Ministry for the Future

Climate Change SciFi by Kim Stanley Robinson: ISBN:978-0316300131

What actions made the difference? (see also bold bits in excerpt)


(many non-fiction reference links below)

Chapter 1

Balancing his head carefully on his spine, he surveyed the scene. Everyone was dead

(Wet Bulb 35)

Chapter 3

Article 14 of the Paris Agreement Under the United Nations

The first “global stocktake” was scheduled for 2023, and then every five years after that.

Someone in the press named this new agency “the Ministry for the Future,” and the name stuck and spread, and became what the new agency was usually called. It was established in Zurich, Switzerland, in January of 2025

Chapter 4

Zurich forcefully made the case that Geneva was already too crowded with agencies, and expensive as a result, and after some vigorous inter-cantonal tussling, they won the bid to host the new agency

head of the ministry— Mary Murphy

the Indian government is beginning a solar radiation management action

“But the Agreement,” Mary said, sitting down on her chair and focusing on her colleague’s voice. “You know what it says. No atmospheric interventions without consultation and agreement.”

“We are breaking the Agreement,” Chandra said flatly.

“But no one knows what the effects will be!”

We’ll never even know how many died, there are too many to count. It could be twenty million people

Chapter 6

Now India was being told not to burn coal, when everyone else had finished burning enough of it to build up the capital to afford to shift to cleaner sources of power. India had been told to get better without any financial help to do so whatsoever

We have to act on what we know.” Everyone nodded

But very soon they were back to the usual horse-trading of national interests and commitments

it looked like the great heat wave would be like mass shootings in the United States

not in India. Elections were held and the nationalist nativist BJP party was thrown out of office as insufficient to the task, and partly responsible for the disaster, having sold the country to outside interests and burned coal and trashed the landscape in the pursuit of ever-growing inequality

some more radical portion of this new Indian polity sent a message out to the world: change with us, change now, or suffer the wrath of Kali

But two could play at those games, indeed everyone could play those games— not just the 195 nations that had signed the Paris Agreement, but all the various kinds of non-state actors, right down to individuals.

And so came a time of troubles

Chapter 8

Scientists have calculated that we can burn about 500 more gigatons of fossil carbon before we push the average global temperature over 2 degrees Celsius higher

Thus, 500 gigatons; but meanwhile, the fossil fuels industry has already located at least 3,000 gigatons of fossil carbon in the ground. All these concentrations of carbon are listed as assets by the corporations that have located them, and they are regarded as national resources by the nation-states in which they have been found

The nineteen largest organizations doing this will be, in order of size from biggest to smallest: Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil, National Iranian Oil Company, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Pemex, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Iraq National Oil Company, Total SA, Sonatrach, BHP Billiton, and Petrobras

Chapter 9

What’s the reaction?”

“Bad.” He shrugged. “Maybe Pakistan will bomb us, and we’ll retaliate, and that will start a nuclear winter. That will cool the planet quite nicely!”

We’re getting killed for getting killed.”

“It’s always that way.”

They killed Greece for getting killed, remember? And the rest of southern Europe isn’t doing much better. Ireland neither for that matter. We got killed by the Brits for centuries. Something like a quarter of all the Irish died in the famine, and about as many left the island. That was something

Lots of people think it will have knock-on effects.”

“Like what?”

“You know them as well as I. If doing this stops the monsoon, you’ll have doubled your own misery.”

“So we decided to risk it! After that it’s no one else’s business.”

“But it’ll be a worldwide effect.”

We’ll have to see what our scientists say about it first.”

He gave her a look. “They will prevaricate.”

“Well, they don’t know enough now to make a considered judgment. So they’ll say it’s a good experiment, that we should run it and wait a decade and see what happens.”

“As usual!”

“But that’s science, right?”

“But we have to do more than the usual

What we’re doing with this ministry. I’m telling you, it isn’t enough

More relaxing for Mary, even entertaining, were her meetings with Tatiana Voznesenskaya, head of the ministry’s legal division

Her expertise in Russia had been international treaty law, which she now brought to bear in working to find allies and legal means to advance the cause of defending the generations to come. This she felt was mostly a matter of establishing situations where these generations to come were given legal standing, such that their currently existing lawyers could file suits and be heard by courts

the circle of inclusion has been growing over historical time, which is a kind of precedent. More kinds of people given standing, even ecologies given standing, as in Ecuador

we have a second problem, maybe bigger, in the weakness of international courts generally

what do you think we can do to improve that situation?”

Tatiana shrugged. “Rule of law is all we’ve got,” she said darkly. “We tell people that and then try to make them believe it.”

“How do we do that?”

“If the world blows up they’ll believe it. That’s why we got the international order we got after World War Two.”

“Not good enough?” Mary suggested.

“No, but nothing is ever good enough. We just make do.” Tatiana brightened, although Mary saw the sly look that indicated a joke: “We make a new religion! Some kind of Earth religion, everyone family, universal brotherhood.”

“Universal sisterhood,” Mary said. “An Earth mother religion.”

Chapter 10

Even in India you could hardly see any difference in the sky. For all our lives we were living under the ABC, the Asian Brown Cloud, so we were used to dusty skies

The sunlight we deflected to space was said to be about a fifth of one percent of the total incoming. Very important crucial stuff, but it’s not really possible to see a difference that small.

Chapter 11

Ideology, n. An imaginary relationship to a real situation

ideology is a necessary feature of cognition, and if anyone were to lack one, which we doubt, they would be badly disabled

There is a real situation, that can’t be denied, but it is too big for any individual to know in full, and so we must create our understanding by way of an act of the imagination

Worldview, philosophy, religion, these are all synonyms for ideology as defined above; and so is science, although it’s the different one, the special one, by way of its perpetual cross-checking with reality tests of all kinds, and its continuous sharpening of focus. That surely makes science central to a most interesting project, which is to invent, improve, and put to use an ideology that explains in a coherent and useful way as much of the blooming buzzing inrush of the world as possible. What one would hope for in an ideology is clarity and explanatory breadth, and power. We leave the proof of this as an exercise for the reader.

