Review of Ministry of the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson 2020 Orbit books

Photo by John Towner on Unsplash

“it was getting hotter”
The opening line of Kim Stanley’s Ministry of the Future.
“And then the sun cracked the eastern horizon. It blazed like an atomic bomb, which of course it was.”
Engagingly written, this is an important book for anyone wondering how we get through the climate emergency of climate chaos, and what might be possible in the future and for future generations. It comes recommended by Barack Obama.

Ministry for the Future is set in the very near future. Starting with a horrific description of a devastating heatwave in India resulting in millions of deaths, it has two main protagonists, Frank, an NGO worker, and Mary, the Minister for the Future. Their story and narratives are interspersed with other experiences and documentary evidence, which makes the whole thing seem very real – I was tempted to describe this as non-fiction. I wondered if at times the excerpts from UN papers could have been edited a bit, but the overall impact was to make it seem as if it were actually happening. Without wishing to spoil the ending, it would be great if it was true, as the story describes a turning point, of deep troubles and suffering followed by hope and a better world, seared by the experiences of violence, fire and floods.

It leaves me wondering – could we really do this? Could we create the political will to switch entirely to renewable energy, to more equitable land use, to regenerative farming, and key to it all, really costing out carbon use and rewarding carbon sequestration? Can we change the economics so that it makes sense to invest in the future rather than its destruction? Could we cope with the violence that plays an important role in the novel’s model of change? It reads at times more like a manifesto than a novel, but I found there was enough of a personal story to carry the reader through.

It has given me hope and inspiration and I hope it will be for others as well.

Blog posts are written by members of Ilkley Meeting and occasionally other contributors. Posts are not necessarily endorsed by the Meeting and may not always represent the opinions of our members or the wider Quaker community.

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