India is a treasure trove of environmental-related stories. As environmental awareness grows, so does the need for insightful and eye-opening literature that delves deep into the intricacies of India’s complex ecosystems. In this listicle on books on the environment, we bring to you a curated selection of the most compelling environmental books to read–right from investigative narratives to astute projections of years before us brings!
The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
In this groundbreaking return to non-fiction, Ghosh examines our inability at the level of literature, history and politics to grasp the scale and violence of climate change. The extreme nature of today’s climate events makes them peculiarly resistant to the contemporary imagination. In fiction, hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel and are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications. Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit culture and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all forms. The Great Derangement serves as a brilliant writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.
Green Wars by Bahar Dutt
What is more important, building a modern airport in rural Uttar Pradesh or conserving the shrinking habitat of the sarus cranes? Producing more palm oil or protecting the orang-utan? Do we allow the destruction of pristine forests with their rich flora and fauna so we can generate much-needed hydel power? A modernizing economy brings in its wake ecological challenges and misplaced priorities. Development, environment, conservation, global warming – what do they mean in real terms, on the ground, to the people there? Must development always be in conflict with the environment? Combining rigorous research with the experienced traveller’s eye for piquant stories, conservationist and environment journalist Bahar Dutt chases some of the biggest stories of our times. From Arunachal Pradesh to the Arctic, from Goa to Gangotri, from illegal mining to climate change, Green Wars journeys to some of the richest wilderness areas, and explores the tension between a developing economy and saving the planet. Lucid, heart-warming and intensely personal, this is a book for green warriors, yes, but equally for those of us who crave blue skies and fresh air.
I Too Had a Dream by Verghese Kurien
While primarily a memoir of the father of India’s White Revolution, this book also discusses the significance of sustainable dairy farming and its positive impact on rural livelihoods. The book narrates the innovative story of how farmers were empowered to build strong co-operatives and increase the production of milk, which ultimately resulted in India becoming the highest milk producer in the world. The story tells readers how Dr Kurien met a group of farmers in Anand, Gujarat. They were forming Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited, which is popularly known as Amul today.
Unruly Waters by Sunil Amrith
Asia’s history has been shaped by its waters. In Unruly Waters, historian Sunil Amrith reimagines Asia’s history through the stories of its rains, rivers, coasts and seas–and of the weather-watchers and engineers, mapmakers and farmers who have sought to control them. Looking out from India, he shows how dreams and fears of water shaped visions of political independence and economic development, provoked efforts to reshape nature through dams and pumps and unleashed powerful tensions within and between nations. Today, Asian nations are racing to construct hundreds of dams in the Himalayas, with dire environmental impacts; hundreds of millions crowd into coastal cities threatened by cyclones and storm surges. In an age of climate change, Unruly Waters is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand not only Asia’s past but its future.
The Green Pen edited by Keya Acharya, Frederick Noronha
This is a collection of essays by prominent Indian and South Asian environmental journalists. The essays examine this specialization of journalism both historically and in the present. Underlying almost all the essays is the changing nature of media in the region and the dilemmas facing environmental journalists writing on a subject that is a new entrant to the field of journalism. The essays cover the topic both in a detailed and serious manner and at the same time the varied background of the writers ensures that there is a wide range of realities and experiences from the field. This is the first book on environmental journalism in South Asia. It provides an important benchmark for journalism in the region as well as an excellent source of material for the future evolution of environmental journalism. Apart from essays from India, there are contributions from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives. A must-read for all.
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