We all know that Bangladesh is on the frontlines of climate change, both for its physical effects and for the inequities and injustices resulting from its human and cultural impacts. As it happens, later in 2021 will also be the 50th anniversary of the nation itself, a half-century of independence from Pakistan and, before that, from India. Even in the U.S., where news coverage of this country is typically slim, chances are good for more stories in coming months. These pieces will bring you up to speed, both on the lived experience of climate disruption there and on some limited but heartening positives.
Begin with Tim McDonnell’s excellent 2019 National Geographic story, “Climate change creates a new migration crisis for Bangladesh.” The title is narrower than the story itself, which illuminates both the physical and human situations. (You can read a few free stories a month if you enter your email address; later, if you wish, you can unsubscribe from mailings.)
For issues connected to poverty, displacement, and climate (in)justice, start with “A Quarter of Bangladesh Is Flooded. Millions Have Lost Everything” (Somini Sengupta & Julfikar Ali Manik, New York Times, 2020). Then look at three 2021 pieces by Bangladeshi journalist Rafiqul Islam Montu: “‘It’s over for us’: how extreme weather is emptying Bangladesh’s villages” (The Guardian); “Is climate change impacting the reproductive health of women in coastal Bangladesh?“; and “The long walk for water in Bangladesh“. The last two, both from the Earth Journalism Network, are especially interesting in their specificity and focus on women.
Take a look at a quite good documentary film. Episode 8 of the first season of “Years of Living Dangerously” spends about a third of its hour in Bangladesh, with actor Michael C. Hall as a guide.
There are also some positive stories of economic development and creative adaptation. On economics, see “Bangladesh at 50” (Kaushik Basu, Brookings Institution, 2021); Nicholas Kristof’s 2021 NYT op-ed “What Can Biden’s Plan Do for Poverty? Look to Bangladesh“; and “Bangladesh Prepares for a Changing Climate” (International Monetary Fund, 2019).
For one especially good story – about floating gardens and schools – watch the 12-minute video “Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise” by cultural ecologist/anthropologist Alizé Carrére and read this brief interview with her in Mongabay. Naimul Karim’s piece about how small-scale solar power sharing can tackle more than one challenge at a time is also food for optimism (Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2020).
Finally, read a few of the many thought-provoking interviews with Amitav Ghosh, who grew up partly in Bangladesh. As the author of novels about that part of the world in a time of climate change and an influential book about the difficulty of representing climate change in non-sci-fi fiction, Ghosh challenges Western readers to consider alternative perspectives on these places, people, and issues. Two such interviews are Amy Brady’s here at Yale Climate Connections, and Kanishk Tharoor’s in The Nation.
This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.