Chapter 12

The current rate of extinctions compared to the geological norm is now several thousandfold faster, making this the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s history, and thus the start of the Anthropocene in its clearest demarcation

Chapter 13

Anytime he broke a sweat his heart would start racing, and soon enough he would be in the throes of a full-on panic attack

Cognitive behavioral therapy was accepted by many as the best way to deal with PTSD

Or certain drugs. Anti-anxiety drugs were not the same as anti-depressants

So, after many months of that, after years of that, he went back to India.

He needed to try it to see if it would help. Until he tried it, he wouldn’t know. It would be something like aversion therapy, or rather immersion therapy. Go right back to the scene of the crime. Plus he had an idea that had begun to obsess him. He had a plan

All appeared to him as it had been four years earlier. There was no sign that what had happened had ever happened.

Surely there must be a memorial at least

he called a number he had been given

What group?”

“I was told it’s called Never Again. Devoted to various kinds of direct action

You can’t join us,” the woman told him after they were done conferring. “We don’t want you

But you can do something. You can carry a message from us to the world. Maybe that can even help, we don’t know. But you can try. You can tell them that they must change their ways. If they don’t, we will kill them. That’s what they need to know

Chapter 15

Insurance companies in a panic at last year’s reports

Lack of predictability means re-insurance companies simply refusing to cover environmental catastrophes, the way they don’t insure war or political unrest

Entire system therefore on brink of collapse.

Mary: What mean collapse?

Jurgen: Mean, money no longer working as money

Mainly need to tell adaptation advocates they’re full of shit

Have to find ways to spend our sixty billion that strike at leverage points.

Dick: Our money not enough to matter. Have to change laws— that’s our leverage point. Spend our money on changing laws.

Tatiana likes this.

Chapter 16

Possibly some of the richest two percent of the world’s population have decided to give up on the pretense that “progress” or “development” or “prosperity” can be achieved for all eight billion of the world’s people

There was scientifically supported evidence to show that if the Earth’s available resources were divided up equally among all eight billion humans, everyone would be fine. They would all be at adequacy

The 2,000 Watt Society, started in 1998 in Switzerland, calculated that if all the energy consumed by households were divided by the total number of humans alive, each would have the use of about 2,000 watts of power, meaning about 48 kilowatt-hours per day. The society’s members then tried living on that amount of electricity to see what it was like: they found it was fine

Chapter 17

Today we’re here to inquire who actually enacts the world’s economy— who are the ones who make it all go, so to speak

who theorizes it, who implements it, who administers it, who defends it



Think tanks. Academics.

Meaning MBA professors

World Trade Organization. Stock markets



central banks

simply prices themselves

Some of the actors in an actor network aren’t human

back to the ones who administer our economic system as such, and teach others how to work it, and by a not-so-coincidental coincidence, benefit from it the most. I wonder how many people that would turn out to be?

About eight million

one in every thousand persons alive today

Who matters the most in that group of eight million?

Government legislators

Chapter 18

Frank was drowning. He had that same shortness of breath. Therapy had mostly made it crystal clear to him that he would never be cured.

In a sense, maybe that was progress. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

part of the samurai code, were you to be careless of your own life in defense of whomever you were charged with protecting? So, a kind of servant’s stoicism?

hope to do some good, no matter how fucked up you are.

Do like Saint Francis. Help people.

But he wanted more. He could feel it burning him up: he wanted to kill. Well, he wanted to punish.

Hey feel this tachycardia, my God! Feel it! They said it was 240 beats a minute. Within two hours a helo was thwacking down to medevac him out of there. And once medevacked to McMurdo, and his condition and past experiences made fully known to the NSF brass on site, he was accused of lying on his application form and shipped back home.

Chapter 19

We had been at sea for something like eight years

A ship came over the horizon

When we were about a hundred meters away I saw that some of the men on this new boat were filming our old one. Then the bow of our old boat blew up, just above the waterline

Chapter 20

The Gini coefficient, devised by the Italian sociologist Corrado Gini in 1912, is a measure of income or wealth disparity in a population. (income inequality)

The Gini figures for Bangladesh and for Holland are nearly the same, for instance, at 0.31; but the average annual income in Bangladesh is about $2,000, while in Holland it’s $50,000

Thus other rubrics to think about inequality have been devised. One of the best is the “inequality-adjusted Human Development Index,” which is no surprise, because the Human Development Index is already a powerful tool

the Gini coefficient for the whole world’s population is higher than for any individual country’s, basically because there are so many more poor people in the world than there are rich ones, so that cumulatively, globally, the number rises to around 0.7

Criticisms of GDP are many

Alternative measures that compensate for these deficiencies include

Chapter 22

Adele Elia and Bob Wharton were at a meeting of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research

SCAR had become one of the main de facto governments of Antarctica


the new data in there today.”

They agreed they had.

“Sea level will rise so fast, the world is fucked

glaciers are sliding into the sea ten times faster than before.”


“So, the reason for that is there’s more meltwater created on the ice surface every summer, because of global warming

You pump that water out from under the glaciers

need to pump out something like thirty cubic kilometers

Chapter 23

It took a while to get a gun

He researched his subjects of interest. One of them would be attending a conference in Dübendorf in a month

Frank hadn’t pulled the trigger. Hadn’t been able to

He didn’t care about that guy he had hit, but that was an accident. Shooting someone was not like punching an asshole

Chapter 24

What do these recent discoveries in cognitive science mean? Some say they just mean humans are poor at statistics. Others assert they are as important a discovery as the discovery of the subconscious

Could ideology also be a cognitive illusion, a kind of necessary fiction?

Chapter 25

all the reports from individual countries showing significant drops in emissions, even the US, even China, even India. Even Brazil and Russia. No: all the big emitters were reporting reductions, and yet the global total still grew. There had to be some unreported sources; or people were lying

Keep going,” he commanded her in a low choked voice. “I’m taking you into custody here.”

“What?” she exclaimed, and stopped in her tracks.

He reached out and snapped some kind of clasp around her wrist

It’s going to happen again.”

