The Ministry For The Future

Kim Stanley Robinson's extraordinary new climate change novel

I’ve barely had time to write due to Kim Stanley Robinson’s mammoth novel: The Ministry For The Future and I can’t recommend it enough for understanding climate change in all its global and local complexities.

Climate policy is my thing and I’ve been buried in the pages and websites of policy frameworks for what seems like forever: the articles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Well Being of Future Generations Act, Climate Change Act and and so on, trying to piece together a medley of national policy interventions to assess their collective impact.

One lecture I delivered involved decorating the walls in flip-chart paper covered with the acronyms, terms and idiosyncrasies of climate policy: UNFCCC, CoP, treaties, parties, brackets, NDCs. It’s another language, although one shared across nation states between a distinct group of international policy makers, but incomprehensible to most national citizens.

Now, if I want to explain how international and national climate policy affects people's lives - or more importantly COULD change our trajectory -  I would just present people with The Ministry For The Future.

In Stanley Robinson's clear, clean style, the complexity of modern monetary theory, global banking, borders and international law, is all stitched together into a tense plot arc and relatable characters.

I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll spare the details, but what I love most about this novel is its global reach. Britain is barely featured and I find this relieving and liberating. Having been raised in a culture that centres itself as a global leader, looking into a future from the perspectives of so many other cultures and economies is surprisingly hopeful.

I once told a workshop that the way to understand policy was to discover the people and stories behind the reports and work our what motivates them. And now here it is, the people behind the polices, beautifully and tragically imagined across the world. It’s a long read, but a week or two well spent.