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Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

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From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In Tropic of Chaos, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the pl From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In Tropic of Chaos, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the planet's midlatitudes. Here he finds failed states amid climatic disasters. But he also reveals the unsettling presence of Western military forces and explains how they see an opportunity in the crisis to prepare for open-ended global counterinsurgency. Parenti argues that this incipient "climate fascism"--a political hardening of wealthy states-- is bound to fail. The struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse, as they will take other nations down as well. Instead, we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies.


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From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In Tropic of Chaos, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the pl From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In Tropic of Chaos, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the planet's midlatitudes. Here he finds failed states amid climatic disasters. But he also reveals the unsettling presence of Western military forces and explains how they see an opportunity in the crisis to prepare for open-ended global counterinsurgency. Parenti argues that this incipient "climate fascism"--a political hardening of wealthy states-- is bound to fail. The struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse, as they will take other nations down as well. Instead, we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies.

30 review for Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Here in 2021, reflecting on a book on the global violence of climate change I read 7 years ago… The Good: --Contents: the front lines of global poverty, violence, and climate change are haunting and unforgiving, and this book provides journalistic case studies to connect the dots. --The key topic is the social construct of environmental violence, to dispel the convenient notion that these are just “natural” conditions. The writing is somewhere between: a) The poetic popularizers on the topic: Arund Here in 2021, reflecting on a book on the global violence of climate change I read 7 years ago… The Good: --Contents: the front lines of global poverty, violence, and climate change are haunting and unforgiving, and this book provides journalistic case studies to connect the dots. --The key topic is the social construct of environmental violence, to dispel the convenient notion that these are just “natural” conditions. The writing is somewhere between: a) The poetic popularizers on the topic: Arundhati Roy on India’s dire situation (ex. Capitalism: A Ghost Story) or Naomi Klein for Western audiences (ex. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal), and b) More intense dives like Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (on the social nature of famines), or text-books on Political Ecology (Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction). The Missing: --Journalistic writing are accessible entry points because they are visceral and engaging. Next up is to analyze the structures of capitalism/imperialism (political economy + geopolitics) and their relations with the environment. …This will also help us unpack the author’s brief contention that climate change is too urgent to wait for a system change on capitalism (this is such a messy topic that vague claims just add confusion). --How far would a Global Green New Deal go (and how transformative/radical can we make it)? Intro in support (The Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet) and intro to move beyond ( Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World ) ...The environment, like the powerless most affected by poverty and violence, are ideal and necessary "externalities" of the market in capitalism's logic of endless cost-cutting and private accumulation: “Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the labourer.” -Marx, Capital, Vol. 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production -Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System (Ecosocialism: socialism + Earth Systems Science) -The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (esp. on externalizing costs, where the environment is a convenient dumping ground) -Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis (debunking “overpopulation” in order to prioritize the only counter to global capital: internationalist solidarity, a movement of movements) -Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works - and How It Fails (intro to political economy) -The Ecological Rift (Marx’s “metabolic rift”) -Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming -Anthropocene or Capitalocene?: Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism --And along with that, re-imaging solutions! -Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World (particularly enjoy the decolonization aspect, and of course reviving and expanding Commons) -Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present (the political economy side) -Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action -Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants -re-imagine work: The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory

  2. 5 out of 5

    Son Tung

    A few months back i said something to my friends without solid evidence: "People are dying everyday because of climate change". I did give them explanations, mainly in form of theories and rationalization. Now, after this book, i can get some real and pressing issues related to climate change and social disintegration. There is no grand idea presented here: People fight over resources such as land and water, Climate change makes those resources less available, then there are conflicts, wars, i.e A few months back i said something to my friends without solid evidence: "People are dying everyday because of climate change". I did give them explanations, mainly in form of theories and rationalization. Now, after this book, i can get some real and pressing issues related to climate change and social disintegration. There is no grand idea presented here: People fight over resources such as land and water, Climate change makes those resources less available, then there are conflicts, wars, i.e human drama. What i love about this book is that the author presents analyses covered many geographical area, it is not just about how climate change affects everything but also all the political, economic history of these regions. Before i knew about the separation of India and Pakistan, but not their Indus Waters Treaty which divided water used for irrigation, transport, power generation. Or cattle raiding which kills people, creates social dislocation because of drought in South Sudan, Kenya. Or Central Asia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti political instability caused by military coup, colonial rule, Soviet-Cuba-US cold war interests and deeply connected to the fight for river and food security. Or what about South America: Mexico, Brazil.... I expected the author's opinion on Mekong Delta River in Southeast Asia (conflict between Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam and China) to be presented, but it was not. However, i am ok. Time well spent on this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sookie

    At its heart, the book reiterates the fact that convergence of poverty, violence and climate change will not just define geographies in future but will continue to have cataclysmic impact. From small tribes fighting for the freedom in rural India to Kenyan cattle raiders, they are all motivated by fundamental problems brought in due to drought which is becoming more and more frequent over the years. With frequency comes adaptation and with adaptation comes the change - the change at the cost of At its heart, the book reiterates the fact that convergence of poverty, violence and climate change will not just define geographies in future but will continue to have cataclysmic impact. From small tribes fighting for the freedom in rural India to Kenyan cattle raiders, they are all motivated by fundamental problems brought in due to drought which is becoming more and more frequent over the years. With frequency comes adaptation and with adaptation comes the change - the change at the cost of violence. The book is quite fascinating but with a droll undertone. The author is resigned to the fact that we have to adapt and mitigate to the change. There are some convincing arguments in regards to how people can adapt technologically and how there needs to be a shift in political ideology to avoid mass violence that can start due to continued depletion of resources.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tinea

    We see forms of violent adaptations [to climate change] emerging. In the Global South these take the forms of: ethnic irredentism, religious fanaticism, rebellion, banditry, narcotics trafficking, and small-scale resource wars [like] over water and cattle. ... In the North, the multi-layered crisis appears as the politics of the armed lifeboat: the preparations for open-ended counterinsurgency, militarized borders, aggressive anti-immigrant policing, and a mainstream proliferation of rightwing x We see forms of violent adaptations [to climate change] emerging. In the Global South these take the forms of: ethnic irredentism, religious fanaticism, rebellion, banditry, narcotics trafficking, and small-scale resource wars [like] over water and cattle. ... In the North, the multi-layered crisis appears as the politics of the armed lifeboat: the preparations for open-ended counterinsurgency, militarized borders, aggressive anti-immigrant policing, and a mainstream proliferation of rightwing xenophobia. (p. 226) This is the face of climate change. Drought and flood in Mexico and Central America are expressed, later and elsewhere, as the ICE detention gulag. ... Already we see the forms that adaptation in the developed world will take. The de facto authoritarian, cryptoracist state hardening, encapsulated by the war on immigrants, will accelerate as climate-change-driven migration becomes an ever more pressing issue. (p.214) Parenti argues that climate change has already hit hard. In poor countries we see droughts leading to conflict and crop failure (famine) and then mass migrations to the rich Global North. In the North we see reactionary border militarization and offensive 'counterinsurgency' wars for population and resource control in the South. Tropic of Chaos is a just as dire but more palatable, pro-governance version of Derrick Jensen's Endgame. The book is a nearly hopeless statement of fact that we as a species are fucked because of climate change. It's a tight condemnation of the interacting structural causes consequences of eco-social disaster. It's an urgent flash of light on a militarized political process already put in operation by rightwing public climate deniers: what Parenti calls the 'armed lifeboat.' The book itself is a little too sweeping and airy to be the final word-- it's a light tour of cultures, events, and ecological phenomenon-- and Parenti's a little clumsy on some of the case study synthesis (with the notable exception of US border militarization; Parenti's background is in prisons and policing). But the idea is incredibly important, one of those new perspectives that is so obvious and clear only after the right person has summed it up. If you can't get the book, it's worth trying to read the first few chapters online (not quite enough is excerpted here) or listening to some interviews (maybe this, this, or this).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wim