She swallowed involuntarily. “Why do you think so?”

“Because nothing’s changed!” he exclaimed. “Why do you ask me that

Why do you pretend not to know!”

She took a breath. “I don’t pretend. I really don’t know.”

He shook his head, glaring down at her.

“That’s why I’m doing this,” he said, voice low and furious. “You do know. You only pretend not to know

Scenarios with good results, in which they managed to avoid more incidents of mass deaths, were in fact extremely rare

We’re doing what we can,” she said.

“No you’re not

“I tried to join a group of people I had heard about. Children of Kali, you’ve heard of them?”

“Yes. But they’re a terrorist group.”

He shook his head, staring at her all the while. “No. You have to stop thinking with your old bourgeois values. That time has passed. The stakes are too high for you to hide behind them anymore

You call them terrorists, but it’s the people you work for who are the terrorists. How can you not see that?”

“I’m trying to avoid violence,” Mary said. “That’s my job.”

“I thought you said your job was to avoid a mass extinction event!”

“Did I say that?”

“I don’t know, what did you say? What do you say now!

What about targeted assassinations?”

“Of course not

the violence of carbon burning kills many more people than any punishment for capital crimes ever would. So really your morality is just a kind of surrender.”

She shrugged. “I believe in the rule of law.”

“Which would be fine, if the laws were just. But in fact they’re allowing the very violence you’re so opposed to!”

“Then we have to change the laws.”

There are about a hundred people walking this Earth, who if you judge from the angle of the future like you’re supposed to do, they are mass murderers. If they started to die, if a number of them were killed, then the others might get nervous and change their ways.”

She shook her head. “Murder breeds murder.”

“Exile, then. Prisons that you contrive, on your own recognizance

We received a report that you were seen entering your apartment with a man.”

“Yes,” she said, thinking hard. “He’s a friend, there’s no problem.”

“He’s not listed among your known friends.”

“I don’t like the implications of that,” she said sharply

Chapter 27

Now Mary had a new problem: twenty-four-hour police protection

She said, trying it on, “I think maybe we need a black wing.”

We’re not the CIA here. But still, there are other things in the black, I’m thinking. Actions that are maybe illegal, or in some senses ill-advised

You sound like you’ve had experience with such things.”

“Yes.” He was looking out at the city now.

“When was that?”


Imagine that there might already be a black wing of the Ministry for the Future. That even I myself might have started it after you hired me as your chief of staff

did this not happen to you when you were a minister in Ireland’s government

So I’m naïve, is it? An innocent stateswoman in the world of Realpolitik? Which is no doubt the reason they gave me this job?”

“I’m not saying that. I think they assumed you knew what you were doing.”

And then the better murderers in these murder contests tend to take over in the end. It’s not at all clear it has ever done any good in the world at all.”

Badim wagged his head side to side, not agreeing with her.

“What?” she cried. “You know it’s true! The damage has been tremendous!”

He sighed. “And yet,” he said. “What was the damage before?

Possibly some coal plants have experienced problems. They’ve had to go offline, and the investment crowd has seen that and understood that they won’t ever be good investments again

Look. I want to know what’s going on. I’ll lie if it comes to that, or take the hit if need be. But I want to know

I’ll tell you what you need to know.”




“No.” He looked her in the eye. “I can’t tell you everything. Because look: there might be some people who deserve to be killed

Chapter 29

ninety percent of the way to the top, so the energy needed to pump water the rest of the way to the surface was not that great. So we did that, but no matter how much we pumped out, it was replenished from below. This was the crucial question; could we empty out the water down there? Would we be able to pump up so much that there was nothing left to pump?

But then the water from below cut off abruptly

geoengineering isn’t always just a fantasy. The Indians did that sulfur dioxide thing and that worked. Temperatures dropped for years after that

Look, if you have to do something, you have to do it. Don’t keep talking about cost as if that’s a real thing. Money isn’t real. Work is real.

Money is real, Dr. G. You’ll see

Chapter 31

the world’s biggest democracy was left with no nationally dominant party

creation of a broad coalition

organic regenerative agriculture

Indian agriculture moving into its post–green revolution is also a giant step toward independent subtropical knowledge production, achieved in collaboration with Indonesian and African and South American permaculturists, and its importance going forward cannot be over-emphasized.

Land reform is part of that, because with land reform comes a return to local knowledge and local ownership and thus political power. The new agriculture is also labor intensive, as to a certain extent people must replace the power of fossil fuels and pay close attention to small biomes, and of course we have that labor power and that close attention

Since sweeping the elections, the national Coalition government has completed the nationalization of all the country’s energy companies, and set to work decommissioning all coal-fired plants

Many a time we now say to each other, when the arguments get intense, as they always do, Look, my friend— never again

who are these people? A democracy, a polyglot coalition— wait, can it be? And what can it be? Do we make the Chinese, who so decisively stepped onto the world stage at the start of this century, look dictatorial, monolithic, brittle, afraid? Is India now the bold new leader of the world?

We think maybe so.

Chapter 32

Someone once won the pseudo-Nobel in economics for suggesting a four percent discount rate on the future

right now everyone chooses a high rate.

Dick: Yes.

Mary: How does that get justified?

Dick: The assumption is that future people will be richer and more powerful than we are, so they’ll deal with any problems we create for them.

Mary: But now that’s not true.

Dick: Not even close to true.

Robert Solow said we ought to act as if the discount rate were zero

So … is there a way we can make the calculations better?

Dick: This is where India comes into it. Since the heat wave, they’ve been leading the way in terms of re-examining everything

We’ve been running modeling exercises to see how various curves play out in the creation of new cost-benefit equations

Chapter 33

They killed us so we killed them.

Everyone in our cell had helped to clean up after the heat wave. You don’t forget a thing like that. I myself didn’t speak for three years

Lots of the Children of Kali had gone through similar experiences

It was a question of identifying the guilty and then finding them and getting to them

The research and detective work was done by another wing

Methods were worked up over many iterations. We took a lot of losses at first. Of course suicide bombing is often effective, but this is a crude and ugly way to go about it, and uncertain

Much better to kill and disappear. Then you can do it again.

