Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Ministry for the Future

 Most people accept that climate change is real, but a significant minority doesn't believe it and others resist any efforts to fix it.  Science fiction can bring out horrible scenes that hopefully will frighten more people into action and also suggest how we might deal with the disaster.  

 Published in 2020 "The Ministry for the Future" does indeed give a reason to be more scared than ever. The initial thrust is something we are dealing with now:  i.e. that despite lots of plans have been made the problem is actually getting worse.   Kim Stanley Robinson is a best selling award winning author who was named "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine in 2008.

The story starts with a killer heat wave in India.  This marks a breaking point for some.  Words are no longer enough.  A small group believes if someone doesn't live up to their word they should be assassinated.  They don't stop there, but also target high users of carbon, for example airplanes, but not battery powered ones are blown up as an effective way to cut air travel.  The Indian government decides to defy regulations and seed clouds to induce rain and it works.

Some scary scenarios are painted.  Coastal cities are covered with water.  Insurance premiums would be too high and the government too indebted for the economy to survive.  Fires and floods limited food production.  Refugees seek protection from the weather causing more turmoil.

We soon encounter an executive with the Ministry for the Future.  The agency was designed to focus on future generations that are not catered to with the current generation.  One of her focuses is on finances, but she soon finds that bankers are more interested in protecting currencies.  Worsening inequality exacerbates conflicts.  Refugees were rapidly increasing and reaching the size of mid sized countries.

In 1944 at Breton Woods John Maynard Keynes made a proposal to avoid developing countries from becoming too debt ridden and to make for a balance between the rich and poor.  Americans preferred that their currency become the global standard.  Read more about this most under appreciated man:

One bright idea was a carbon coin which could only be earned by proven carbon sequestration or reducing carbon impacts.  At first bankers resisted the idea, but money is worthless if there is not civilization to back it up or products to buy.  Eventually it caught on and some took advantage with the author suggesting Saudi Arabia might agree to cut off oil production in return for a huge amount of carbon coins.  As one of the obstacles was the control of currency this opened up more possibilities.

Forestation was a key tool as were activities at the polar extremes and in the oceans.  The world birth rate had been declining for decades and that helped as well.

The author explores many political situations and scientific effort. including geo engineering.  Predicting political trends is dangerous and since publication there has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  But generally he has a good understanding of political dynamics.  It is possible that the climate crisis could lead to more peace and equality as in order to overcome it a great deal of co-operation is required, otherwise a total breakdown is our future.

Science fiction can be a useful tool to project the future.  Even if you are an ardent activist this book will open your mind.  If you are not an activist you will be motivated to do more.  Below are some earlier blogs that dealt with climate change and science fiction.

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