    Very insightful book, intriguing and important read. Even though it has been written in 2011, it still is very relevant today, as we see that the phenomena treated by the book (what the author calls the catastrophic convergence) have only amplified the past years, both in the global South where poverty and climate change exacerbate violence and state failure, and in the West where xenophobia and authoritarian tendencies towards security are increasingly violating the most basic human rights. For Very insightful book, intriguing and important read. Even though it has been written in 2011, it still is very relevant today, as we see that the phenomena treated by the book (what the author calls the catastrophic convergence) have only amplified the past years, both in the global South where poverty and climate change exacerbate violence and state failure, and in the West where xenophobia and authoritarian tendencies towards security are increasingly violating the most basic human rights. For me, this book was connecting several dots between underdevelopment, neocolonial and neoliberal exploitation, cold war politics and military interventions, climate change and the current situation of conflict, poverty and xenophobia. While reading I tried to apply the same analytical framework to the Sahel region and it does shed interesting light on the current situation, both on the rise of violent incident and state failure and on the responses put in place to increase stability (mainly military, counter insurgency, etc.) that are largely failing and risk to destroy social cohesion and basic trust. Climate change is a serious amplifier of conflicts that arise from inequality due to neoliberal economics and Cold War militarism. This will seriously increase the rate, intensity and desperation of migration throughout this century. The West responds by 'politics of the armed lifeboat': open-ended counterinsurgeny, militarized borders, aggressive anti-immigrant policing, and a mainstream proliferation of rightwing xenophobia. We have no other option than pushing for new policies of climate adaptation based on social justice. And without robust mitigation, we risk unleashing a procesof self-fueling, runaway climate change.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    This book was a real candidate for the "cannot finish" category but I gritted my teeth and got through it. Let me say upfront that this is an important book and presents its case thoroughly. It is an academic book in many ways, with a vocabulary that often lost me and I have a pretty extensive vocabulary! Parenti's writing style does feel academic as well: this book is not going to end up on the NYT bestseller list by any means. His topic is really how society is dealing with and is going to dea This book was a real candidate for the "cannot finish" category but I gritted my teeth and got through it. Let me say upfront that this is an important book and presents its case thoroughly. It is an academic book in many ways, with a vocabulary that often lost me and I have a pretty extensive vocabulary! Parenti's writing style does feel academic as well: this book is not going to end up on the NYT bestseller list by any means. His topic is really how society is dealing with and is going to deal with the violence that will result from climate change. To put it in nonacademic terms, this book is a real downer! The societal conflicts already happening that can be traced to climate change are pretty appalling, and I certainly had not heard of most of them. I do feel in a few of his examples that he is overreaching in ascribing the cause of the conflict being climate change, but in most of his examples, his case is all too convincing. His final chapter is much more upbeat, mentioning what can be done to mitigate climate change. As he points out, climate change is happening and cannot be stopped but only mitigated. He agrees that we still have time to stop the worst effects if we take governmental level action. Leasing solar panels (with none of my money used for the panels), as I did last year, is not a big enough step to ultimately make any real difference in slowing down climate change. But where it can help is in changing the public perception of climate change as an urgent problem that needs dealing with right now! We need action by the government to really get a chance on dealing with the problem. The very latest move by the State Department shows that that part of government is still in complete thrall to the oil companies and Koch brothers. It claims that the Keystone XL won't impact the environment which is complete and utter nonsense. So our current political environment seems to say that the US government still has its head buried in the tar sands (phrase borrowed from deposed former San Diego Mayor, Bob Filner) which is very frightening. Parenti suggests that much can be done by the various departments of government and by the President to mitigate climate change. I suppose we can only hope that some of our policy makers have an easier time reading this book than I did and that they take vigorous and prompt action on the issue. I do recommend this book but only if you are determined to explore all aspects of climate change. Take a look at my climate change shelf in Goodreads for quite a few more titles on the subject that are easier reading.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Wow, things are really bad, and getting worse. It's definitely immoral to bring children in the world, so, please, stop doing that now. I mean it! Stop! So, like, it used to be possible to grow all this food all over the world, but now, the rainy seasons that places used to have are gone -- replaced by long periods of drought that don't allow many crops to make it, followed by huge storms that destroy anything that irrigation allowed to grow. And, guess what, it's getting worse. And the political Wow, things are really bad, and getting worse. It's definitely immoral to bring children in the world, so, please, stop doing that now. I mean it! Stop! So, like, it used to be possible to grow all this food all over the world, but now, the rainy seasons that places used to have are gone -- replaced by long periods of drought that don't allow many crops to make it, followed by huge storms that destroy anything that irrigation allowed to grow. And, guess what, it's getting worse. And the political will doesn't seem to exist to stop it. This book is best when it's talking about what's going on and how this lack of water/food ends up erupting into violence. It's less good, at the end of the book, talking about how Republicans are evil mofos who don't care about this stuff and are just going to continue letting it happen until nothing can survive on this planet. Listen, everyone smart already knows that Republicans are evil mofos! Everyone smart enough to read this dry, dry (no pun intended [well, ok, the pun was kinda intended]) book already knows this. It's SO unnecessary to tell us about the dumb-as-f*ck stuff that Glenn Beck says. We know. And it makes Parenti sound like an ideologue instead of a man who just knows what he's talking about, is really scared about it, sees that this end is nigh, and is trying to warn us. But, yeah. The end is nigh.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    In an accessible, journalistic style, Parenti presents evidence and projections mostly drawn from US military commissioned studies about the ways climate change has exacerbated and reignited conflict in fragile areas of the world, in many cases, further fracturing societies with conflict roots in 19th century divide and rule or resource allocation inequities created by colonial empires. Published in 2011, it presciently lays out the current "Fortress North" response of denying climate change, fo In an accessible, journalistic style, Parenti presents evidence and projections mostly drawn from US military commissioned studies about the ways climate change has exacerbated and reignited conflict in fragile areas of the world, in many cases, further fracturing societies with conflict roots in 19th century divide and rule or resource allocation inequities created by colonial empires. Published in 2011, it presciently lays out the current "Fortress North" response of denying climate change, fortifying the border against "invasion" and withdrawing aid and the ability for populations to send money via a remittance economy, all of which further destabilizes these situations. With documentation from those bastions of pinkos, Global North ministries of defense.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Christian Parenti is a well respected journalist at nation Magazine (And other places) and this is a deeply reported account of violence, poverty and climate change in the middle lattitiudes of the planet, an area known as the global south. Parenti's thesis is straightforward: cold war militarism and neo-liberal economic reforms have made a number of stressed nations truly horrendous places to live, add in the reality of climate change and you have a recipe for chaos and disaster. There are some Christian Parenti is a well respected journalist at nation Magazine (And other places) and this is a deeply reported account of violence, poverty and climate change in the middle lattitiudes of the planet, an area known as the global south. Parenti's thesis is straightforward: cold war militarism and neo-liberal economic reforms have made a number of stressed nations truly horrendous places to live, add in the reality of climate change and you have a recipe for chaos and disaster. There are some leaps of logic that aren't completely solid in the book and a touch of 'innocence' about possible solutions but it is a truly absorbing and disturbing read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alise Miļūna

