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'Very Few Are Listening': Writer Amitav Ghosh on Climate Crisis

Ghosh, who delivered the fourth AK Ramanujan lecture at Delhi University's Ramjas College, said the "great majority seems to prefer not to think about what lies ahead".


Updated:January 16, 2020, 8:09 PM IST
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'Very Few Are Listening': Writer Amitav Ghosh on Climate Crisis
A file photo of Amitav Ghosh.

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing climate crisis, cries of help coming from planet earth are loud and clear, but "very few seems to be listening", rued renowned author Amitav Ghosh on Thursday.

Ghosh, who delivered the fourth AK Ramanujan lecture at Delhi University's Ramjas College, said the "great majority seems to prefer not to think about what lies ahead".

"The most terrible aspect of this time is that very few seem to be listening. The great majority seems to prefer not to think about what lies ahead. It's almost like if we were on a train that is speeding towards the edge of a cliff, instead of slowing down or changing the course, we have decided to move even faster," he said.

The 63-year-old author in 2016 penned "The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable" that addressed different aspects and concerns over climate change. His latest book of fiction "Gun Island" also talked about the slow violence that the world is experiencing.

It is this climate crisis that the writer says sets the present times apart from the 1970s, which seem to have "striking resonances", particularly in terms of political environments.

He said like today, then too India had a leader, Indira Gandhi, who "commanded undisputed power, which she had consolidated with a series of nationalist and populist moves", and, like today, consequences followed in terms of "widespread protests and unrest".

"All of us who were students back then vividly remember the marches and demonstrations that disrupted the functioning of this university except it was Arun Jaitley and his followers who were on the streets," Ghosh, who was then a student of DU, said.

However, these seeming similarities are "deeply misleading", he said.

"The change in the magnitude of human presence is itself is one of the most striking differences between the 1970s and today. In 1974, India had less than half of today's population, and Delhi had about a fifth of the number of inhabitants it has now," he said.

Talking about the grave dangers that loom over humankind, he said, "I could go on about the lack of preparedness for the super cyclones of the future, of the dead zones of Bengal, of the wild fires of the Nilgiris, of the disruption of monsoon, of the studies that predict the rising temperatures that could render most of South Asia uninhabitable in a few decades and so on".

The Jnanpith-winning writer also spoke about the existing "divisions around" the new citizenship law.

"In a sense, these divisions are instances of homogenising reductive impulse ultimately running up against the contextualising pluralising dynamic that is so deeply rooted in India's soil. The truths of Assam and Tripura are simply not the same as those of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat," the author said.

The lecture was dedicated to historian Hari Sen, a professor at Ramjas and a friend of Ghosh from his college days who is approaching his retirement.

The lecture has previously been delivered by late actor, director and writer Girish Karnad; politician and former diplomat Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Carnatic music vocalist and activist TM Krishna.

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