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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781568587295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568587295
  • ASIN: 1568587295
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

San Francisco Bay Guardian
“Christian Parenti offers an unusual and compelling analysis of violence through the lens of the environment….Parenti also turns a sharp eye upon the repression, surveillance, and counterinsurgency that first-world nations have employed to combat growing violence in water-scarce, conflict-ridden regions, and calls for a more enlightened approach.”

Jan McGirk, ChinaDialogue.net
Tropic of Chaos is a must-read. It telegraphs an urgent message of how quickly climate catastrophe is morphing around the globe.”

Astra Taylor, Bookforum (online)

“[A] harrowing tour-de-force… if you read one book on climate change this year (and really, who can bear to read more than one?), Tropic of Chaos should be it. The way you understand the changing climate, and the resulting conflicts that serrate our world, will be transformed.”

Nomi Prins, Truthdig

“Tropic of Chaos” is a wake-up call to humanity, particularly to the richest nations (with the U.S. at the top of that list) that produce the greatest amount of carbon that accelerates climate change. The detrimental effects of our environmental gluttony at the heart of our economic avarice are not blurry fatalistic hypotheses—they are here, today. As “Tropic of Chaos” illustrates so clearly, we can’t afford, morally or economically, to be lax about the impact of catastrophic convergence on the global population or allow private profit-motivated interests to ruin civilization.”

Foreign Policy In Focus

“[An] impressive new book… If Naomi Klein, Mike Davis, and James Howard Kunstler had teamed up to write a book, the result would read something like Tropic of ChaosTropic of Chaos illustrates the strengths of merging climate projections with left historical analysis of the poverty and conflicts that define much of the Global South. The result is an important map key to the (possibly near) future, if not strictly a climate book. Viewing climate change as an amplifier of existing inequality and disorder results in a split-screen, one that deals as much with the last century as the current…there is no denying the relevance and immediacy of the book’s main thesis, powerfully illustrated by the current drought-related famine in Somalia… Tropic of Chaos not only asks the right questions. An argument could be made that it deals with the only questions currently worth asking. Climate change is the X Factor lurking behind every other conversation over the direction and shape of our civilization. If the temperature goes up by the predicted six degrees Fahrenheit, Parenti is correct to conclude that all bets will most certainly be off. ”

Socialist Worker

“[Parenti] has written a sweeping discourse on the collision set in motion between the natural and the social world…[Parenti’s] book remains an important and cogently written, if frightening, contribution to our understanding of the planetary crisis and how we got here.”

Social Funds

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti, is a rarity among nominally popular books, in that it seeks to describe what the world will look like if climate change is left unchecked. Exceedingly well-researched…it nevertheless lays out a narrative all the more frightening for those living in a world whose leaders seem increasingly resistant to doing anything about climate change.”—

Booklist

“Parenti takes readers from the drought-afflicted savannas of Kenya, where armed farmers are killing each other over limited water supplies, to shantytowns in Brazil, where scarce resources are driving desperate citizens into the deadly drug trade. . . . While the landscape he surveys is grim, Parenti offers several tactics to encourage better resolution of its problem, including raising awareness among political leaders and recognizing that progress will come only through creative compassion.”

The Georgia Straight, Vancouver, Canada

“There’s much to admire in Tropic of Chaos, notably the breadth of Parenti’s research and how he ties it into a coherent, big-picture view of the world. The book also offers timely insights into the origins of this month’s famine in East Africa.”

Washington City Paper

“Parenti’s exploration of how, say, a water shortage in equatorial Africa causes nomadic herdsmen to roam far afield—only to be met by a rival tribe that raids their animals and kills their men to protect fertile land—illustrates the domino effect extreme weather can cause anywhere in the world.”

The Daily

“Like the climate scientists he invokes in his analysis, Christian Parenti seeks to understand a dizzyingly complex problem. . . . His book embarks on a tour of the so-called ‘tropic of chaos,’ the equatorial belt where much of the world’s population lives, and where changing weather patterns have led to conflict and destitution.  At each stop, Parenti draws connections between violence and global warming.”

Publishers Weekly

“Scathing. . . . Parenti’s careful reporting and grasp of politics and economics support the book’s urgent message—that impending global chaos is all but assured unless the developed world finds the political will to imagine a better future.”

Kirkus Reviews
An investigative journalist’s tough analysis of how some of the world’s most vulnerable states—those with a history of economic and political disasters—are confronting the new crisis of climate change. . . . A dark look at a looming world crisis.”

Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“A brilliant weather report from the near future of world politics.”

Naomi Klein, author The Shock Doctrine

“A richly investigated and original account of the role climate change is already playing in contemporary conflicts. This glimpse of the future we most fear arrives just in time to change course.”

Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

“To read this disturbing, indeed frightening book is to appreciate fully the fix we’re in.  On the one hand is a looming planetary crisis, the product of climate change, resource scarcity, and widespread poverty.  On the other hand is the misguided conviction, to which Americans in particular cling, that military power, deftly employed, will insulate the developed world from these problems.  It won’t, Christian Parenti argues.  He’s right.   We can’t say we weren't warned.”

Pablo Solón, Chief Climate Negotiator and Ambassador of Bolivia to the United Nations

“This important book highlights a new dimension of climate change. It’s not only about the loss of biodiversity, glaciers, and island states but also about a new era of conflict, violence and chaos.  Parenti shows us how climate change already produces war and aggression.  But he also invites us to think about real and structural alternatives to unbridled capitalism and runaway climate change.”

Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day

Tropic of Chaos is a penetrating look at natural disasters and the humans that make them happen.  This engrossing, deeply researched account takes us on a journey around the globe to uncover the social production of catastrophe.  A book that’s hard to ignore, and difficult to put down.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club 

“Christian Parenti’s exhaustively researched Tropic of Chaos presents a disturbing idea: that the species which caused the climate crisis will be the one most affected by it.  This powerful book charts how climate-driven violence is already taking hold.  If we don’t act with urgency, a troubled future awaits us.”

Saskia Sassen, Professor, Columbia University and author of Territory, Authority, Rights

“We know we confront multiple catastrophic events.  They have been analyzed and debated.  Like no other book I know of, Parenti gives us the vortex itself.  He does so through knowledge and facts in a manner that brings it all to life.  What a great book, really extraordinary.”

Rethinking Schools
Tropic of Chaos is an important book for teachers, especially because of the wretched treatment of the climate crisis in mandated corporate-produced curriculum materials. . . . [W]e need to devise ways to incorporate [Parenti’s] analysis into our curriculum.”
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Christian Parenti is a contributing editor at the Nation. The author of Lockdown America, The Soft Cage, and The Freedom, he has written for Fortune, Mother Jones, Conde Nast Traveler, Playboy, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

More About the Author

Christian Parenti is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow, contributing editor at The Nation and a visiting professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY. His most recent book is "Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence" (Nation Books, July 2011). As a journalist, he has reported extensively from Afghanistan, Iraq and various parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and his articles have appeared in Fortune, The Washington Post, The New York Times, London Review of Books, Mother Jones and Playboy. He has a PhD in sociology from the London School of Economics, has held fellowships from OSI, RBF and the Ford Foundation; and has won numerous awards, including the 2009 Lange-Tailor Prize and Best Magazine Writing of 2008 from the Society for Professional Journalists. His three previous books, are: "The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq"; "The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror" and "Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis."

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Freeman on July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The great writer Walter Benjamin once pointed out (and here I a going to greatly paraphrase) that us modern humans are unique amongst species in our inability as a large group to plan out multiple escape routes; that is to say that us humans can march blindly into certain disaster, whereas any other animal sensing danger would beat a hasty retreat. Mr. Parenti's book is a revelation as it takes a clear eyed glimpse into our undeniable climate crisis; and with that glimpse he illustrates the real threats that crisis represents to both human life and to the democratic ideals that we cherish as American citizens; and finally Parenti maps out at least some possibilities of an exit strategy from this crisis. That these ideas are presented are of utmost importance. Fortunately Mr. Parenti goes beyond just stating abstract notions -- he brings these ideas to life with some generally exciting first hand reporting that takes us from the hardest hit crisis zones of Africa, Afghanistan to our own backyard border zones of Texas and Arizona. In effect he personalizes the overwhelming concepts of global warming by introducing us to the goat herder, the Indian logger, the DEA agent whose lives have been totally turned around by the steady increase in temperature and erratic weather patterns.

Most books about the climate crisis can overwhelm us with negativity and a sort of end-of-days mentality. Mr. Parenti's book is the opposite. It is a book that virtually pulses with a love for democracy and belief in the power of human beings to finally do the right thing. And it is a great read as well. What could be better?
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Cal Page on July 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a must read book for anyone interested in climate change and its impact on humanity. It's also a must read book for everyone else that wants to continue to live in our biosphere. Which is to say, it's a must read for everyone.

The author starts out introducing us to a number of themes he carries forward. Specifically:

1) Climate change causes stressors on planetary civilization and these changes threaten American national security. This is not the author's point of view, but that of our military. Want an example? Consider Afghanistan. Why do they grow poppy? They've been in prolonged drought (a stressor as a result of global warming), and poppy only uses one fifth the water wheat does. The US runs around burning their crops, whereas the Teleban supports the farmers and helps them feed their children. [So are we going to solve the Afghan problem? Use critical thinking and decide for yourself.]

2) Societies can adapt by 'armed lifeboats', whereby they secure their borders against mass migrations, increased internal militarization, and conduct counterinsurgency operations abroad. The author sees this as a malignant adaption to Global Warming and warns us with case after case where this fails. Unfortunately, as the author points out, this is the direction the US is taking.

3) Societies can also adapt by learning to live within the limits of the planet earth. [Hey, I CAN use a solar panel to heat hot water instead of producing CO2 or nuclear waste.]

4) Counterinsurgency destroys societies and eventually fails anyway.

Next, the author takes us on a tour of the world, concentrating on regions between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Sections are dedicated to Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Clark on August 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last week I bought a new book before my flight to San Francisco, " Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.", by Christian Parenti. Indeed, this book is well written, well researched and is deserving of the 5-stars by two reviewers on Amazon. More to the point though, Parenti presents a history of many regions of the world framed through the climate of the area with an eye on how the climate may change in the near future (the next 50 years). Unfortunately, in areas like Somalia, the near future is today.

Somalia presents a tragic case study of the violence of climate change. As I write this, hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing Somalia for Kenya to find relief from intense drought and the resulting famine. The Miami Herald (10 Aug 2011, AP article) printed an Associated Press article reporting the rape of many women refugees once they reached the Kenyan boarder by groups of armed men. "One 30-year-old woman who watched two of her five children die as they trekked through Somalia was raped after reaching what she hoped would be the safety of Kenyan soil." (AP, 09 Aug 2011) According to the report, some of these armed men would order the woman's brother to rape her. If he refused, he or she or both would then be killed. Once these people manage to cross the border, their future does not get much better. Kenya does not have the resources to protect or feed the 400,000 refugees that are already staying in a camp built for 90,000. "Officials here say they are being overwhelmed by the influx of tens of thousands of Somali refugees, and can't stem the attacks.
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