    When was the last time you read a non-fiction book and, in your mind, couldn't stop asking the author: "What are you doing with this?" I respect Parenti's adventurous journalism, attention to historical detail, and analysis of Cold War militarism and neoliberal capitalism bullying societies around the globe into what we now call "failed", "developing" and otherwise "inferior" states. However, the climate part of the narrative falls apart for me at several points, of which I will stick to just tw When was the last time you read a non-fiction book and, in your mind, couldn't stop asking the author: "What are you doing with this?" I respect Parenti's adventurous journalism, attention to historical detail, and analysis of Cold War militarism and neoliberal capitalism bullying societies around the globe into what we now call "failed", "developing" and otherwise "inferior" states. However, the climate part of the narrative falls apart for me at several points, of which I will stick to just two: i) "Violence becomes worse under climate change" and "climate migration causes violence" are two different statements. Parenti's examples suggest that the first may be true (although more recent analytical studies disagree (1, 2)), but he implies the second in many chapter conclusions without any real evidence. Although the last part of the book criticises American hate speech towards immigrants, the rest allows interpretations in favour of fearmongering and anti-immigration policing. 2) After all the appeals to complexity, the 'catastrophic convergence' of climate, poverty and violence (riffing on John Beddington's 'perfect storm' of food, water, and energy shortages?), Parenti concludes that we should silo fossil fuel emission driven warming off from other socio-ecological problems and fix it with clean technology and "capitalism" (loosely defined - is it the neoliberal capitalism he spent most of the book criticising, or something else?). The end. If I try to approach the book as something other than a climate narrative, there is a lot to learn about low-latitude geopolitics and political theory. 1) Adams, C., Ide, T., Barnett, J. et al. Sampling bias in climate–conflict research. Nature Clim Change 8, 200–203 (2018). https://doi-org.uea.idm.oclc.org/10.1... 2) Seter, Hanne; Ole Magnus Theisen & Janpeter Schilling (2016) All about water and land? Resource-related conflicts in East and West Africa revisited, Geojournal. DOI: 10.1007/s10708-016-9762-7: 1–19

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diogenes

    "In much of the world, it seems that the only solidarity forthcoming in response to climate change is an exclusionary tribalism, and the only state policy available is police repression. This is not 'natural' and inevitable but rather the result of a history--particularly the history of the Global North's use and abuse of the Global South--that has destroyed the institutions and social practices that would allow a different, more productive response." "There must be another path. The struggling s "In much of the world, it seems that the only solidarity forthcoming in response to climate change is an exclusionary tribalism, and the only state policy available is police repression. This is not 'natural' and inevitable but rather the result of a history--particularly the history of the Global North's use and abuse of the Global South--that has destroyed the institutions and social practices that would allow a different, more productive response." "There must be another path. The struggling states of the Global South cannot collapse without eventually taking wealthy economies down with them. If climate change is allowed to destroy whole economies and nations, no amount of walls, guns, barbed wire, armed aerial drones, or permanently deployed mercenaries will be able to save one half of the planet from the other." Apocryphal? For sure, but Parenti writes a necessary and repeated hammer-blow to the head for all those sitting on their thumbs, shoving their heads into the sand, or blind with denial. Whether "climate change" is normal along the vast longitudinal line marking ice ages, continental plate shifts, and the molten magnetic core flipping directions, or a human-induced catastrophe wrecking ecosystems, wiping out millions of other species, and despoiling our own means of survival, Tropic of Chaos is "big picture" stuff, undergirding global social-political shifts (mass migration, exploitation of natural and human resources on a grand scale, warmongering, revolutions, poverty, consolidation of wealth, etc.) with current trends in weather (vicious drought-flood cycles, deforestation, desertification, the depletion of water tables, super-storms, etc.), or what the author deftly terms as "catastrophic convergence": the collision of political, economic, and environmental disasters impacting billions around the world. Humanity is a herd animal, and (forgive the mixed metaphor) we very much behave the same way insect colonies do when forced to make hard choices that push us outside the comfort of the hive. From Lord of the Flies to The Walking Dead, Freud's Primal Horde Theory plays out in perfect illustrations. For all Freud's problematic (and sometimes ridiculous) ideas, this theory rings most true to me, as he described it in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1922): "Just as primitive man virtually survives in every individual, so the primal horde may arise once more out of any random crowd; in so far as men are habitually under the sway of group formation we recognize in it the survival of the primal horde." This is troglodytic survivalism at its feral core. Any war zone proves this time and time again, and look at what's transpired since this title was published in 2011. From Aleppo to Juarez, Kashmir to Somalia, the web of socio-political-environmental forces are fiercely in motion. Of course I'm reading Golding now, which lends some credence to the concept, but Tropic of Chaos isn't fiction or theory. Read current news about refugees, about failed and failing governments, the fragile financial system, about plutocracies and kleptocracies, the proliferation of weapons world-wide, and about war in the twenty-first century. "Climate change" is but one piece to the sociological puzzle, but in many parts of the world it is a catalyst for entrenched poverty and inequality, as well as the reactionary behaviors of governments/despots/"terror organizations" to use brute force in the "lifeboat politics of armed adaptation." This delicate, precious aquarium of oxygen floating around the vast, lifeless vacuum of space is in flux, and the "insects" of mankind are reacting to it subconsciously, while those with power consciously consolidate whatever they can, be it potable water, crude oil, main battle tanks, or South China Sea atolls. As Sven Lindqvist wrote in Exterminate All the Brutes: "The pressure of the hungry and desperate billions has not yet become so great that world leaders see Kurtz's solution as the only humane, the only possible, but fundamentally sound one. But that day is not far off. I see it coming. That is why I read history." That is why I read it too. *Other key terms: anthropogenic climate change and criminogenic relative depravation. PS: typed this up on the iPad. Formatting apparently sucks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Utkarsh

    "THE" book- Period! A must read for anyone who has ever held an iota of concern for the environment. More so for him/her who hasn't. Beautifully portrays the interdependence of societal stability with climate, and the acceleration of the former's collapse catalyzed by climatic anomalies. Much more than just a book on planting trees or reducing carbon footprints, 'The Tropic of Chaos' champions the cause of the many few who have relentlessly worked to place climate at the forefront of all interna "THE" book- Period! A must read for anyone who has ever held an iota of concern for the environment. More so for him/her who hasn't. Beautifully portrays the interdependence of societal stability with climate, and the acceleration of the former's collapse catalyzed by climatic anomalies. Much more than just a book on planting trees or reducing carbon footprints, 'The Tropic of Chaos' champions the cause of the many few who have relentlessly worked to place climate at the forefront of all international deliberations. A book that will give you many sleepless nights upon revealing the monstrous atrocities that have resulted due to the convenient negligence of those at the top of the global societal hierarchy. To quote a critic," An argument can be made that it deals with the ONLY questions currently worth asking."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carolien

