IAS, Perspectives, June 7, 2021
After the basics of food and shelter that we need just as animals, first thing after that: dignity. Everyone needs and deserves this, just as part of being human. And yet this is a very undignified world. And so we struggle. You see how it is (551).
The Ministry for the Future is Kim Stanley Robinsonâs latest contribution to the emerging genre of climate fiction, known as âcli-fi.â Climate fiction is a subset of science fiction, set in the near or distant future, that centers the projected dystopian effects of global warming and the sixth mass extinction on humanity and nature, while exploring creative and utopian ways of salvaging the future of our species, together with that of millions of others.
As in his other recent speculative works, from Aurora (2015) to New York 2140 (2017), Robinson here draws implicitly on the concept of âdisaster communismâ developed by the Out of the Woods climate collectiveâa form of mutual aid that relies on âa kind of bricolage.â Some concrete examples of this bricolage (âwork made from available thingsâ), as the collective explains in a 2014 article, include trucks being ârepurposed to deliver food to the hungry, retrofitted with electric motors, stripped for parts, and/or used as barricades,â and ships being âscuttled to initiate coral reef formation.â Indeed, in Ministry, Robinson alludes to the repurposing of destroyed container ships as reef beds, and praises Robinson Crusoe for ingeniously âransack[ing] the wreck of his shipâ (229, 367). Thus historyâand, by extension, the futureâcan be remade at the intersection of communal self-organization and the autonomous reconfiguration of existing technologies and infrastructures. As the Out of the Woods collective argues, âthe unfolding catastrophe of global warming cannot and will not be stoppedâ without the âtransgressive and transformative mobilizationâ of disaster communities agitating for a new, post-capitalist global system. As we will see, Robinsonâs Ministry is animated by a parallel desire to put an end to the âstrip-mining [of] the lifeworld,â and to âhelp us get to the next world systemâ (163, 317).
And for another review of The Ministry for the Future, check out George Katsiaficasâ The Impossible Dream.