane itself contributes to problems in the environment. So, you want to be near nature - but how to get to it? So yeah, I don’t believe in it. We can all save the environment in our own little ways, and that can make a difference.”