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Tropic of Chaos Hardcover – 14 Jul 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; 1st Edition edition (14 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568586000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568586007
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,042,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


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.”—


“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.”

Book Description

"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." -Naomi Klein, author The Shock Doctrine

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent overview of the catastrophe that is gathering as climate change combines with free-market economics and military intervention to reduce some parts of the world to violent chaos.
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Format: Hardcover
Christian Parenti is one of the most important journalists writing today. He writes with conviction about the key issues and problems the world faces. In this book he examines the effects climate change is already having in social and political terms. What he shows is that as the climate changes so desperate people are pushed into desperate situations, which is all too often followed by war. He provides on the ground accounts of what is happening/has happened in places as diverse as Dafur, India, Brazil and the US. He is unsparing in his criticism of the political stupidity that has led the planet to the situation it is in. By the same token, he doesn't pretend there are easy solutions. Even so he shows that there are some obvious solutions within reach.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 43 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tropic of Chaos 26 Aug. 2011
By Shawn Clark - Published on Amazon.com
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. " (AP, 2011)

Parenti's book is certainly an important book for anyone interested in looking at a brief history of how many societies have changed when the climate changes - Somalia, Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico and others are discussed - especially during a drought. More important is the understanding of the dynamics at play right now, today, during many of our debates in this country: The war in Afghanistan, immigration across our border with Mexico, and our current debt criss.

I highly recommend this book
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... eco-history -- I felt this was among the very best books on the climate crisis I have ever encountered ... 19 Aug. 2014
By Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an avid reader of sustainability/environmental literature -- with my own discipline expertise in eco-history -- I felt this was among the very best books on the climate crisis I have ever encountered anywhere. Parenti's perspective is chilling, but convincing. The reporting is genuinely courageous, skilled, dispassionate, detailed, revelatory, and deeply frightening. Parenti's ability to weave a compelling human story (and detect convincing patterns) from the confusing "chaos" of global events and data sets is an intellectual tour de force of the first order. Given its focus on military and global security repercussions, there's even some hope that those still (somewhat) skeptical of climate change would find Parenti's rigorous, non-sentimental world-view more convincing than other competing books on the topic. That said, his analysis does offer realistic yet hopeful opportunities to the doomed "armed life-boat" strategies we are currently locked into.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Essential Tome for a Dangerous Time 19 July 2011
By Jeremy Freeman - Published on Amazon.com
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?
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern society - wake up 6 Dec. 2013
By Janee Crane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an important book for showing the real-world complex connections and interactions between political, social, economic and environmental elements that are contributing to and resulting from climate change. It is a message to modern society – wake up – catastrophic convergence of environmental, economic, social and political breakdown in the world’s poorest and conflicted countries is happening. While we’ve been sleeping our governments have begun to deploy a response that if fully realised will see us living in police state conditions and violently repressing immigrants and climate refugees. All the while as a result of our myopic inaction, we will be suffering the extreme climate volatility that will characterise planetary decline if atmospheric temperatures continue to rise unabated.

Parenti illuminates the catastrophic convergence that is resulting from climate change and violence in failed and fragile states in the so-called “Tropic of Chaos” – the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America geographically located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. The countries that Parenti describes have extremely high poverty incidence. They are societies in which tradition and culture have been deeply ruptured, and which experience massive movements of population from rural to urban areas and trans-national labour migration, attributed by Parenti to the impacts of climate change that are already beginning to bite. The concomitant violence has its roots in the legacy anomie of colonialism, post-colonial militarisation and resulting accessibility of weaponry, the gross corruption of kleptocratic regimes, and the immiserating failure of neo-liberal economic re-structuring policies fostered by the IMF and the World Bank since the 1970s.

Parenti signals alarm about the devastating effects of climate change in countries that lack the stability, resources and state legitimacy to respond. He cautions the likely increase in global refugee populations – from estimated current levels to some 250 million to one billion people by 2050. Parenti critiques the emerging response to this convergence in the US, Europe and other developed economies that is characterised by counter-insurgency, militarism, and hardening of policy responses to the converging crisis. Tropic of Chaos concludes with an assertion that both the technology and financial resources to prevent catastrophic environmental destruction do exist already. What is lacking according to Parenti is political will in the dominant economies and a relegitimisation of the state’s role in the economy that could direct investment and government purchasing into clean and green technology.

Parenti deploys theoretical references in his critique and extensively cites climate data throughout Tropic of Chaos. He uses individual stories to give a sense of personal realism to a catastrophic global crisis. The accounts of small wars, cold war, insurgencies, counter-insurgencies and resource and drug violence are greatly detailed and to some extent divert the reader from the main idea expounded in the book, which is that the fall-out from climate change in the poorest, most populous and most fragile states will have massive population movement implications that the rest of the world has not yet realised and is in danger of responding to badly. This is the spectre of a police state in which personal freedoms are severely restricted and violent repression of immigrants is commonplace.
4.0 out of 5 stars The author raises critical issues in this book about the ... 15 Aug. 2016
By Lawrence B. Cahoon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author raises critical issues in this book about the human impacts of climate change, particularly migration driven by drought. We can see certain of his claims borne out by more recent events - the bloodbath in Syria, the collapse of Yemen, etc. Certainly the current American presidential campaign's bitter treatment of immigration issues exemplifies the points Parenti makes. My only reservation in rating the book is that he digs into more or less anecdotal information about the injustices of the US immigration control system. That is too fine-grained an argument for a book that deals with such massive human tragedy.
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