Kim Stanley Robinson is a writer of science fiction, known for his new book The Ministry for the Future.
The Ministry for the Future (Orbit, 2020) is a sweeping novel about climate change and how people of the near future start to slow, stop and reverse it. The story opens with a devastating heat wave that kills thousands in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. From there, Kim Stanley Robinson pulls back to show us the world’s reaction, taking readers from the eponymous Ministry for the Future (which advocates for new laws and policies, like carbon quantitative easing) to scientists in Antarctica, where glaciologists pump out water from under glaciers to slow their slide into the ocean. The book’s kaleidoscope of viewpoints goes beyond humans to include animals, inanimate objects and abstract concepts, like caribou, a carbon atom and history. Robinson also uses multiple forms, from traditional first- and third-person narratives and eyewitness accounts, to meeting notes and history lessons, to riddles and dialogues. The effect is epic, conveying both the complexity of the problem and a wake-up call. “I want to make the very strong point that it's never game over,” Robinson says. “It’s never too late to start doing the right things.” And the right things add up. The novel spans 30 year, and over that time, the cumulative efforts of individuals, governments, scientists and even terrorists start to reverse the damage. “Especially for young people, I'm always trying to emphasize that it's not like we were having fun … in the carbon-burn years and now you've got to suffer and live like saints forever. It's actually that we were obese and hurting and stupid. And now you could be smart and stylish and clever and have more fun.” Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.  Best known for the Mars trilogy, Robinson is one of the greatest living science fiction writers. And in recent years, he's become the greatest writers of what people now call cli-fi — climate fiction. The name is a bit of a misnomer: Climate fiction is less fictitious speculation than an attempt to envision a near future that we are likely to inhabit. It’s an attempt to take our present — and thus the future we’re ensuring — more seriously than we currently do. Robinson’s new book does exactly that.  In The Ministry for the Future, Robinson imagines a world wracked by climate catastrophe. Some nations begin unilateral geoengineering. Eco-violence arises, as people begin to begin experience unchecked climate change as an act of war against them, and they respond in kind, using new technologies to hunt those they blame. Capitalism ruptures, changes, and is remade. Nations, and the relations between them, transform. Ultimately, humanity is successful, but it is a terrifying success — a success that involves making the kinds of choices that none of us want to even think about making.  This conversation with Robinson was fantastic. We discuss why the end of the world is easier to imagine than the end of capitalism; how changes to the biosphere will force humanity to rethink capitalism, borders, terrorism, and currency; the influence of eco-Marxism on Robinson’s thinking; how existing power relationships define the boundaries of what is considered violence; why science-fiction as a discipline is particularly suited to grapple with climate change; what a complete rethinking of the entire global economic system could look like; why Robinson thinks geoengineering needs to be on the table; the vastly underrated importance of the Paris Climate Agreement; and much more. References: "'There is no planet B': the best books to help us navigate the next 50 years" by Kim Stanley Robinson My conversation on geoengineering with Jane Flegal The Ezra Klein Show climate change series Book recommendations: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver  The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem  Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk Credits: Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide ( Want to contact the show? Reach out at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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Creator Details

Mar 23rd, 1952
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2 hours, 23 minutes
Podchaser Creator ID logo 600165