The Great Derangement – A call to action on climate change

“Climate change is the most important issue of our times,” says Indian writer Amitav Ghosh.

Ghosh believes the stress associated with climate change has altered people’s mindset towards creativity and other issues. He also thinks that in literature, climate change has been simplified to a point where the intersectionality between other elements such as arts is missing or ignored. He wants literature to be an avenue of education, encouraging others to act.

Born in Calcutta, Ghosh grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria. With 15 works under his belt, his work and determination in using the written word to break down barriers and expose harsh realities has been reflected in his achievements. In 2007, Ghosh received the Padma Shri Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Indian government to civilians, and the Grand Prix of the Blue Metropolis festival in Montreal in 2011 among others. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages.

The writer is currently set to speak at UBC Reads Sustainability on Mar. 11 about his current non-fiction book The Great Derangement.


“My ancestors were ecological refugees long before the term was invented,” says Ghosh in the introduction of The Great Derangement.

Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement. | Photo courtesy of Amitav Ghosh

In his book, he recalls the beginning and how it was influenced by his family. His family are native to Bangladesh and have several stories about how climate change affected them in their day to day lives due to their proximity to the Padma River, a major river in India and Bangladesh. Ghosh grew up listening to these stories and these became embedded into the fabric of his imagination and his writing journey.

“I was a child then, and as I looked into those swirling waters I imagined a great storm, with coconut palms bending over backward until their fronds lashed the ground,” he writes in an excerpt from The Great Derangement.

He remembers hearing a particular story as his family were travelling in a steamboat on the Padma River. Although he was just a child during this journey, this story stuck with him. His imagination took off as he tried to find ways to interpret this in his mind. Since then climate change has been a huge factor in his childhood and all of his works.

The new generation

Ghosh isn’t the first author to speak about climate change to the future leaders of the world, and he won’t be the last. But, his interpretation on the importance of educating young people is what stands out.

“I think it’s necessary to discuss this issue whenever possible,” he says.

By educating and raising more awareness to this topic, real change can start to happen.

“Young people everywhere recognize now that they will be dealing with very serious climate change impacts,” Ghosh maintains.

Young people are the future leaders. And if they are not given support from current leaders in any sector they are handicapped in their ability to solve these problems. Ghosh is the voice from the literary world helping younger generations find their own voice, so they in their own way can tackle climate change. His biggest ask for younger generations is to “recognize the seriousness of climate change.”

Ghosh’s power to use words to educate and inspire the younger generations into acting on this pressing issue and could be an example for other writers to use their power to help the next generation of doers, thinkers and innovators.

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