    The author manages to connect the dots between climate change, violence, neoconservative economics, immigration and politics through examples in areas as diverse as Afghanistan, Kenya and Bolivia. I learned a lot about the histories and links to climate change of various places that regularly make the news for violence and extremism as well as the precursor to anti-immigration politics. The truly scary part of this book is that it was published a decade ago, very little action has been taken sin The author manages to connect the dots between climate change, violence, neoconservative economics, immigration and politics through examples in areas as diverse as Afghanistan, Kenya and Bolivia. I learned a lot about the histories and links to climate change of various places that regularly make the news for violence and extremism as well as the precursor to anti-immigration politics. The truly scary part of this book is that it was published a decade ago, very little action has been taken since then and the circumstances described are becoming more pronounced and urgent every day. I highly recommend this book if you want to understand the interconnectedness of climate change and current global politics.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Hilgers

    This relatively brief book concentrates on Africa, South Asia and Latin America--each area touched by the tropic--to give us a sort of intellectual tour guide through areas experiencing the vector of climate change and social violence. Parenti explains how this "catastrophic convergence" occurs and, in the end, illustrates ways humankind is and can counter the effects of global warming and rising desertification. This relatively brief book concentrates on Africa, South Asia and Latin America--each area touched by the tropic--to give us a sort of intellectual tour guide through areas experiencing the vector of climate change and social violence. Parenti explains how this "catastrophic convergence" occurs and, in the end, illustrates ways humankind is and can counter the effects of global warming and rising desertification.

