The Ministry For The Future


Six weeks ago, I got a tip from Yvon Chouinard about a book. He said it was a must-read. He held the book up to the screen on our Zoom call, pointed to it, and smiled. He shook his head. “You got to read this book,” he said. “This guy’s thought of everything.”

Yvon Chouinard & Dan O'Brien
Coming from Yvon Chouinard, a recommendation like that demands attention. I had never heard of the author but, to me, as it is too many of us at Wild Idea, Yvon’s opinion has always been important, often provocative and transformative. I have a lot to thank Yvon for. Now, to that list of thank-you’s, I add his recommendation of The Ministry for the Future.

The “guy,” that Yvon was talking about is Kim Stanley Robinson, and it is hard for me to believe that I’d never heard of him. I imagine that is because he is known for being a science fiction writer, and I read very little of that genre. Still, I’m ashamed to admit that this book has been around for over a year and I just got to it this spring. Robinson has been touted as perhaps the best-ever science fiction writer and, after reading the book, I tend to believe it.
The Ministry of the Future

Oddly, shortly after talking with Yvon, I got two more calls about The Ministry for the Future: one from an old friend in Washington D.C. who is familiar with many of the book’s themes, and one from my brother. I told them both that I couldn’t read about the coming apocalypse. I can see it through my windshield when I drive to town, I moaned. I don’t think I could stand the depression. “No,” my brother said. “There’s hope in this book.”

Both callers insisted that I read it, and both callers pointed to page 428 where Wild Idea Buffalo Company is briefly mentioned in a long list of businesses and organizations that are actually DOING SOMETHING about climate change and many other existential issues that loom in our future.

Bison Herd

Being recognized for what we at Wild Idea have been working toward for decades was exhilarating but, page 428? How big is this book? “Well, it’s 576 pages but don’t be afraid. It’s worth it.”

The Ministry for the Future starts off with a scene that would be chilling if it weren’t about a record-breaking heat wave that hits India. Many, many people die, even those who wade into a lake up to their chins to escape the heat. In fact, only one person survives – an American aid worker named Frank May. It is not difficult to sympathize with Frank’s survivor’s guilt and PTSD, and we get to watch Frank deal with it through sparsely scattered episodes, interspersed with chapters describing an international ministry set up to safeguard the rights of future generations of life on our planet.

Parched Earth

Mary Murphy is charged with running this new ministry and she and Frank are drawn together. This innocent romance is a sidebar to the environmental catastrophes that continue to occur and the political gyrations and terrorist responses to those catastrophes. With vivid imagery, Robinson walks us through the ecological disasters that many of us see coming. He delves into the financial and business communities’ culpability for these global disasters and is sure to have readers slapping their foreheads with revelations about the fate of ice caps, environmental refugees, and international bankers. We even get an insight into a possible use for digital currency and its relationship with carbon floating free in the atmosphere. The hopefulness that my brother promised me is in the resourcefulness of humanity to adapt – never mind that many of the things about Earth that I most enjoy will have to perish.

If you are like me and are frustrated listening to the news and the state of our world, you may need this book. If you don’t understand how, or why the earth is being slowly killed, you definitely need this book. It might get you pointed in the direction of helping to save it all.

Sunset in Fire

The upshot is this: Global climate change is very real. It is happening and it’s going to continue to happen. It’s a no-shit existential threat and we are all going to suffer. But it is also an opportunity to hit the reset button on our relationship with Earth. We must never forget the provocative and transformative words of another man worth listening to: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin.  


  • Posted on by PC


  • Posted on by Rachel H

    I’m interested.

  • Posted on by Nancy Clark

    Count me in for the virtual book club discussion.

  • Posted on by Christina Barry

    Book is on order and I very much would like to participate in the discussion next month. Thank You!

  • Posted on by James E. Swab

    I’m reading it on my Kindle. Please include me in the book club discussion.

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