When we learned that the deadliest storm in history killed half a million people and then almost destroyed the world, we made it our mission to show the urgency of the climate crisis as a non-fiction action thriller. We are Scott Carney and Jason ...
TLDR: Too many words? How about a video instead?
How do we get the world to care about the climate crisis NOW, and make people realize that immediate action is required to save our planet? We (investigative journalist Scott Carney -u/gekogekogeko and peace and conflict researcherJason Miklian - u/miklia**)** asked ourselves this question five years ago when we saw that the most serious danger of climate change wasn’t just rising sea levels, declining food production and ever-increasing temperatures. It’s when those environmental consequences smash into political systems, and the damage escalates all the way to genocide and even the threat of nuclear war.
It sounds alarmist, but we discovered a situation in history where this exact chain reaction happened — and could again if we don’t act now.
In 1970 the Great Bhola Cyclone sent a 25-foot storm surge over the low-lying islands of East Pakistan, killing 500,000 people in one night. But West Pakistan, led by a despotic drunk named Yahya Khan, cared little about the Bengalis in his Eastern province (see map). Even with an election just three weeks away, Yahya refused to help the survivors. One of his generals said “the cyclone solved half a million of our problems.” After all, dead Bengalis couldn’t vote.
Galvanized by Yahya’s hate, Bengalis won enough votes to throw Yahya out in a landslide. But instead of accepting defeat, Yahya blamed the “fake-news media”, shipped troops to the East and started a genocide. He said all he needed to do was “Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of my hand.” And that’s exactly what he did.
But Yahya didn’t act alone. It just so happened that he was best friends with the most powerful man in the world: American President Richard Nixon. Nixon asked Yahya: could he help America open relations with China through Secretary of State Henry Kissinger? Yahya eagerly agreed. In return, Nixon sent Yahya all the guns, planes and ammunition he needed to kill millions.
Millions of refugees crossed the border to India, who funded a Bengali insurgency to try to stop the wave. India was a Soviet Union ally, so in the Cold War logic of escalation, both the Soviets and Americans sent nuclear fleets into the Bay of Bengal to support their side. Kissinger thought that this could be the final showdown. He urged Nixon to “start lobbing nukes” at the Soviets or and India air bases. The Soviets had orders to vaporize the American fleet if they advanced past an arbitrary red line in the sea. The only reason why war was averted was because East Pakistan fell to the Bengali rebels on that very day.
Bangladesh was born, and the world was saved.
But this isn’t just another dry history tale. We spent five years of research, drawing upon more than 1,000 sources and interviews, to present this story as a non-fiction action thriller. We tell this absolutely wild (and 100% true) story through the eyes of a soccer star turned soldier, a Miami weatherman, a drunken and genocidal President, a Boston teacher turned aid worker and a student turned revolutionary who all played crucial roles in Bangladesh’s birth. And we cried and got furious along with our interviewees, mesmerized by the power of their experiences.
Our mission? To show people who would otherwise never dream of learning about something that happened a long time ago in a land far far away the perils of ignoring climate-conflict connections, and give a blueprint for action before conflict in another forgotten part of the world can draw in global powers and create major international conflict.
Our new book The Vortex is out today. (Go pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore, on Amazon, on audible - or better yet order one to your local library or university! (If you’re in the UK pick it up here). We’re honored to say that early reviews have been fantastic, like in the Wall Street Journal and this simply spectacular segment on NPR’s Morning Edition. We also have an excerpt in WIRED if you’d like to read a longer section of the book.
Ask us anything! We're happy to talk about climate change and the climate-conflict relationship, Bangladesh and South Asian politics then or now, salacious Nixon and Kissinger stories, the Beatles and the Concert for Bangladesh, the co-authorship writing process, or anything else that comes to mind. AMA