  15. 5 out of 5

    mis

    FUN

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    In Tropic of Chaos, American investigative journalist Christian Parenti looks into the "catastrophic convergence of poverty, violence and climate change" (p.5), studying the near history of regions between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, "a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states girding the planet's mid-latitudes. In this band, around the tropics, climate change is beginning to hit hard. The Societies in this belt are also heavily dependent on agricu In Tropic of Chaos, American investigative journalist Christian Parenti looks into the "catastrophic convergence of poverty, violence and climate change" (p.5), studying the near history of regions between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, "a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states girding the planet's mid-latitudes. In this band, around the tropics, climate change is beginning to hit hard. The Societies in this belt are also heavily dependent on agriculture and fishing, thus very vulnerable to shifts in weather patterns. This region was also on the front lines of the Cold War and of neoliberal economic restructuring. As a result, in this belt we find clustered most of the failed and semifailed sates of the developing world." [p.9] Parenti is connecting the dots to show not only how climate change is affecting these areas but also to predict what is coming, and how the Global North will most likely react, and what it could be doing instead. Narrowing the focus onto several specific countries or areas - notably East Africa, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Mexico and the United States -Parenti shows how climate change is affecting water, food production and the human populations, clearly delineating the link between environment and violence. But it's not just about climate change and people struggling to survive: it's also about the West's - or Global North's - reaction to violence and climate change (the two, in this book, are inextricably linked) which in turn is linked to our history of neo-liberal economic policy, the Cold War, and the new methods of counter-insurgency (COIN). Sometimes these forces have worked together simultaneously; at other times they have been quite distinct. For example, Somalia was destroyed by Cold War military interventions interventions. It became a classic proxy battleground. Though it underwent some limited economic liberalization, its use as a pawn on the chessboard of global political struggle caused its collapse. The same holds true for Afghanistan, which was, and still is, a failed state. It never underwent structural adjustment but was a proxy battleground. On the other hand, Mexico, the north of which is now experiencing a profound violent crisis, was not a frontline state during the Cold War, but it was subject to radical economic liberalization. Climate change now joins these crises, acting as an accelerant. The Pentagon calls it a "threat multiplier." All across the planet, extreme weather and water scarcity now inflame and escalate existing social conflicts. [pp.8-9] He begins with the question: Who killed Ekaru Loruman? Loruman was cattle herder of the Turkana, a tribe who inhabit the plains area of what we call northern Kenya. A rival tribe who live in the arid hills routinely ride down with guns and steal cattle, the Turkana's livelihood, and Loruman was killed during one such raid. The question of who killed him isn't, of course, about pointing the finger at the man who shot him, but the much bigger issue of why this is happening at all. From there, Parenti explores the region in more detail, tying it to U.S. politics and history - a similar pattern is used to delve into other countries in the "Tropic of Chaos". This is by its very nature a hard book to summarise and an even harder one to review. All I can really do is give you my thoughts so you can consider whether this would be a good book for you to read, as well. By that I simply mean, how well written it is. I found that the level of Parenti's writing depends quite a bit on prior knowledge, and I didn't always have enough, thus it was at times a difficult read that moved a bit too fast for me. If I hadn't read books like Maude Barlow's Blue Covenant , about the global water crisis, and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine , which is a phenomenal book about neo-liberal economics ("Chicago School" economics) and shock tactics implemented in developing countries, I would have really struggled here. His writing presumes upon a reader with a very sound understanding of history, economic policy and remote regions of the world. There are a few things I would have liked to help me get the most out of this book; I wouldn't have minded if it had been an extra 50 pages long to add more flesh to the areas, to explain the economics a bit more, and to have included more detailed maps than the ones used - maps are only of countries in an area, but the chapter discusses regions, valleys, border zones etc. and I had no real idea of where these were placed in relation to each other and other countries, and I'm the kind of person who likes to study a map so I can better visualise an area. It would have been particularly helpful in discussing Kashmir and Brazil. But I did learn a lot from this book, as well. It certainly built upon prior knowledge and understanding, and I appreciated the simple breakdown of what the science of climate change really is: our fossil fuels have boosted atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) from around 280 parts per million (ppm) before the Industrial Revolution to 390 ppm today. Analyses of ancient ice cores show 390 ppm to be the highest atmospheric concentration of CO2 during the last 10,000 years. Atmospheric CO2 functions like the glass in a greenhouse, allowing the sun's heat in but preventing much of it from radiating back out to space. We need atmospheric CO2 - without it, Earth would be an ice-cold, lifeless rock. However, over the last 150 years we have been loading the sky with far too much CO2, and the planet is heating up. [p.5] We've all heard about the 2°C rise in temperatures spelling catastrophe, but it's hard to take a mere 2 degrees seriously when day by day, our temperatures rise and fall and vary dramatically. To put it into perspective, if the world cooled by 2 degrees centigrade, Earth would be in another ice age. So 2 degrees is actually very extreme for the planet. That comparison really helped me get a grasp of how important two seemingly small degrees are, though I still don't really understand - and it wasn't covered here - how we'll know when that happens. I mean, will it be drastic melting of all our glaciers and ice sheets, or will meteorologists and climate change scientists be able to say, "We've now reached the point where the Earth's temperature is hotter by 2 degrees." How do they measure the Earth's temperature? These are questions for a different book, I know, but no one ever mentions it so it bugs me. The chapters on Afghanistan and the relationship between Pakistan and India were illuminating, and explains much of why the region is so unstable - and who gains from it and why. The chapter about India's drought, neo-liberal economic policies, and the cotton trade really jumped out at me, because it just seems so ... indicative. Starting in 1991 the Indian government began a process of economic liberalization. Efficiency became the watchword; the state cut power subsidies to farmers. With that, running pumps for wells and irrigation became more expensive. To cope, farmers started taking loans from local banks or usurious moneylenders. The neoliberal withdrawal of developmentalist policies meant that local irrigation systems fell into dilapidation. [...] By the late 1990s, many farmers had run out of options - they were too far in arrears to borrow more, too broke to produce crops. For thousands, the only escape from this debt trap came in the form of suicide - often by swallowing pesticides. [p.143] Another cause of debt is seed purchase. The zenith of this trap is Monsanto's genetically modified Bt cotton. [...] A government-owned company [...] provided financing and guidance, and yields did increase, essentially during the 1960s. These yields, however, were a function of greater capital investment. Farmers required more capital to buy fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation piping, and machinery. Thus, debts rose along with output. Soon cotton became one of the main crops. Now the issue was no longer food scarcity but instead victory and profit on the international commodity markets. Very problematically, cotton also needs large amounts of water. Within a decade yields began to drop as the soil was stripped of its nutrients and poisoned by pesticides. The only solution for many farmers was to double down: borrow more and invest more, use more technology, take on more debt. [...] With the rise of capital-intensive cotton farming in Telangana over the last thirty years, two strange contradictions have arisen. First, the primary cash crop, cotton, continues to decline in value; yet, farmers continue to plant more of it. Why do the farmers not shift to other crops? Second, while the region's overall growth in agricultural output has been robust ... the incomes and consumption of most farmers have declined precipitously, and this manifests as farmers' suicides and support for the Naxals [rebel group fighting the gov't]. The question now becomes: Why do farmers go into debt so as to plant a crop (cotton) for which the price is falling? [pp.142-6] The answer is surprisingly simple, and all the more scary for it: the moneylenders, who for all intents and purposes own the farmers, demand that the farmers plant cotton because in a bad year, farmers can't eat cotton, they must sell it. The money from the sale goes to the moneylenders, which is why farmers have no capital. The farmers have no choice but to plant cotton, which also means they can't escape debt because cotton doesn't bring in enough money. And on top of that, even the poorest, least educated peasant farmers in Afghanistan and India fully understand that the soil is being severely depleted of all nutrients by this kind of farming, yet they have no choice. The lesson is really that, while it seems like the things happening half a world away have really got nothing to do with us, sitting comfortably in our sturdy homes with our TVs and computers and flushing toilets, on our clean streets in our (comparably) well-managed cities, what the Indian cotton farmers and the Afghan opium and wheat farmers, as well as the Mexicans trying to cross the border into the U.S. and the Kenyan tribesmen guarding their cattle, it ALL has to do with us. "Globilisation" is really just a new word for colonialism, or so it seems to me, and if you're going to have "free trade" and "global markets" etc., you have to take some responsibility. But no one cares, as long as they make their extra several million dollars' profit which they hoard in an off-shore account, or in the stock market or perhaps a hedge fund which doesn't actually produce anything. Other illuminating parts of the book include the Mexico-U.S. border and what's really going on there - I read that chapter just days before watching one of those Republican presidential debates (the South Carolina one) and when they got talking about the border and rounding up the illegal aliens, having the extra knowledge and understanding really changed the way I heard their words - from general rabid frothing-at-the-mouth to the larger point Parenti is trying to make - with a dash of desperation, or so it sounds to me. This is the part about counter-insurgency (COIN) and violent adaptation to climate change. Countries like the U.S. are gearing up for climate change, but not in the way you might hope. Instead, they're preparing to create a fortress where the climate refugees (which is what the increased in Mexicans and South Americans at their border really are) are kept out and the true-blue Americans are safe within. They're preparing to simply man the gates, not mitigate climate change but simply make everyone else pay the price for their giant "gas-guzzling SUVs", as I hear people call them. It's not all doom-and-gloom, but Tropic of Chaos isn't about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it's about the effects of climate change on the poorest regions, on countries struggling to bring themselves out of debt and who are faced with increasingly unpredictable weather patterns as well as dominating neo-liberal economic policy - even when they've broken ties with the World Bank and IMF, the after-effects of such policies resound for decades. Tiny land-locked Bolivia was like a ray of sunshine in the book, proving that a good balance of sound economic policy, government regulation and forward-thinking mitigation can create a healthy, prosperous country that's doing its bit. Parenti's call for the United States government to lead the way in mitigation efforts seems to echo in an empty chamber as on the page, and will certainly be laughed at if a Republican becomes president, judging by how dismissive the candidates were of "global warming" and their rather bizarre notion that government should not, well, govern (this idea confuses me: what's the point of government, then? To simply collect taxes and spend it all on the military? That doesn't sound like a democracy at all). If you're interested in the 20th-21st century history of countries like Somalia, India, Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico, and how climate change, counter-insurgency and violence are connected, Parenti has done a thorough job in researching this correlation. He has been to all these areas, spoken with the locals including gang members, and has a firm understanding of global politics and economic theory. I would have liked for the latter to be better explained, because once you understand economic theory, not only does the world make more sense, but you can interpret what's happening and what our leaders etc. are actually saying and doing, in a more critical way. To that end, I recommend you read this after reading books like the ones I mentioned above, or perhaps even Parenti's earlier books, though I haven't read them so I don't know if they'd be good background for this or not. Overall, Tropic of Chaos was a frightening study of convergence in the modern world, from which I learnt a lot in terms of small details and specific issues but was also left with more questions - and an undiminished thirst to learn more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    Tropic of Chaos examines the “catastrophic convergence of poverty, violence, and climate change.” (5) . The title refers to a sprawling geographic area, between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (8). Chapters look at Africa, central Asia, India, Mexico, and Brazil. Parenti sees them experiencing escalating political violence driven by climate change. How this works: global warming means rising temperatures which can cause a drop in precipitation which leads to drought. Also, climate change can Tropic of Chaos examines the “catastrophic convergence of poverty, violence, and climate change.” (5) . The title refers to a sprawling geographic area, between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (8). Chapters look at Africa, central Asia, India, Mexico, and Brazil. Parenti sees them experiencing escalating political violence driven by climate change. How this works: global warming means rising temperatures which can cause a drop in precipitation which leads to drought. Also, climate change can screw up local information about water events' timing and location (floods, droughts, water levels), which messes up agriculture, urban planning, and more (139). That drives political instability, insurgency, gang violence, and civil war. What is to be done? Within the titular tropic locals are scrambling to either control or benefit from unfolding chaos. For example, in central Asia Parenti finds financiers funding the production of inedible products, like cotton, because workers can’t consume it in bad times, unlike food (146). Beyond the tropic, the rest of the world is responding with "[o]pen-ended counterinsurgency on a global scale” (10). Looking ahead, the book implies a choice. Either we pursue the “politics of the armed lifeboat” or “mitigation: we must decarbonize our economy.” (11-12) Tropic of Chaos is good journalism. It introduces and follows compelling stories, weaving them together to draw out interlinked forces. Recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fred Dameron

