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Delhi Smog: Smog turns Delhi into a gas chamber

Writers call to confront the smog.

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Delhi smog
Delhi turns into a gas chamber as smog covers the city. wikimedia commons
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New Delhi, Nov 8: When acclaimed novelist Amitav Ghosh was writing “The Great Derangement”, a work of nonfiction on the burning issue of climate change, many in literary circles asked him: “Why would you write about something so boring?”

Some two years down the line, as the eyes burn and lungs choke in the “gas chamber” that residents of Delhi find themselves in, his book is a fitting examination of the scale and dangers of climate change.

It was not just a few in literary circles who failed to recognise the problem of climate change; for most of us, it remained something vague. in an interview to this correspondent just ahead the launch of “The Great Derangement”, Ghosh had abruptly asked: “Did you notice the smog that had filled the air just before the onset of winter?”

“I think I did,” I replied. “Well what did you do about it,” he immediately retorted.

Ghosh’s book, however, was a timely response to climate change and deserved much more attention than what it received then.

“Are we deranged,” asks Ghosh in the book and argues that future generations may well think so. “How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming?” It was his first major book of nonfiction since “In an Antique Land”, and in its pages Ghosh examines our inability — at the level of literature, history and politics — to grasp the scale of climate change.

“In a substantially altered world, when sea-level rise has swallowed the Sundarbans and made cities like Kolkata, New York and Bangkok uninhabitable, when readers and museum-goers turn to the art and literature of our time, will they not look, first, and most urgently, for traces and portents of the altered world of their inheritance? And when they fail to find them, what should they — what can they — do other than to conclude that ours was a time when most forms of art and literature were drawn into the modes of concealment that prevented people from recognizing the realities of their plight? Quite possibly then, this era, which so congratulates itself on its self-awareness, will come to be known as the time of the Great Derangement,” he writes in the book.

Ghosh had added in the interview that, at first, his concerns were about the damage that we are doing to the environment — but climate change is something much bigger.

“When we are talking about environmental impacts, we are talking about specific ecological systems, about specific environments and the ways in which human beings have impacted them. But climate change is something much bigger.

“We are talking about an inter-connected earth’s system, which is changing in ways that after a certain point human beings can’t actually control what is going to happen and that seems to be a situation that we are already in. These changes are occurring in ways that we can no longer impact them. If you look around the world and see what writers are writing about, very few are actually confronting this issue,” he had said.

He also pointed out that, in his opinion, there were no simple or easy solutions.

“What has actually happened is that we have lost the tools, and the ways of thinking, which allow us to understand or even to register what is happening around us. Even if we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of some of these changes, either we are unable to connect it to wider issues of climate change that are occurring or we are unable to think of it in an imaginative way.

“Something is happening, which is going to be, in the long run, catastrophic and yet we are unable to find some story for it,” he maintained.

The fundamental point that Ghosh raised in that interview was that artists, writers and filmmakers have not really given climate change the attention it needs.

He had said that he is “not in the business of finding solutions” but pointed out that one good way to finding a solution is to “understand the gravity and magnitude of the situation we are all in”.

Ghosh suggests that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence — a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms.

A few weeks from now, the smog may fade away and the perils of today may disappear both from the headlines and our minds. But Ghosh’s book will continue to serve as a great writer’s call to confront the most urgent task of our time.( IANS.)

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Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wines

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Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wine
Climate change can have an effect on the taste of the wine. wikimedia commons

New York, Jan 3, 2018: Although winegrowers seem reluctant to try new grape varieties apparently to protect the taste of the wines, new research suggests that they will ultimately have to give up on their old habit as planting lesser-known grape varieties might help vineyards to counteract some of the effects of climate change.

vineyards. wikimedia commons

“It’s going to be very hard, given the amount of warming we’ve already committed to… for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they’ve grown in the past,” said study co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich, Assistant Professor at Harvard University.

“With continued climate change, certain varieties in certain regions will start to fail — that’s my expectation,” she said.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that wine producers now face a choice — proactively experiment with new varieties, or risk suffering the negative consequences of climate change.

“The Old World has a huge diversity of wine grapes — there are overplanted 1,000 varieties — and some of them are better adapted to hotter climates and have higher drought tolerance than the 12 varieties now making up over 80 per cent of the wine market in many countries,” Wolkovich said.

“We should be studying and exploring these varieties to prepare for climate change,” she added.

Unfortunately, Wolkovich said, convincing wine producers to try different grape varieties is difficult at best, and the reason often comes down to the current concept of terroir.

Terroir is the notion that a wine’s flavour is a reflection of where which and how the grapes were grown.

Thus, as currently understood, only certain traditional or existing varieties are part of each terroir, leaving little room for change.

The industry — both in the traditional winegrowing centres of Europe and around the world — faces hurdles when it comes to making changes, Wolkovich said.

In Europe, she said, growers have the advantage of tremendous diversity.

They have more than 1,000 grape varieties to choose from. Yet strict labelling laws have created restrictions on their ability to take advantage of this diversity.

For example, just three varieties of grapes can be labelled as Champagne or four for Burgundy.

Similar restrictions have been enacted in many European regions – all of which force growers to focus on a small handful of grape varieties.

“The more you are locked into what you have to grow, the less room you have to adapt to climate change,” Wolkovich said.

New World winegrowers, meanwhile, must grapple with the opposite problem — while there are few, if any, restrictions on which grape varieties may be grown in a given region, growers have little experience with the diverse — and potentially more climate change adaptable — varieties of grapes found in Europe, the study said.

Just 12 varieties account for more than 80 per cent of the grapes grown in Australian vineyards, Wolkovich said.

More than 75 per cent of all the grapes grown in China is Cabernet Sauvignon — and the chief reason why has to do with consumers.

“They have all the freedom in the world to import new varieties and think about how to make great wines from a grape variety you’ve never heard of, but they’re not doing it because the consumer hasn’t heard of it,” Wolkovich said. (IANS)