Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In this scathing study, Parenti (Lockdown America) argues that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the planet in the form of devastating droughts and other weather aberrations that create a shortage of arable land and resources. In the developing world, these challenges intersect with the ongoing crises of poverty and violence to create what Parenti terms a 'catastrophic convergence.' Arguing that coming environmental shifts will 'act as a radical accelerant,' he describes how cold war militarism and neoliberal economics have eroded community fabric and public services in such disparate places as the arid savannahs of Kenya, the mountains of Afghanistan, the favelas of Brazil, the jungles of Colombia, and the deserts of northern Mexico, opening the door for 'socially disruptive forms of adaptation,' like brutality, genocide, and corruption. As the developing world sinks deeper into crisis, the developed world takes the 'armed lifeboat' approach, consolidating wealth and firepower while ignoring the rising tide of need among the planet's most vulnerable citizens. 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. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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 Chaos… Tropic 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. ”
“[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.”
“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.”—
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
An award-winning journalist combines on-the-ground reportage with incisive analysis to reveal the disturbing connection between climate change and increased social and political violence.
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.