When the pandemic began — it’s not over — I stopped reading dystopian fiction, some of which I had recommended in Summer science-fiction a couple of years before. The last one I had read was Station Eleven, which I am glad I did so before March 2020. My first read this Summer has been Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future — here is Bryan Alexander’s final instalment from his book club.
The Ministry for the Future can be called speculative fiction, and in this case provides a wide array of methods and processes that we might collectively use to get us through the current climate catastrophe. As fiction, it is more persuasive than any research report or white paper. It opens with a heat wave in India with temperatures above 38C and 60% humidity. Millions of people die as a result. Well, the 2022 heat wave in Pakistan and India hit 49.5C!
“History says don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”
—From Doubletake by Seamus Heaney
There are plenty of reviews of this book so I won’t go into any details of the story. My only recommendation is to pick up a copy and read it. The more people who read it, then more will understand some of the ways we can get out of this mess. It will be costly. People will still die, but significant shifts in power may prevent total catastrophe.
Everyone knows me but no one can tell me. No one knows me even though everyone has heard my name. Everyone talking together makes something that seems like me but is not me. Everyone doing things in the world makes me. I am blood in the streets, the catastrophe you can never forget. I am the tide turning under the world that no one sees or feels. I happen in the present but am told only in the future, and then they think they speak of the past, but really they are always speaking about the present. I do not exist and yet I am everything.
You know what I am. I am History. Now make me good.
—Chapter 77, The Ministry for the Future
Upton Sinclair wrote that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” We need to understand the climate crisis because our lives depend on us understanding it.