Amitav Ghosh’s nonfiction book, The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis, was published in the US by the University of Chicago Press and in the UK by John Murray in 2021.

The Nutmeg’s Curse takes us back to a greener world and strides from there to our present, a journey described with scientific data, and historical and environmental analyses and insights.

According to the book’s blurb, “Tracing the threats to our future to the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean, The Nutmeg’s Curse argues that the dynamics of climate change are rooted in a centuries-old geopolitical order constructed by Western colonialism.” 

Amitav Ghosh at Politics and Prose Bookstore The book revolves around the spice known as nutmeg, once native to Banda, a series of tiny volcanic islands east of Java. Ghosh shows how, after the colonial powers invaded, western traders and overlords exploited the natural environment of the islands as well as the indigenous populations of Banda. In other words, Ghosh traces how the Western colonialists left a scarring legacy of savage exploitation of human life and the natural resources wherever they had gone. 

Ghosh demonstrates a link between our present-day climate catastrophe and the discovery of the New World and the sea route to the Indian Ocean. The western colonial powers’ complete disregard for human life and the natural ecosystem of a native place has built the centuries-old geopolitical order that put forward a mechanistic view of the earth. To extract spices, tea, sugarcane, opium, fossil fuel, and whatever else they thought to be valuable, they dug up the earth, blew up mountains, and wiped out forests tearing indigenous tribes apart; nature only existed as a means for their own ends. 

The book dwells on many of our current crises i.e. the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests. One of the nineteen chapters in the book holds the title “The Falling Sky”, which is apt for this time, it truly feels like our sky is falling apart, and we are coming undone as a civilization. 

An apt successor to The Great Derangement, Ghosh’s previous nonfiction book on climate change, The Nutmeg’s Curse is an inquiry into these bewildering times that assumes the shape of a parable seeking to answer the question how we have got here. 

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