For that, drones are best

The guilty died by the dozens in those years.

Eventually they stayed indoors for the most part. At that point, a decade into the campaign, they knew they were in trouble

One down, several hundred to go. Although the list might get extended. Because Kali sees all. And the Children of Kali are not going away until all the guilty are gone. Be advised

Chapter 34

Fly into Delhi

Discussion of solar radiation management applied post–heat wave. They claim to have depressed temperatures in India two degrees and globally one degree, for three years, with decreasing effect, until six years later back to pre-operation levels. No discernible effect on monsoon during that time

B intervenes. What are graphs showing? Total rainfall year to year, monsoonwise. Why no graph?

Second year after application particularly low, semi-drought, especially in the west. Another problem, C points out. Monsoon not the same east to west, always that way

Are they going to do it again?

C defers to new minister, Vikram. V says, We are certainly ready to do it. It will be a more orderly procedure this time (not looking at C as he says this), involving democratic processes and expert consultation. But we are ready

C can take M and B out to see farms in Karnataka.


New paradigm for farms

Communist organic farmers, B notes. He thinks it’s funny, M doesn’t think he should joke. Locals happy to agree to his characterization. Also these changes mean end of caste’s worst impacts, they claim

Riots we heard about? B asks. Again M annoyed with him

Reported as riot but actually repelling of invaders. Sort of like organic ag; you have to use integrated pest management.

B: Is one tool of integrated pest management targeted assassinations? Global community not happy with murders of private citizens. A terror tactic, he says, like thugees of yore, these Children of Kali.

when crops are lost to infestations we can’t stop, we clear the fields and send all the waste plant material to the vats

Vat amoeba don’t care what they eat, being omnivores. And from them we get a kind of flour, also the ethanol that powers any machine that still needs to run on liquid fuels

there’s an edge to them too. M and B definitely aware of that edge, emanating strongly from C, also from locals. Aggressive pride. Don’t tread on me. No outsider gets to tell India what to do, not anymore.

Chapter 35

We came into Switzerland on a train from Austria

refugees are by definition less than human, having lost their homes, but perhaps it was some kind of last straw

I will never forget that feeling, of lashing out irregardless, of not caring whether I lived or died, of just wanting to maximize damage whatever way I could. If I got killed doing it that was fine, as long as there was damage. I wanted the world to suffer like we had

Chapter 36

The Arctic Ocean’s ice cover melted entirely away in the late summer of 2032

The Arctic ice cap, which at its first measurement in the 1950s was more than ten meters thick, had been a big part of the Earth’s albedo

This meant also that the permafrost ringing the Arctic in Siberia and Alaska and Canada and Greenland and Scandinavia was melting faster and faster; which meant the release of a great deal of permafrost carbon, and also methane

there was no good and obvious method to thicken that ice. So to begin with, a number of methods were tried and evaluated

Chapter 37

I was born in Libya

Switzerland, where we were caught up in the riot there

Jake was one of the regular visitors to our shelter

Sometimes at meals he sat there looking at us with his eyes moving back and forth, side to side, as if he was tracking a bird or having a thought

Mother told us that she was going to marry Jake

when I started going to the middle school, I began to see signs that things were not well between my mother and Jake

Volatile people, you can’t trust them, that’s the thing; and they know it. So that even if they feel remorse, it does no good, and they know that too. So they get lonely. And they feel the remorse less and less, maybe. They give up. In any case, he left. One day Mother woke us, she was crying as she told us that he wouldn’t be coming back, that we would have to move again.

Chapter 39

Davos is one of my favorite parties

There used to be protests at Davos, but not now. For one thing, the town is hard to get to and easy to defend. For another, the conference is more and more regarded as irrelevant

the power went off and we were left in the dark. Generators! we shouted merrily. Turn on the fucking generators!

But not. And the security people were suddenly seen to be not the same security people

Announcements over loudspeakers were made to the effect that we would not be harmed, and would be released to the world at the end of the week. Only the schedule of events was being hijacked

the plumbing stopped working

Then the taps stopped running

Food was provided in boxes

On the third day we found the town square filled with pallets of chemical toilets

Water came back on the fourth day, and the boxes of food were never deficient

we were asked to attend what we called the reeducation camp

And it was despite all a sobering sight to see how the poorest people on Earth still lived. Time travel to the twelfth century, for sure.

Often statistics appeared on the big screen; yes, PowerPoint shows, a true punishment

An hour of film was then devoted to young people with wealthy parents

they had selected for awfulness

all kinds of pathetic angry supercilious kids, the room got quieter, and actually it became clear somehow that some of the whining faces onscreen had an actual parent right there in the room

With that the incarceration ended

The real Swiss police finally appeared, to loud boos

Chapter 40

Jevons Paradox proposes that increases in efficiency in the use of a resource lead to an overall increase in the use of that resource, not a decrease.

Associated with this lacuna in current thought, perhaps a generalization of its particular focus, is the assumption that efficiency is always good

the evidence shows that there is good efficiency and bad efficiency, good inefficiency and bad inefficiency

The orienting principle that could guide all such thinking is often left out, but surely it should be included and made explicit: we should be doing everything needed to avoid a mass extinction event. This suggests a general operating principle similar to the Leopoldian land ethic, often summarized as “what’s good is what’s good for the land.”

Robustness and resilience are in general inefficient; but they are robust, they are resilient. And we need that by design

Chapter 41

In the twelfth year of continuous drought our city ran out of water

September 11, 2034

In from the coast came trucks with water from the desalination plants. Also a convoy appeared from inland

The initial allotments were ridiculously small. We had enough to drink, but not enough to cook with

Quickly we learned to drink any water we did use for cooking, treating it as a soup

Chapter 42

Asked Mary for a meeting with her and Dick Bosworth, to go over some of the economic plans the software team was developing

She’s always visibly skeptical that AI could contribute anything substantive to her project.

