The Ministry for the Future, a new speculative fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, is a remarkable and urgently needed book. It portrays a near future that is dark enough to be plausible, consistent with the destruction that science tells us climate change will bring. Yet it tells a sweeping story of how humanity might navigate the coming chaos and tragedy, prevent the most catastrophic outcomes, and even transform our systems for the better. It presents a realistic future worth working hard for. By doing so, it’s managed to kindle more hope in me. And it’s a grounded, determined hope, not the draining hope of desperation.
Realistic, hopeful, compelling
The Ministry for the Future is realistic about the state of climate change, vividly describing the disasters it will bring. And it’s real about the current barriers to action. The response that humanity manages isn’t utopian, smooth, or easy. It happens in spite of and mediated through the complexity of international relations, political realities, and economic incentives. It grapples with geo-engineering, terrorism, and the power of capital and entrenched interests.
Although one of the main plots follows U.N. negotiation with central banks over creating a new currency to drive carbon sequestration, it’s a page-turner, brought to life by eye-witness accounts and personal stories that crystalize how life will change over the coming decades. It shows how the unglamorous work of countless people across the world, all contributing in different ways, can add up to reversing global warming and building more just and equitable systems.
Filling a gap in our collective imagination
Ezra Klein called it the most important book he’s read all year, and I’d agree. This is science fiction at it’s best, serving as an ‘intuition pump’ to help us imagine and live into the world to come. You can listen to his interview with the author here. They discuss themes and ideas that run through the book, but there aren’t too many spoilers.
If you can’t imagine how we could get anywhere positive from the mess we’re in, I’d highly recommend giving this a read.