The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh

4.5 out of 5 stars

It was almost a point of no relevance, but at the beginning of this sorry tale, a lamp fell onto the floor. It happened in a dwelling on the Island of Banda and rather it is seen for what it actually was, a mishap of no real significance, it was the start of the clearance of the islands. Sonak, a Dutchman, was there to remove the people from their homes and to take the nutmeg from them. The crash of the lamps as it hit the floor was thought to be an attack on that place and they begin shooting at random.

It is this moment that Ghosh thinks was the beginning of the present climate crisis as well as the current imperialism that still dominates the world. This relentless greed has driven countries and companies to eradicate people and places for the resources that were once theirs. That same philosophy where the earth is seen as a source of materials and therefore a source of money is still prevalent today, just look at the way that oil companies work in ensuring that their income streams are not restricted by local people who want to live in a safe environment.

Gosh uses lots of examples to demonstrate this point and show how these inequalities are deeply rooted in our present western culture. He also looks at how indigenous people use the resources available to them in a sustainable way and how this Traditional Ecological Knowledge (or TEK) is showing how these people used the planet in ways that could keep going indefinitely. This indigenous knowledge has gone from most western cultures and with that we have lost the ability to learn the stories of the land. Seeing the planetary crisis through the eyes of a shaman is quite startling.

Yes I have learned the names of all the bushes, but I have yet to learn the songs

This is not an easy book to like as it subject and content make for fairly grim reading. That said, Ghosh has written an important book about the roots of our present dilemmas, climate change and geopolitical power that can be traced back to the Isles of Banda. I tend to agree with his conclusions, that seeing the planet purely as a source of resources to be exploited to the nth degree has led us to this point. These vested interests are keeping us in this cycle of destruction, but as he hints at the end of the book in his conclusions, there is a glimmer of hope.

Spread the love


  1. Sharon

    I have this on my TBR it was gifted to me at Christmas I think I really need to read it soon, it does sound fascinating if bleak.

    • Paul

      It is well worth reading, Sharon. Can also recommend The Natural History of the Future

Leave a Reply