Started this time with rehearsal of FA Hayek’s argument that markets deliver spontaneous value, and are therefore the best calculator and distributor of value

The Austrian and Chicago schools had run with that opinion, and thus neoliberalism

But now, with computers as strong as they’ve gotten, the Red Plenty argument has gotten stronger and stronger, asserting that people now have so much computing power that central planning could work better than the market

In fact, entirely new organizational possibilities now emerging with power of AI. Big data analyzed for best results, all money tracked in its movement all the time, allocations made before price competition distorts real costs into lies

Delton Chen paper, useful for its clarity, and now getting discussed in several different discourse communities, it being one of the earlier of various proposals to create some kind of carbon coin. This to be a digital currency, disbursed on proof of carbon sequestration to provide carrot as well as stick

It’s another way to describe the damage of a high discount rate. The high discount rate is an index of this larger dismissal of the future that J-A is describing.

Agreed to that.

And this Chen line of thought solves that? Mary asked. It extends the time horizon farther out?

Replied, Yes, it tries to do that.

Mary said, So really this is just a form of quantitative easing

But directed, targeted

The Chen papers sometimes call it CQE, carbon quantitative easing

combined this thing with carbon taxes

If the dozen biggest central banks agreed to do it together, it would go.

But that’s true of almost anything! Mary exclaimed. What’s the minimum you think it would need to succeed?

Said, Any central bank could experiment with it. Best would be the US, China, and the EU

The carbon coin designed in that way would eventually probably replace the US dollar as the world’s benchmark currency

Chapter 43

I am a secret so everyone can know me

if you want justice, I will help you to find it. I am blockchain. I am encryption. I am code. Now put me to use

Chapter 45

Mary flew to San Francisco, where the US Federal Reserve was hosting a meeting of some of the other big central banks.

California, if it had been a nation, would now constitute the fifth biggest economy on Earth, and yet it also ran at carbon neutrality, having established strong policies early on

US Army Corps of Engineers had created a giant model of the California bay area and delta, a 3-D map with active water flows sloshing around on it

droughts were coming more and more frequently

Hydrologists pointed at the model below as they explained to Mary the water situation

they needed to replenish that underground reservoir, by capturing water on the land and not allowing it all to spew out the Golden Gate.

created a new commons, which was water itself, owned by all and managed together

Records were kept, prices were set, allotments were dispensed; parts of the state had been taken out of agricultural production

The Fed chair, Jane Yablonski

Yablonski and the others had already heard of carbon quantitative easing, it turned out, and they were even familiar with the Chen paper and the associated discussions of it. Yablonski did not look impressed

“I don’t see how we can get into the business of backing a currency that isn’t the US dollar,” she said

the carbon tax proposals are gaining momentum, we feel.”

Mary said, “But you need a carrot to go with the stick. The modeling shows that, not to mention common sense

even though the global situation was urgent, and the new tool promising, Yablonski wasn’t going to expose herself and her institution to that kind of heat without being ordered to do it by Congress

Chapter 46

I was born small, as so many things are. A marsupial perhaps. People came to me and reached inside me to pass things to each other

My body worked so well that eventually all things everywhere were swallowed and digested by me. I grew so large that I ate the world, and all the blood in the world is mine. What am I? You know, even though you are like everything else, and see me from the inside. I am the market

Chapter 47

And yet always he was hiding. Always he felt sick and broken. There was no way to ignore the surveillance cameras mounted almost everywhere. Not that Jacob Salzman was being looked for, apparently.

he had not been that person for many years. Six or seven years. No, nine

One day he saw a notice on a message board announcing a meeting of the 2,000 Watt Society.

There were websites on which one could calculate one’s energy burn quite closely, using electricity bills and estimates of mileage on various transport systems and grocery lists. These calculators had existed from the start of the century or before, but as far as Frank could tell, no one used them. It was like avoiding the scale when you were overweight. Who wanted such bad news?

bureau of the police, estimated that there were now five million native Swiss and three million Ausländer within the borders. This ratio, one of the most extreme in the world, had caused membership in the various right-wing anti-immigrant parties in Switzerland to swell

Sorry,” one of them said to him in English. “There is a warrant out for your arrest. Please come with us

Chapter 48

So there’s a world out there of people who have put us in this camp. Not all of them specifically did it, but they’re all part of it. They live in a world where this camp exists, and they go on. Anyone would

eighteen thousand people stuck inside a fence unable to leave

But I still hate them for not seeing me. For looking me in the eye while they put food on my outstretched plate, and yet never seeing

No one likes to feel gratitude

This is the 1,859th day I have spent in this camp.

Chapter 49


Bretton Woods

International Monetary Fund

John Maynard Keynes, the chief British negotiator, also suggested at Bretton Woods that they found an International Clearing Union, which would make use of a new unit of currency to be called a bancor

Harry Dexter White, the assistant secretary of the US Treasury and the chief American negotiator, said of this plan, “we have taken the position of absolutely no

White proposed an International Stabilization Fund, which would place the burden of debt firmly on deficit nations; this later became part of the World Bank

Chapter 50

The Bank of England had also been founded in a state of emergency, during a war; but there was always an emergency that would serve when it came to finding reasons to perpetuate and extend state power. So whatever the law said, in practice the bank/state combination did what it pleased

it kept occurring to Mary that these people’s autonomous power might now actually put them in position to help enact a quick solution to the carbon problem, should they choose to join that effort

The Bank of England leaders were coolly unappreciative of her plan. Likely to cause inflation

When Mary reminded them that they had quantitatively eased trillions of pounds into existence when needed to save the banks, they nodded; their job was to save the banks. To quantitatively ease trillions of pounds into existence to save the world: not their job. That would take legislation

If the Chinese bank were to back it alone, could it work? No, J-A got back to her to say; no one bank could expose themselves to the market that way. Even China, even the US; these were just the biggest Lilliputians

The bankers were useless

If the world cooked and civilization fell apart, it wouldn’t be their fault, even though they were funding the disaster every step of the way.

Something was going to have to make them do it.