    I was apprehensive when I started reading this one, I thought it was going to be full of doom and gloom but I was surprised. It is full of gloom but it is a history of how the West has set up the countries of the tropics for failure and how this failure will be exasperated by warming. It starts with what we call Failed States. They didn't have to happen. The area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn was originally a prosperous well run tribal, hereditary principalities, city states, or I was apprehensive when I started reading this one, I thought it was going to be full of doom and gloom but I was surprised. It is full of gloom but it is a history of how the West has set up the countries of the tropics for failure and how this failure will be exasperated by warming. It starts with what we call Failed States. They didn't have to happen. The area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn was originally a prosperous well run tribal, hereditary principalities, city states, or kingdoms. Then the Europeans and later Americans arrived. We brought "Civilization" but what we actually brought was plague, war, and death. After the West conjured these uncivilized peoples we exploited them. We raped the land for mineral wealth, depleted the land of it's soil fertility, killed off native species and imported invasive species that further degraded the land. All to benefit the Mother Country. But that mother country was the home of banks, import/export business, foundries, mills, etc. A mother country that could care less about it's own poor and even less about the uncivilized natives that it was exploiting. Then cam the end of the Colonial Era. When colonization came to an end and the Europeans/Americans left we left governments that were kleptocracy's. These kleptocracy's stole what little money was left in the newly founded nations treasury. The West took most of the treasuries with them as reparations for the land lost to the new local government by the western land holders. Often at well above the actual value of the property. Then in our Cold War fears we supplied loans to these corrupt governments to fight against Communist insurgencies. Loans that could only be repaid by turning the agricultural section and mineral section over to private ownership. Private owners headquartered in London, New York, Bonn, Paris, and Zurich. Essentially putting the newly freed nation back under colonial rule but, with local overseers call "President". Now with single crop big business agriculture: in India cotton, Guiney Bissau coco, Central America bananas, the local people are forced off the land and become day labors for the multinational agro companies. The local farms die off and the labor has to buy food from the few farmers that are still growing local crops: maize, peas, beans, sorghum etc. The small farm is under threat by the agro business multi national and the government, to feed it's people, has to get more loans from the west. Loans used to buy food, fertilizer, and farm equipment, all made by the G7. Under what was normal weather 20 to 30 years ago this would work for a long time but, with the weather through the tropics changing it won't. Today the monsoons that 1/2 of India down the SE Asia depend on for water for the fields either come late, have less rain or, as in Bangladesh today, the rain comes all at once in a two to three day period causing flooding and loose of soil, crops, livestock and human life. Maybe those who die in the flooding are the lucky ones as they won't die in the famine that follows the flood? These will be the new "normal" conditions as the earth warms and goes past 2 degree's C. And were already at 1.6 to 1.7 depending on which particular data set one looks at. How much worse will the weather get at 2.5, 3, 3.5. or 4 deg C? As the weather gets worse these multiple millions of people living in the tropics WILL move. They can move North or South. South not much real estate so they will come North. How does the West Respond? DO we become an armed life boat? OK but eventually the millions/billions of climate refugees will swamp us. We simply can't make enough bullets to kill them as they cross the Rio Grande. We have stop using so much carbon. We have to develop strategies for mitigating the worst effects of the coming climate volatility. We have to share these strategies with the States of the Tropics. By sharing we can keep these States stable longer and slow the mass migrations that are already starting. If we don't do these things then we are signing our children's death warrants. Many of our children and grand children WILL die protecting our unchanged life style and they will loose that fight as six to seven billion climate refugees try to find food. Some will ask why does the U.S. and Europe have to change so much? The answer is it's out fault. We made the mess and we need to lead the way in cleaning it up. Today the U.S leads the world in per capita carbon emissions and Canada is right behind us. Both our countries use, per person, three times the carbon and emit three times the CO2 as China. China leads the way in carbon emissions only because they have so many people and they have, over the past eight years, are, and plan to spend in the future three times more than the U.S and E.U. combined on green tech. They were the West's, particularly England's, victims during the colonization period yet they are leading in fixing the problems the West caused. China is building more infrastructure in Africa and SE Asia. China is making inroads into South America with loans for green projects and water capture technologies. China is a major supporter of mixed crop agriculture in the Sahel region of Sub-Sahara Africa. A region that is home to Boko-Horam fanatics. Fanatics who are inspired by remnants of ideologies from the wars of liberation from European powers and are supplied with the weapons the West and the Soviets left behind after those wars. Yea it's are fault these Tropic States are failures. Yes it's the West that is burning more carbon than any one else, per person. And it is because of these reasons that it is the West and the U.S in particular that must lead the way. Failure will only lead to our children fighting in unnecessary eco/resource wars that they will loose to the shear weight of numbers that the Tropic States can muster.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Z. Yasemin

    It helped me to know more about the present and future effects of climate change on African countries. Their livestock processes, the neighbour fights, the need for water, tribe wars etc.. and the relation with global climate change. However, the author sounds unnecessarly dramatic sometimes. Even though the issue itself carries a major significance and we need to be alarmed starting now, I did not like the tone of author sometimes. overall, it worthed my time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhijith R

    A fantastic book about the coming apocalypse. The world is looking forward to the "Catastrophic Convergence" and basically we are all gonna die soon if we won't change the economic and ecological situation immediately; which isn't probably going to happen anyway. A fantastic book about the coming apocalypse. The world is looking forward to the "Catastrophic Convergence" and basically we are all gonna die soon if we won't change the economic and ecological situation immediately; which isn't probably going to happen anyway.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Most of this book is worth reading. Unfortunately, like 99% of other environmental and political books, the "solutions" are a complete joke. He gets the basics, acknowledging the need for redistribution of wealth, land reform, embracing regulations, etc. but either wimps out at the last minute or just doesn't really know enough about climate science to put it all together. To show you what I mean, this is from the last two pages, which is probably about half of this book's "so what do we do?" se Most of this book is worth reading. Unfortunately, like 99% of other environmental and political books, the "solutions" are a complete joke. He gets the basics, acknowledging the need for redistribution of wealth, land reform, embracing regulations, etc. but either wimps out at the last minute or just doesn't really know enough about climate science to put it all together. To show you what I mean, this is from the last two pages, which is probably about half of this book's "so what do we do?" section: "It may be true: capitalism may be, ultimately, incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. "However, that is not the same question as whether capitalism can solve the climate crisis. Because of its magnitude, the climate crisis can appear as if it is the combination of all environmental crises--overexploitation of freshwater, soil erosion, species and habitat loss, chemical contamination, and genetic contamination due to transgenic bioengineering. But halting greenhouse gas emissions is a much more specific problem; it is only one piece of the apocalyptic panorama. Though all these problems are connected, the most urgent and all encompassing of them is anthropogenic climate change. "The fact of the matter is time has run out on the climate issue. Either capitalism solves the crisis, or it destroys civilization. Capitalism begins to deal with the crisis now, or we face civilizational collapse beginning this century. We cannot wait for a socialist, or communist, or anarchist, or deep-ecology, neoprimitive revolution; nor for a nostalgia-based localista conversion back to the mythical small-town economy of preindustrial America as some advocate. "In short, we cannot wait to transform everything--including how we create energy. Instead, we must begin immediately transforming the energy economy. Other necessary changes can and will flow from that. "Hopeless? No. If we put aside the question of capitalism's limits and deal only with greenhouse gas emissions, the problem looks less daunting. While capitalism has not solved the environmental crisis--meaning the fundamental conflict between infinite growth potential of the market and the finite parameters of the planet--it has, in the past, solved specific environmental crises. The sanitation movement of the Progressive Era is an example." Pretty bad. Earlier in the book I assumed it was a typo when he said we can't raise temperatures 2 degrees Celsius OR 35.6 DEGREES FEHRENHEIT above preindustrial levels (2 degrees C is 35.6 degrees F but 2 degrees C warmer than preindustrial levels is only an increase of 3.6 degrees F). After reading the last page I'm really not so sure it was a typo. I think he really might know that little about the subject. Much of anthropogenic warming is from soil degradation, deforestation, loss of phytoplankton, etc. To say that these things can be treated separately from greenhouse gas emissions is absolutely fucking insane! I understand that we need to TRANSITION away from capitalism, rather than just expect to wake up one day with everything magically transformed, but let's be honest here, capitalism is NOT going to solve climate change nor will modern industrial civilization ever be truly sustainable. Most of the book I had slight disagreements with, things I could at least respect as just a difference of opinion, but I have no respect whatsoever for the last couple pages. He really lost me with that. I'm still giving this a decent rating since that was such a small piece of the book. I just want to make it explicitly clear though that I do not support his conclusions.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nils

