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On Some Days, Fiction is Better

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

On this day in the US a woman's right to manage her own body has been overturned by the Supreme Court—a court of questionable legitimacy considering the extreme political maneuvering that has essentially turned the judicial branch into an arm of the Republican party. On days like this, fiction can offer a needed break from the world.

Disclaimer: The book I'd like to recommend does not begin as a happy read. Kim Stanley Robinson's, Ministry for the Future, published in 2020, addresses climate change in the near future. It offers a hopeful scenario where humans are able to preserve some biodiversity and our species. The outstanding characteristic of a Kim Stanley Robinson book, is that the man knows his science, so some of the strategies outlined in the book might offer real-world solutions.

Robinson’s story begins with a horrific heat wave in India that kills 20 million people as the electrical grid fails and the heat and humidity hit a wet-bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which the body's cooling mechanisms fail and life becomes unsustainable. (It feels like 160 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Why would I ask you to read this—especially when we are experiencing one upheaval after another? Especially when as we endure repeated natural disasters, this book is starting to look less and less like fiction.

I guess I must come back to the way Robinson shows us possibilities. The passion of one central character, Frank, a survivor of the heat wave, influences Mary, the leader of the Ministry, which is the organization charged with protecting future species. One key tool that helps to mitigate the crisis is the use of a carbon currency that essentially taxes the burning of fossil fuels.

This is where the fiction part comes in handy. It's hard to imagine getting people behind a new tax in today's economic climate. In the real world, President Biden has urged the US Congress to approve a three-month gas-tax holiday in the hopes that the economy stabilizes. But ultimately, if we paid more to burn fossil fuels, the profitability of green technology could provide planet-friendly alternatives that we haven’t even thought of yet. In the end, if fiction is not your thing, I would like to suggest that we all at least vote for the world we’re wishing for.

I would love it if you took a moment to share. How are you getting through this difficult moment in time? What do you think of solving the climate crisis with a carbon tax? What do you like to read when you need a break from reality?

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