The “structural adjustment programs” enforced by the World Bank on the developing countries caught in the debt crises at the end of the twentieth century

These SAPs were instruments of the postwar American economic empire, which was unlike the older empires in that it did not insist on ownership of its economic colonies; it only owned their debts and their profits, no more than that

Just as America had conquered the world by way of finance rather than arms, Germany had conquered Europe using the same methods— in some cases, using even the same capital

That man who kidnapped you?”


“They’ve caught him

But there was no denying that whatever these feelings were, she was interested. Interested enough that she even somehow wanted to see this man again

A phrase occurred to her: Stockholm Syndrome. Was that what this was?

what if it wasn’t a mistake? What if you had been forced, by being taken hostage, to focus for once on the reality of the other— on their desperation, which had to have been extreme to drive them to their own rash act?

There was also a Lima Syndrome, she read, in which the kidnappers developed for their hostages a sympathy so strong that they let them go.

What if both syndromes occurred at once?

Well, but. Every possible thing happened, eventually

Chapter 51

The thirties were zombie years. Civilization had been killed but it kept walking the Earth, staggering toward some fate even worse than death

And yet still they burned carbon

So it was not really a surprise when a day came that sixty passenger jets crashed in a matter of hours

One message was fairly obvious: stop flying. And indeed many people stopped. Before that day, there had been half a million people in the air at any given moment. Afterward that number plummeted. Especially after a second round of crashes occurred a month later, this time bringing down twenty planes

The War for the Earth is often said to have begun on Crash Day. And it was later that same year when container ships began to sink, almost always close to land. Torpedoes from nowhere: a different kind of drone

world trade was severely impacted

the clear prospect of the full-blown depression that indeed followed a few years later …

Two months after Crash Day a group called Kali, or the Children of Kali, issued a manifesto

No more fossil-fuel-burning transport

Next up, the Children of Kali (or someone using that name) told the world: cows. Later that same year the group announced that mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, had been cultured and introduced by drone dart into millions of cattle all over the world.

often asserted they were not in India at all, and were not even an Indian organization, but rather an international movement. Kali was nowhere; Kali was everywhere

Chapter 52

Our Sikkim became a state with fully organic agriculture between 2003 and 2016, aided by the scholar-philosopher-feminist-permaculturist Vandana Shiva, an important figure for many of us in India

combining defense of local land rights, indigenous knowledge, feminism, post-caste Hinduism, and other progressive programs characteristic of New India and the Renewal

Important also has been the example of Kerala, at the opposite end of India, for its crucial innovations in local government

The focus on local government has been so intense and diligent that there now total 1,200 governmental bodies in Kerala, all dealing with issues in their particular area whatever it might be.

Chapter 54

As the weeks passed and the global economy went from recession to depression

The AI group is making open source instruments that mimic the functions of all the big social media sites.”

“So people can shift over to this new set?”

“Yes. And it will protect their data

So, the decapitation of Facebook.”

“And all the rest like it.”

“Replaced by a system owned by its users, in effect.”

“Yes. Open source. A distributed ledger. The Global Internet Cooperative Union. GICU.”

Then if it works, it will serve as the operating platform for ICU.”

“Which means,” Mary prompted, playing along.

“International Credit Union. A people’s bank. The team has set that up too

Their bank, as one function of their YourLock account. It invests mindfully as a group mind, a kind of planetary mind, that has to always be funding biosphere-friendly activities

Chapter 55

La Vie Vite!

Something then caused us to all converge on Paris

And eventually there were so many of us we couldn’t be contained, everything ground to a halt

we buckled down to making it work as an alternative system of life, a kind of commons that was post-capitalist, even post-money, just people doing what it took to keep everyone fed. And I must say, so many Parisians came out and helped us, cooked food, provided rooms, manned the barricades in every way

Help came from weird places. When the internet was killed the union of proof-readers, historically anarchist which is of course very funny, came out of their tiny niches in the publishing industry and plastered the city with posters— posters on walls, as if the world was still real! And we realized that social media actually meant many things we had forgotten, and could be taken back under our own control, at least sometimes. Simply talking was the strongest social media of all of course, it was obvious once we rediscovered it, but those posters made the city itself our text, as it had been more than once before

We didn’t have a good plan to change government itself, and we argued with each other about how to proceed. A movement without leaders is a good idea in theory, but at some point you have to have a plan

And so the police waited until after midnight one night, and charged us

And now of course a lot of us are back in yellow vests talking to people driving by in the roundabouts

Chapter 56

The International Criminal Court was separate from the UN

The US and several other big countries had withdrawn from the court’s jurisdiction after negative rulings against their citizens

The World Court, more properly named the International Court of Justice, was a UN-sponsored body, so that all member states of the UN were theoretically bound to follow its rulings

to prosecute a state, you needed to be a state, and not the UN or an individual

Tatiana was getting more and more frustrated by this situation

The crash in insect numbers put every ecological system on terrestrial Earth in danger of collapse

carbon-negative agriculture, clean energy, fleets of sailing ships (sailboat), fleets of airships, carbon-based materials created from CO2 sucked out of the air and replacing concrete; thus direct air capture of CO2 (CO2 capture), a necessary component of the drawdown effort, would provide most construction materials going forward. Cheap clean desalination, clean water, 3-D printed houses, 3-D printed toilets and sewage, universal education, vastly expanded medical schools and medical facilities. Landscape restoration, habitat corridors, ag/habitat combinations—

The six biggest emitters being?”

“Industry, transport, land use, buildings, transportation, and cross-sector

Eleven policies would get it done, they all told her. Carbon pricing, industry efficiency standards, land use policies, industrial process emissions regulations, complementary power sector policies, renewable portfolio standards, building codes and appliance standards, fuel economy standards, better urban transport, vehicle electrification, and feebates, which was to say carbon taxes passed back through to consumers. In essence: laws. Regulatory laws, already written and ready to go

It wasn’t going to happen from the top. The lawmakers were corrupt. So, if not top-down, then bottom-up

“I think we need a new religion.”