    A decent journalistic account of how climate change is driving conflict, a classic example of an author thinking that the plural of anecdote is evidence. What's more interesting is the way Parenti argues that the sorts of conflicts that will be created (or at any rate exacerbated) by climate change will be low intensity & urban and that therefore the COIN technologies being developed to deal with the post-9/11 GWOT will actually find a second life as a way to contain and manage the malign politi A decent journalistic account of how climate change is driving conflict, a classic example of an author thinking that the plural of anecdote is evidence. What's more interesting is the way Parenti argues that the sorts of conflicts that will be created (or at any rate exacerbated) by climate change will be low intensity & urban and that therefore the COIN technologies being developed to deal with the post-9/11 GWOT will actually find a second life as a way to contain and manage the malign political effects of climate change. But Parenti also makes the acute observation that unless COIN-style pacification is accompanied by effective state capacity building what ends up left behind (assuming successful suppression of the ideologically motivated insurgency) is a battered social fabric subject to centrifugal, unaccountable, violent, criminogenic forces -- in other words, the central forces that drive deviant globalization. Parenti also argues that the "matrix of governance" (police, courts, taxes, age labor, ID mgmt, conscription, jails, health care, water mgmt, primary education, veterinary svcs, etc) is moving away from the state toward non-state actors and shifting away from the modernist paradigm of "control" toward a process of "containment." Social breakdown and erosion of state capacity form a mutually reinforcing vicious cycle (p 85). "In failed states social breakdown is the norm; yet, governance and administration are never totally absent. They exist, but in spectral form. It is as if the failed state has reverted to older, tributary methods of domination and reciprocity. Because state failure is relative, in most so-called failed states government is a semifunctional ruin--the state as improvised afterlife... Among the ruins of modernity past, the institutions of sovereignty rot and fade like old documents and the colonial offices that house them." Parenti argues that state collapse represents a "bizarre inversion" of Rostow's "stage theory" of development: gradual decline, with each loss building on the last. Finally, Parenti puts all this in the right historical frame by showing how it was the neoliberal deconstruction of the state (privatization of production & downsizing of safety nets) over the course of the 1980s and 1990s that eroded the centralized political authority and governance capacity, leaving societies unable to deal with the forthcoming biopolitical crises that climate change will cause or exacerbate. People will turn to whatever nonstate actors, often criminal, who can provide them a modicum of shelter from the coming storms, both physical and political.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    Without question, the evidence of climate change's influence over societal conflict is incontrovertible. Rising temperatures, changing agricultural patterns, and resource conflicts within the band of what Parenti calls the "Tropic of Chaos" persuasively demonstrate the severity of the current crisis and hint at the calamities to come. The different regions surveyed in this book are fascinating in their own right, and although Parenti rarely goes beyond the usual knowledge of a region, his write- Without question, the evidence of climate change's influence over societal conflict is incontrovertible. Rising temperatures, changing agricultural patterns, and resource conflicts within the band of what Parenti calls the "Tropic of Chaos" persuasively demonstrate the severity of the current crisis and hint at the calamities to come. The different regions surveyed in this book are fascinating in their own right, and although Parenti rarely goes beyond the usual knowledge of a region, his write-ups are a good reminder. It is odd to read today, I must say, given the almost total discourse conversion that the sway of the alt-right and rising fascism has engendered -- to say nothing about Trump's conversion of the previous consensus on American politics into a new beast that apologizes for previous Republican and Democratic ills in comparison to the new terror at home. The book is not without its flaws, however. Parenti is not a theorist but a journalist and so his sketches lack coherence within a general framework. Further, the chapters have a piecemeal approach that depends on academic canons as opposed to a reporter's beat – it's understandable but disappointing. Lastly, the focus on climate change itself takes a backseat to the geography of violence, which is not what I was hoping for. All told, this is a good but increasingly dated vision of the frontiers of climate change violence. More to come, surely. Find it at your local library!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This book does a wonderful job of what it does, which may not be what you're going to expect it to do if you judge from the title. It's a great summary of how much of the tropical world got to its current state as a result of colonialism, surging population, the games played by both sides in the Cold War in these countries and the aftermath of those games (the facts that many of them are awash in weapons provided by both sides and that they haven't had stable governments since). Parenti also mak This book does a wonderful job of what it does, which may not be what you're going to expect it to do if you judge from the title. It's a great summary of how much of the tropical world got to its current state as a result of colonialism, surging population, the games played by both sides in the Cold War in these countries and the aftermath of those games (the facts that many of them are awash in weapons provided by both sides and that they haven't had stable governments since). Parenti also makes clear the fact that, although Republicans don't officially believe in human-induced climate change, the military clearly does and is moving to prepare for some of the catastrophes that can be expected. And he writes briefly about how the terrible conditions in the countries he reviews will be exacerbated by that climate change. But if you're expecting climate change and its impact on the Third World to be the real focus of the book, in any detailed sense, I think you'll be disappointed. He also seems wildly optimistic, given the fact that he admits that we simply don't have the political will to do what's needed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Arjun

    Meh. A good premise (and one I believe - that looming/current environmental changes and stresses will lead to conflict) is hamstrung by too much fitting round pegs into square holes. When a book uses the word "neoliberal" in almost every sentence, well, it becomes predictable. I wanted to learn something here and I can't say I did. Meh. A good premise (and one I believe - that looming/current environmental changes and stresses will lead to conflict) is hamstrung by too much fitting round pegs into square holes. When a book uses the word "neoliberal" in almost every sentence, well, it becomes predictable. I wanted to learn something here and I can't say I did.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aidan Walker

