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The most important book I’ve read this year

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 writer 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 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 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 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.

My full conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson can be heard on The Ezra Klein Show.

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