Review by: Penelope Firstretired professor of economics and business and founder and director of the China Research Center in Atlanta
The Ministry for the Future, a novel, opens with a deadly heat wave India killing everyone in a village except one foreign aid worker.
As I was finishing the book this April, India experienced its worst heat disaster yet. Robinson nailed it.
In the novel, the Ministry is established Zurich in 2025, just before the heat event in India. We follow the only man standing in that Indian village and the head of the new ministry throughout the story. They eventually make contact, initially with animosity and later with a mutual view.
Robinson describes pockets of climate policy and leadership in various countries, but each country has its own national interests. Conflicts abound, with much despair. The Ministry is not powerful or resourceful. However, he nobly seeks to coordinate efforts around the world to counter the worst of climate change.
Characters debate which policy options could make a difference, with experiments scattered around the world. For example, countries try economic incentives such as carbon coins paid to anyone able to capture carbon. The carbon currency system also allows small farmers to work on the problem by supplementing their incomes.
Like coins, there are bits of progress here and there starting to improve the climate numbers, leading to a slight perception of optimism due to resilience and innovation.
The complexity of dealing with climate change can seem overwhelming. After 563 pages, this book does nothing to dispel that feeling. Still, Robinson’s vision is reminiscent of iterations of millions of actors who ultimately have a common goal. I found this book fascinating and surprisingly positive.
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