Friday, January 27, 2023

Review of The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (04/29/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Once Upon A Future, 2) How To Allocate Resources?

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“No one had the heart to point out that India had also failed to meet its emission reduction targets.  And of course if total emissions over historical time were totted up, India would come in far behind all of the developed nations of the Western world, as everyone knew.  In dealing with the poverty that still plagued so much of the Indian populace, the Indian government had had to create electricity as fast as they could, and also, since they existed in a world run by the market, as cheaply as they could.” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 6, Page 31

“Tatiana gave Mary a sharp look, as if to say Please be serious.  “Nations agree to them only if they like their judgements.  But judgements always side with one side or other, so the losing side is never pleased.  And there is no sheriff for the world.  So, the US does what it wants, and the rest of us also do what we want.  The courts only work when some petty war criminal gets caught and everyone decides to look virtuous.”” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 9, Page 46

“India is now leading the way on so many issues! We remain horrified by the memory of the heat wave, galvanized, and if not unified then nearly so, in a broad coalition determined to re-examine everything, to change whatever needs changing. You see it all around you!” – Kim Stanley Robinson, Chapter 31, Page 136



This is a story of the potential consequences of environmental mismanagement, specifically climate mismanagement.  Along with ways on how people cope with the tragedies.  Stimulating a reflection upon the potential destruction, and ways that can avert the destruction.  A reflection of the psychological coping mechanisms to the destruction, the science and technology of climate management, and the global political and economic ramifications of the changes.

When India gets ravaged by a heat wave that produces havoc, a movement is started to prevent further catastrophes.  But the rest of the world is not so eager to make changes.  Even a global agency meant to protect present and future beings known as The Ministry for the Future, is hesitant to make changes as rapidly as they would like.  India starts the changes, and breaks global political restraints on methods used to battle the deleterious climate.  Years pass by with much of the world resisting changing their practices to become environmentally sustainable.

There are groups that cannot stand for the lack of change, the lack of responsibility for the environment.  These groups rise up in resistance to those who would seek to destroy the environment.  Groups that protect the environment initiate a War for the Earth.  The methods are steeped in violence, but increase the costs of producing greenhouse gases.  Creating a search for alternative means of production, without damaging the environment.  The world economic and political stance on the environment gradually changes from resistance, to persecution of those who damage the environment.  Changing the way people think, and behave in relation to their environment.   



The book is composed of various ideas and narratives.  With so many different perspectives, their transitions are poor.  The book contains various ideas from environmental science, economics, politics, and psychology.  But the ideas are not given much detail, and the way the ideas are described contain the biases of the author.  The author presents many different ideals, in resolution of a single major ideal, but they are sometimes a distraction to the major ideal. 

The science itself is simplified to promote an ideal for the climate, but there is a loss to information within that simplification.  Science rarely does not have unintended consequences, while the resolutions to the climate problem in this book appear to be completely sustainable and without negative effects. 

The ways in which policies change in this book, utilize instrumental evil.  Doing acts of evil, for good outcomes.  The promotion of these behavior is inappropriate, and have contradictory outcomes.  Wars to end violence have historically tended to create more violence.  But in this book, this type of tyranny has created a society in which people accept violence as righteous and do not abuse this method.  Within this book, there appears to be no problem with persecution of any dissenter from the environmental policies enacted.  Seemingly minor incidents on the way to changing policies, only bring about greater defense of the methods used to persecute those who think differently.

With global changes to the economic system, there are acknowledged major economic disruptions.  Within this book, production methods and products quickly make adjustments.  Daily life seems to be going without much disruptions.  There appears to be nothing wrong with the different economic system. 

An economic policy that is promoted in the book is a carbon coin, that pays to prevent release of carbon.  Before the carbon coin, the author berated rents.  Rents are incomes that peoples receive without doing anything.  While the rents of the carbon coin are promoted in the book without any seeming contradiction.  There appears to be nobody in this book who takes advantage of the policy.  Historically, similar policies have been used, with devastating effect.  Firms have produced more unwanted products, for which they wanted an income to prevent releasing the product.  Damaging the environment way more than before the policy.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What happens to India?
•What was the purpose behind The Ministry of the Future? 
•How did people cope with the travesty? 
•How has the environment been mismanaged? 
•How do political systems respond to the environmental problems?
•How does economics manage the environment?
•What technology could have been used, and was used for environmental management?
•What is the War for the Earth?
•What is the outcome of War for the Earth?
•Does violence have good outcomes?
•How to change people’s minds on the environment?
•What is YouLock?
•Who are the Children of Kali?
•What is Crash Day?
•What is the responsibility of monetary policy?
•What technology is considered or used to manage the climate?
•What is a carbon coin?

Book Details
Publisher:             Orbit [Hachette Book Group]
Edition ISBN:      9780316300162
Pages to read:       568
Publication:          2020
1st Edition:           2020
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3