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Photo Credit: Ksenia Makagonova

I remember the first time I noticed lichen. Burrowed into the nooks of worn tree bark, their greyed surfaces had evaded my gaze, receding into the background of woodland atmosphere. But with time spent on the trails of Mount Tamalpais, I began to look more closely. Each tree trunk observed became a world. Dried crusts carpeted the surface, with tassels of fine threads drooping in bunches. Tufts of lush moss sprung from the lichen like pompoms, while bracket mushrooms made idyllic perches for small-enough critters to look back at me.

I watched this artful tapestry weave in slow time. There…


Real-world ideas stitched into story

This article is part of a series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Government
  3. Market
  4. Military
  5. Collective

So far in our exploration of The Ministry for the Future, we have looked primarily at the ways Kim Stanley Robinson envisions institutions shifting to a new world order. But this reorganization would not be possible without changes in public sentiment and activities emerging from the grassroots. Here we will investigate our final two themes:

  1. Decentralized organization for local climate interventions and community resilience…
  2. …and the emergence of a collective planetary consciousness through direct personal interactions with climate.

Within each theme, I will outline the specific ideas proposed…


Real-world ideas stitched into story

This article is part of a series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Government
  3. Market
  4. Military
  5. Collective

Having covered The Ministry for the Future’s take on the role of public and private enterprises, we now turn to the military, where Robinson envisions a shift of power from nation states toward actors working on behalf of the planet. Below I outline specific ideas proposed within this theme and how they manifest both in the book and in the real world today.

Shifting Military Power

In The Ministry, the global balance of power is constantly shifting. While nation states still retain much of their power, it is no longer backed…


Real-world ideas stitched into story

This article is part of a series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Government
  3. Market
  4. Military
  5. Collective

So far, we have introduced The Ministry for the Future’s fundamental theses regarding climate resilience, as well as the role of the public sector. In this article, we will shift towards the role of the market in the following themes:

  1. A market manipulated by governments to incentivize the reduction of greenhouse gases and preservation of natural resources…
  2. …resulting in the proliferation of technologies for reducing greenhouse gases.

Within each theme, I will outline the specific ideas proposed and how they manifest both in the book and in the…


Real-world ideas stitched into story

This article is part of a series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Government
  3. Market
  4. Military
  5. Collective

In the previous article, we looked at a piece of landmark climate fiction, The Ministry for the Future, and its envisioned sustainable world order. We discussed the author’s underlying premise: that solutions must be driven by and among nation states. In this article, we will focus on his proposed role for the public sector within the following themes:

  1. Nation states working together to improve social and environmental welfare…
  2. …and bringing more of the biosphere into the commons, actively regulating it toward a life-sustaining equilibrium.

Within each theme, I…


Real-world ideas stitched into story

This article is part of a series:

  1. Introduction
  2. Government
  3. Market
  4. Military
  5. Collective

Swimming in an ocean of apocalyptic media and political gridlock, it can be difficult to imagine a future in which we successfully meet the great challenges of our time. That’s why Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book, The Ministry for the Future, impacted me so deeply. Weaving a diverse tapestry of the latest ideas for meeting our planetary crises, he manages to paint a narrative that, while far from utopian, feels both optimistic and realistic. Ezra Klein, too, called it “the most important book I’ve read this year.”

The…


Making sense of a world on edge

Image Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

This article is part of a series:

Where to Start?

With so many critical tipping points, we are still left with the question of where to focus. All of these tipping points require action to prevent their occurrence and mitigate their effects. But by now you may be seeing patterns: some are more urgent than others, and some cascade into others like dominoes. Underlying all of them is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With global efforts to keep average…


Making sense of a world on edge

Image Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

This article is part of a series:

4. The Weather

The oceans, land, and atmosphere interact in complex ways that drive changes in air circulation, temperature, and humidity over our continents. Climate change is expected to drive more extreme weather, but that will look different depending on where you are in the world. We have seen how the polar jet stream affects weather throughout North America. …


Making sense of a world on edge

Image Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

This article is part of a series:

3. The Oceans

In addition to local effects experienced in the Arctic and Antarctic, the oceans are heating and absorbing more CO2 on a global scale. This drives cascading effects on marine life and, to a lesser extent, methane deposits, both of which drive further emissions of greenhouse gases.

3.1 Weakening of the Marine Carbon Pump

How does the system normally function? The marine carbon pump, also known as the biological pump, is a food web that draws carbon from the…


Making sense of a world on edge

Image Credit: Environmental Defense Fund

This article is part of a series:

2. The Antarctic

The Arctic may be seeing extreme air temperature increases, but on the flip side, research also suggests that the South Ocean is heating up faster than other waters due to unique circulation patterns. This is driving melting in a portion of Antarctica’s ice and sea level rise that is observable today.

2.1 Disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

How does the system normally function? The West Antarctic ice sheet comprises the landmass of West Antarctica, as well as…

Steve Daniels

I serve a vision for the more-than-human world grounded in interdependence. You can subscribe to my newsletter at theopenbody.com.

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