    Okay...so the first sentence of this review has to say that this is one of the best books on climate change that I've ever read. In fact, I would say that this is THE best book on climate change that I've ever read. There are some terms coined in Part One of this book that are important to understanding climate change. The first is "catastrophic convergence." This refers to the convergence of poverty (caused by neoliberal economic policies such as structural adjustment), violence (caused by Cold Okay...so the first sentence of this review has to say that this is one of the best books on climate change that I've ever read. In fact, I would say that this is THE best book on climate change that I've ever read. There are some terms coined in Part One of this book that are important to understanding climate change. The first is "catastrophic convergence." This refers to the convergence of poverty (caused by neoliberal economic policies such as structural adjustment), violence (caused by Cold War militarism), and environmental disasters caused by climate change. The second of these terms is "the politics of the armed lifeboat." As the catastrophic convergence fuels violence in the Global South, which in turn cause giant waves of immigrants and refugees to the Global North, an exclusionary politics of xenophobia forms in the rich countries of the world. The last set of terms in this vein are "mitigation" and "adaptation", the latter of which is divided into two types: "technical adaptation" and "political adaptation." All of these terms refer to solutions to the climate crisis. Mitigation means weaning our economy off of fossil fuels, shutting down coal-fired power plants, building a smarter grid, and investing heavily in clean renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. Technical adaptation means opening migration corridors so that species can migrate north to cooler climates, beefing up sea walls around coastal cities, and preserving wetlands, everglades, and mangroves to ease the impact of coastal storm surges. Political adaptation means restoring the state's collectivist and redistributive functions, which have been hollowed out or negated by neoliberalism. This book is especially timely because many of the predictions made in it have come to pass. The implosion of Syria-caused in large part by a climate change-induced drought-led to the worst refugee crisis since World War II. In addition, the rise of ISIS-caused by the US invasion of Iraq-combined with the Syrian refugee crisis led to the rise of bigoted nativists such as Donald Trump, the Brexiteers, the National Front in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and the AfD in Germany. The politics of the armed lifeboat gave us our current president. Additionally, the rise of the xenophobic far right in Europe was aided by the draconian austerity measures imposed from Berlin and Brussels. How's that for catastrophic convergence? The only reason I'm not giving this book five stars is that in the two chapters on South Asia in Part Two, Christian Parenti is clearly unfairly biased in favor of Pakistan over India. He acknowledges Pakistan's use of Islamist terrorist proxies against India and its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, but then spends several pages apologizing for these atrocious transgressions, claiming "Pakistan is simply outmatched by India." Really? Even if that is truly the case, it certainly doesn't justify Pakistan's behavior. He even implores the reader to feel sorry for Pakistan "losing half its territory" (meaning Bangladesh). He fails to mention that Pakistan was committing genocide against the Bangladeshis for wanting independence. This is a massively glaring omission. India stopped that genocide unilaterally. He also singles out India for being hostile to climate action even when many rapidly developing countries (and some developed ones, such as Australia and the US) are just as reluctant to act against climate change, if not more so. It should also be noted that any book that expresses praise or sympathy for the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu (which Tropic of Chaos does, briefly) loses a star. These criticisms don't from the overall brilliance of the book, though. And in spite of all Christian Parenti's "high-minded radicalism" (to quote the author himself), some of his approaches to solving the climate crisis are amazingly down-to-earth and pragmatic. He acknowledges that using natural gas to replace coal temporarily, as an intermediate stage between coal and renewable energy (he calls natural gas power a "bridge" between coal and clean energy), is at worst a necessary evil. He also acknowledges that capitalism can at least solve the problem of getting us off fossil fuels (though he admits we need to move away from models of infinite growth and consumption, which he argues capitalism cannot solve), and to argue this point he cites how turn of the twentieth century progressives solved the crisis of urban sanitation within the capitalist system. As upseting as this book was, so many times, at the end it filled me with hope. Christian Parenti, we need many more climatologists who can communicate like you do!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ryder Kimball

    Tropic of Chaos is about the increasingly consequential intersection of climate change and violence. As Parenti writes, “Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer lies what I call the Tropic of Chaos, a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states girding the planet’s mid-latitudes.” These are the areas in which climate change and extreme weather events compound existing political and cultural crises, serving as the vanguard of what could become widespread cl Tropic of Chaos is about the increasingly consequential intersection of climate change and violence. As Parenti writes, “Between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer lies what I call the Tropic of Chaos, a belt of economically and politically battered post-colonial states girding the planet’s mid-latitudes.” These are the areas in which climate change and extreme weather events compound existing political and cultural crises, serving as the vanguard of what could become widespread climate-driven conflict. Parenti persuasively reports from multiple regions within this latitudinal belt by meeting with people affected by these political confrontations and resource wars. What makes this book particularly effective is that it’s not speculative as so many climate change books are. Although Parenti communicates that the violence he’s discussing is almost sure to become more widespread and severe as humans continue to degrade Earth’s natural systems, he elects to share stories that are already happening at this intersection. With all that said, I found Tropic of Chaos to be too ambitious for its own good. In 250 pages Parenti attempts to boil down centuries of complicated conflict across three continents and elaborate on climate change’s influence in each. It’s a dense, footnote-heavy, and figure-driven work configured within a loose narrative structure. As fascinating and important as I found the content to be I struggled to push through each chapter. I think reducing the scope of this book’s focus would have benefitted the structure greatly, but that’s not to take away from the overall significance of Parenti’s work. “At first glance, this crisis of violence seems to have little to do with climate change—drug dealers do not murder cops because the Intertropical Convergence Zone is off kilter. But, on close examination, the meltdown of northern Mexico provides another illustration of the catastrophic convergence: policies that create poverty and violence are now colliding with the new realities of climate change, and together these three forces are creating socially destructive forms of adaptation.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I am inclined towards get be it four stars for world wide journey of change stories. Where I fault it a bit is it's lack of focus or the political economy which the author himself admits as being the most important factor in all this. The book in some ways still appeals to the moral, the forsight requiring side of the masters of the universe , most of whom are not lacking or indifferent to it because are caught propagating a system that demands they function in opposition to their environmental e I am inclined towards get be it four stars for world wide journey of change stories. Where I fault it a bit is it's lack of focus or the political economy which the author himself admits as being the most important factor in all this. The book in some ways still appeals to the moral, the forsight requiring side of the masters of the universe , most of whom are not lacking or indifferent to it because are caught propagating a system that demands they function in opposition to their environmental ethos and instincts, creating a 'head in the sand' situation . As Chomsky put it It's hard almost impossible to live with a double consciousness , so we create coping mechanisms that perpetuate the very things are threaten to kill us all. In the end , I don't know who this book appeals to , is it to the cohort already convinced that catastrophic climate change is upon us soon or to the head in the sand masters of the universe . If it's the former , it is another book in a long line of books , if it is the later then it might be time to say our prayers , as the message being put out ain't reaching their ears and it is not for the lack of books making a credible case.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ro

    A well-researched and well-written survey of various conflict zones around the world that are seeing the collision of socio-economic, political, and ecological crisis. Some of the stories aren't too new for anybody who has already read anything about issues around climate change and violence, such as dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa regarding drought and tribal conflicts, or the general impact of climate change on migration rates. But other stories were rather new and very fascinating, such as the A well-researched and well-written survey of various conflict zones around the world that are seeing the collision of socio-economic, political, and ecological crisis. Some of the stories aren't too new for anybody who has already read anything about issues around climate change and violence, such as dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa regarding drought and tribal conflicts, or the general impact of climate change on migration rates. But other stories were rather new and very fascinating, such as the chapter on Kyrgyzstan and its hydroelectric economy, or Afghanistan and its opium fields. It is also worth noting that there is less in this book about climate change and ecological crisis than one might expect, given the title; its actually much more focused on the way geopolitical and neoliberal economics have contributed to violent crisis across the world, with ecological and climate factors playing a smaller contributing role (thus far).

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

    A Green rather than a realistic look at what is going to happen when climate violence meets the new world. When you combine this with collapsing demography, the end of growth (post-growth), and the fading American Alliance there will be no help from the troubled spots of the world without an American presence. The author gets the devastation and organized violence correct in the mid-latitudes but does not get the solution correct...there is no solution in a post-growth world. The displaced horde A Green rather than a realistic look at what is going to happen when climate violence meets the new world. When you combine this with collapsing demography, the end of growth (post-growth), and the fading American Alliance there will be no help from the troubled spots of the world without an American presence. The author gets the devastation and organized violence correct in the mid-latitudes but does not get the solution correct...there is no solution in a post-growth world. The displaced hordes will move north but they will be met with walls, patrolling navies, and a profound hostility. This book was written in pre-COVID, growing economies. Now we're entering a post-growth, de-globalization world. The arguments no longer work in a world of fear and coming famine, war, economic downturns, outside America, and state collapse -- see Peter Zeihan on YouTube. Also, read The Great Demographic Reversal. Solid 2 stars.

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