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Amitav Ghosh on The Nutmeg's Curse

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Through the prism of the nutmeg, Amitav Ghosh, the author of Gun Island, tells the story of the climate crisis at 5x15 online

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Join 5x15 with Amitav Ghosh and Rosie Boycott as we discuss his ground breaking new book The Nutmeg's Curse.

In 1621, Dutch East India Soldiers went on a genocidal rampage in The Banda islands, a tiny archipelago which produced the world’s entire supply of valuable nutmeg. In the fate of these islanders - massacred for a tree – Amitav Ghosh sees that moment when man began ‘muting and subduing the earth’. It was nothing less than the origin of our contemporary climate crisis.

Tracing the current threats to our future to this moment, the best-selling author of The Ibis Trilogy and other novels, argues that the dynamics of climate change are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism.

The story of the nutmeg becomes a parable revealing the ways human history has always been entangled with earthly materials – spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, and fossil fuels. Our crisis, Ghosh shows, is ultimately the result of a mechanistic view of the earth, where nature exists only as a resource for humans to use for our own ends, rather than a force of its own, full of agency and meaning.

Writing against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, Ghosh frames these historical stories in a way that connects our shared colonial past with the deep inequality we see around us today. By interweaving discussions on everything from the global history of the oil trade to the migrant crisis and the animist spirituality of indigenous communities around the world, The Nutmeg’s Curse offers a sharp critique of contemporary society and speaks to the profoundly remarkable ways in which human history is shaped by non-human forces.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford and Alexandria and is the author of The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, In An Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and The Ibis Trilogy, consisting of Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire. The Great Derangement; Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction, appeared in 2016.

"What do you do when the subject matter of life on this planet seems to lack . . . life? You read The Nutmeg's Curse, which eschews the leaden language of climate expertise in favor of the re-animating powers of mythology, etymology, and cosmology. Ghosh challenges readers to reckon with war, empire, and genocide in order to fully grasp the world-devouring logics that underpin ecological collapse. We owe a great debt to his brilliant mind, avenging pen, and huge soul. Do not miss this book-and above all, do not tell yourself that you already know its contents, because you don't." Naomi Klein on The Nutmeg's Curse

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