Chapter 57

Next season I was back down there again, helping with the seawater pumping experiment

The estimate we came away with was that we could deposit about a meter of water per year on any part of the polar plateau and still have it freeze successfully. More than that and we would be exceeding the capacity of the air and ice in combination to chill the water

So we would need a wide spreading zone; at a meter thick, that would be about a third of Antarctica

The endorheic basins of the world, meaning basins where water does not drain to the sea, were many in number. And many of them in the northern hemisphere were dry playas

A lot of seawater could be relocated there, in theory

No. We needed to go back to the plan to pump water out from under the big glaciers, to drop them back on rock beds to slow them down

If sea level rises even a meter, all the beaches in the world are gone, and seaports and coastal infrastructures and salt marshes and you name it. And as Hansen and his team pointed out in their 2016 paper, if the rate of rise doubles every ten years, quickly you are fucked, all the coastal cities of the world devastated, damage in the quadrillions, if you think you can put a price on it. What’s the monetary value of human civilization?

So, someone asked tonight in the mess tent, is what we’re doing down here geoengineering? Who the hell knows! What’s in a word?

Call it whatever you want, but don’t immediately clutch your pearls and declare we can’t predict the unintended consequences

And I’ll tell you what the unintended side effects of slowing down the glaciers of Antarctica will be: nothing. Nada

one of the choke points in the supply chain, in terms of getting this done, if they decide to do it, is simply people. It takes a certain expertise. On the other hand if we’re shutting down all the oil operations, as we really ought to do, then that’s a lot of people out of work

I’m sorry to report that this is the last entry in this file of Dr. Griffen’s laptop. He took a last inspection run on February 6, and on the way back to camp he took a shortcut that left the snowmobile road, which is clearly flagged

Chapter 58

Mondragón University

these were organized from the start as employee-owned cooperatives (Mondragon Cooperatives)

a complex of them has been growing there ever since. Eventually they included the town’s banks and credit unions, also its university and insurance company

cooperative principles formalized later by the larger worldwide cooperative movement, of which Mondragón is somewhat the jewel in the crown: open admission, democratic organization, the sovereignty of labor, the instrumental and subordinate nature of capital, participatory management, payment solidarity, inter-cooperation, social transformation, universality, and education

Chapter 59

And what was occurring to me over and over again as all this was happening was, Hey: I hate LA

So as we were paddling around in our kayaks, people were saying to each other, This whole fucking place is gone! Everything is going to have to be torn out! The entire city of Los Angeles is going to have to be replaced.

Which was great. Maybe we could do it right this time. And I myself am going to find a different job.

Chapter 60

She gave the final nod to Janus Athena’s YourLock

which was organized as a co-op owned by its users, after which you had secured your data in a quantum-encrypted cage and could use it as a negotiable asset in the global data economy, agreeing to sell your data or not to data-mining operations out there who quickly saw the new lay of the land and began to offer people micro-payments for their data, mainly health information, consumption patterns, and finance.

Even if that worked, Mary wasn’t sure it was going to represent a net gain in terms of a sustainable civilization

She kept track of Badim’s informal work in private meetings away from the office

Two days after a note had appeared on her desk that said only riot strike riot, she read that Berlin, London, New York, Tokyo, Beijing, and Moscow had experienced simultaneously, in the very same hour no matter the local time of day, teacher and transport worker strikes. This caused chaos in the streets and in the markets. Already the past year’s chaos had been sufficient to cause a massive drop in most of the stock markets, and they had never really recovered from Crash Day, so that was low indeed. The bear of bears. Of course the slack was soon enough taken up by risk-seekers looking to buy low and sell high later, but the sense of panic didn’t go away

the seemingly endless drought afflicting the Middle East, Iran, and Pakistan suddenly intensified into another killer heat wave

if the current refugee population were a country, it would have about the same population as France or Germany. A hundred million people

In the midst of this situation, an atmospheric river struck southern California

repeat of the catastrophic winter that had struck California in 1861–62

The tall mountains hemming in the LA basin had caught the truly torrential rain and poured it down onto the mostly paved surface of the basin

Initial estimates pegged the death count to a remarkable low of seven thousand or so, but the infrastructure damage dwarfed anything the Angelenos’ much-feared earthquake would have done to them

So now one could imagine that the American people might support action on the climate change front. Better late than never!

But no. Already it was becoming clear that LA was not popular in Texas, or on the east coast, or even in San Francisco for that matter. In fact, no place that was not LA cared about it at all. The dream factory for the world, universally unpopular! People had not liked those dreams, perhaps. Or had not liked having their dream life colonized. Or maybe they just didn’t like being stuck in traffic.

If it could happen to LA, rich as it was, dreamy as it was, it could happen anywhere. Was that right? Maybe not, but it felt that way. Some deep flip in the global unconscious was making people queasy

demonstrations in the capitals of the world intensified. Actually these seemed to be occupations

Online, people were joining YourLock and abandoning the other social media sites, now called the predatory social media. So many people were withdrawing their savings from private banks and depositing them in credit unions and alternative cooperative financial institutions that another financial crash not only was happening but was the deepest in over a century

were stumping to their governments’ central banks to squeal for salvation

So Mary called up the heads of the various central banks around the world and got them to agree to gather to talk things over yet again

And the Bank for International Settlements’ annual meeting in Basel was coming up soon anyway. So she told them to please come to Zurich too, right after the BIS meeting

Shorting civilization and imagining living on in some fortress island of the mind was another fantasy of escape, one of many that rich people entertained, as ridiculous as retreating to Mars. Money was worthless if there was no civilization to back it, no civilization to make things to buy— things like food

they had to leave their usual monetarist silos, and regard themselves as what they were, the not-so-secret government of the world. In that capacity, something more was now called for than merely adjusting their fucking interest rates

The new Chinese minister of finance

in China the national banks were always trying to throw their weight around as vigorously as they could to help China’s economy, and they would be happy to join any international effort that they felt could help in a way that was good for China and the world

she urged them to consider again something new and fully international: a carbon coin

although the new Chinese finance minister thought she was being positive by cheerfully comparing the proposal to ordinary Chinese practice, this wasn’t actually helping much with the others

On the other hand, all central banks were undemocratic technocracies, not that dissimilar to China’s top-down system

The stick: if they didn’t do it, Mary and her team could arrange the whole thing to happen through YourLock accounts as a distributed ledger coin, created and given by people to each other.

