So we know our world is pretty terrifying; fires, floods, disease, famine (but not on our block). But we really don’t have a clue how to get OUT of danger. Beyond buying an electric car; way beyond changing your lightbulbs.
Bill McKibben, who we’ve followed since his End of Nature, 1989, said read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry for the Future and dream big. So I’m doing that. Difficult uphill climb, but worth the work. Hope you’ll join me!
The world is falling apart, said my partner on picking me up from my short trip to San Francisco, realizing much has shut down and changed including the Union @ Van Ness bus stop – change without any sign or signal! I’m OK; I can run to catch a bus if the driver slows down for me. Just a little thing, yes? Not if you’re in a wheel chair or on a walker. We must have usable public transit and a whole slew of other shifts to get past use of fossil fuels and adapt to an onslaught of likely catastrophies. If we want to live together on this planet.
What do you do when Air Quality Index (AQI) is red? Like Reno yesterday when my partner Wayne had to go for business? Hazardous air to be breathed for days and how many humans and animals DON’T have air filters? By far most of each.
The Dixie Fire is already scary and it’s not yet August, usually just before fire season Sept./Oct. Not to worry! We’re (sort of) ready to evacuate. That’s OK? Or our entire culture is changed irreversibly as with COVID, by the necessity of preparing for disaster? For flood, for famine, for nuclear exchange, for massive emmigration, for death of millions of people, humans we might save, feed, house? Think of the great need for – grief! Each one needs a grief counselor who needs a massage. Yikes!
So Kim Stanley Robinson breaks the ceiling wide open with wild solutions like, tell the fossil fuel companies they’re done sucking oil; suck water instead so the glaciers can resettle on rock…slows the ice melt tremendously and gives us time to reverse CO2 overage in the air…we MIGHT make it through climate crisis! Foil the feedback loops! We’ve just begun to grok that certain cycles, feedback loops, if you will, start up and seemingly feed on themselves, becoming impossible to stop.
This is where dream big comes in; where KSR comes in; where you and I need to.
So in Ministry for the Future, Mary Murphy, CEO of the Ministry, must convince governments, banks, people everywhere that she has answers, ways to survive, requiring greater cooperation than humankind has ever undertaken.
The challenges have never been so immense. Like an Olympics for the mind and body and then the body of humankind, animalkind, life as we know it.
Robinson says “I wrote my book; it’s up to you to use the ideas” (basically). So I slog through a few hundred pages and come to:
- We could slow the feedback loop of ice melt/ocean current changes that releases methane, takes away white areas that reflect the sun’s rays back up; that change our ocean currents so we can’t grow crops, IF fossil fuel companies, bullied, shamed, bankrupted, were offered a way to make lots of money by sucking water out from under glaciers, getting them to settle back onto rock and thus slowing the melt tremendously. Exxon could make money helping nature get back to balance.
- What if money could be made by sucking CO2 out of the air via rock dust or other methods – in exchange for carbon coins, “carboni,” for the work.
- What if India, suffering possibly 20 million deaths due to a great heat wave, dropped its caste system and developed permaculture farms, sequestering carbon while feeding people, using, pinatubo, volcanic ash, to briefly block sunlight, giving the earth a short repreive from blasting heat and thereby making India the world’s leader in nature-based farming and everything else (a big IF, but read it).
- What if worker-owned cooperatives became central? People could truly own their work, their company, their community?
- What if what if what if…we dream big enough to discover ways to break the feedback loops Greta Thunberg is warning us about – stop the terrible scenario of endless damage we will incur if we do nothing about the damage we’ve done to Mother Earth?
- What if Russia loosed a huge array of tiny bombs, breaking up the big ones?
- What if the internet were free and global, YourLock, an open source internet available everywhere, ending the dominance of Facebook, Google, Tik Tok, so we actually speak to one another without corporate filters?
- What if, as Greta calls for, we boost education, get media and government to serve us; what if we ALL were aware of a healthy direction for our culture, for our planet, and we had allies around the planet helping us achieve peace in the world before it blows to pieces! A restoration of balance in nature linked inexorably with justice for all. A true global democracy.
- What if nations took the interests, the lives, of people of the planet ahead of profits? Would that be the Star Trek Next Gen world? Would we survive climate crisis in this way?
These are some of the puzzles put forth by Kim Stanley Robinson in his deep dive into a future where we MAY survive with collaboration and help from The Ministry.
Stay tuned! We MAY have some answers – or perhaps YOU will?