The specific principal tasks that central banks were charged with could no longer be fulfilled if the climate emergency got out of hand

the central bankers finally invented a proposal they could all agree on

They would issue together a single new currency

So it was a total program. Mary’s team wrote it up in detail, in consultation with the bankers on hand and their staffs, taking all their suggestions and folding them in, and then in the end, after each bank had consulted with its government back home, they announced it, and offered the first tranche of carbon coins for purchase. Began to disburse them too; and the trade price for them held, even rose a little.

Then nothing happened.

Then one month after the carbon coin announcement, a bomb went off in their offices on Hochstrasse

Chapter 61

Negative reactions to news of biosphere collapse are not uncommon

One pathological reaction, a form of avoidance, has been called The Masque of the Red Death Syndrome, after the story by Edgar Allan Poe

The syndrome is thus an assertion that the end being imminent and inevitable, there is nothing left to do except party while you can

Even more extreme pathological responses to biosphere collapse are possible, and have been observed. Some who feel the end is near work to hasten it, or worsen it. Their position seems to be that if they’re going to die then the world must die with them. This is clearly a manifestation of narcissism, and has been named the Götterdämmerung Syndrome.

Narcissism is generally regarded as the result of a stunted imagination, and a form of fear

Chapter 62

Sibilla Schmidt, officer in charge. We took subject Mary Murphy under protection 7 AM June 27.

Arrived at the Oeschinensee, 10:40 AM

We drove by the mountain hotel on the lakeshore to its second building, reserved for us. Family owners aware of our situation, helping as they have before

Next day we went up to the SAC Fründenhütte, now emptied for us. 5:20 AM departure. A thousand-meter ascent

. The real safe house here is the SAC hut.

Six hours steep uphill walk, always on trail

It must be depressing, M remarked. You can really see the glaciers are melting

We all woke at 2:46 AM to a very loud roar and clatter

not snow but rock

new mass of rock now lay just west of the hut. We alerted Bern, wondered what was going on, if we had been attacked.

I conferred with my team, in Schwyzerdüütsch so M couldn’t understand us. This is too much of a coincidence, I told them. I have a bad feeling about this. We are now code red. We moved into that protocol.

Chapter 63

At 2 AM they went out into the frigid night

When they came to the far end of the notch, dawn was flooding the Alps to the south

We wait here, Priska told her.

We wait? Mary repeated. For what?

Priska said, They are coming here for us. We’re going to catch a ride.

Thank God, Mary said.

Another short walk.

How short? Mary said, annoyed and fearful; she was tapped out, she could feel that in her legs.

Six kilometers, Priska said. Not so far.

And two hundred meters up, Thomas added

Then she noticed that the creek to her right was a dark brown color. Its clear water riffled quickly over a reddish-brown streambed. She looked closer; the creek was floored almost entirely by rusty nails

Mary saw that the cliff that walled off the basin to the south had inlaid into it three massive concrete doors, giant ovals perhaps fifteen or twenty meters high, and almost as wide

A rocket-launched jet facility, remnant of the Cold War, designed to repel Soviet invasion

They weren’t just protecting her now, she guessed, nor her ministry; it was Switzerland itself under attack. This she gathered from the people there to greet her. The assault on the ministry had been part of a larger attack, one of them confirmed to her. Viruses had sabotaged not just the ministry’s computers but other UN agencies based in Switzerland, and more importantly, their banks

Then seven people walked into the room together. The executive council, Mary understood suddenly. All seven of their presidents!

The seven-headed president of Switzerland sat down across the table from her. Five women, two men. She didn’t know their names

Attack by whom? Mary asked

We don’t know

Did your ministry plan the hostage taking of Davos? Langoise asked.

Don’t know, Mary said sharply

the attack apparently compromised many secret Swiss bank accounts.

Revealed them? Mary asked.

No. Private accounts are encrypted in multiple ways, they could not be revealed. But now the banks themselves are having trouble accessing files that decode owners’ ID, in order to contact them and so on. So the danger is not so much exposure of clients, as loss of fundamental information.

Mary said, Your banks can’t figure out who owns what?

What do you want from this situation? she asked curiously.

They wanted the Ministry for the Future defended, they told her. Even strengthened. Just as part of Switzerland’s own defense

But you can do more than you are. Right now you’re not doing enough

She asked if their banks really knew who their depositors were, even when their records were not damaged

secret accounts

Other countries lose tax money which gets put in secret accounts here. So you’re rich in part because you’re the bagman for criminals worldwide

It was time for redemption for Switzerland, she told them flatly, keeping right inside the line of civility

End the secrecy in your banks. blockchain all your money, and put all your ill-gotten gains to good use

Mary knew she had an intense look she could fix on people, her laser, Martin had called it. She had known it all her life, even in childhood when she had been able to freeze people in place, even her mother. Now she leveled it on these people facing her, and they too went still. Something had set her off— her exploded office, her cramping legs. The Alps. She lasered them

Chapter 64

Once John Maynard Keynes wrote of “the euthanasia of the rentier class.”

Euthanasia: “For the good of the person killed.”

Capitalism: after a long and vigorous life, now incurable, living in pain. In a coma; become a zombie; without a plan; without any hope of returning to health. So you put it out of its misery

Criminals in earlier times could simply be banished, and not allowed to return to their home territory

“The rentier class.” Keynes meant by this the people who made money simply by owning something that others needed, and charging for the use of it: this is rent in its economic meaning. Rent goes to people who are not creators of value, but predators on the creation and exchange of value

He did not suggest ending capitalism; just end rent, and rentiers

Chapter 65

We were slaves in that mine. Of course they told us we could leave if we wanted, but we were in the desert backside of Namibia and no way to get away, nowhere to go

There were about five hundred of us.

Then a bad time came in the kitchens. Less food every week, and the water tasted of iron and made people sick. Finally one of the dorms got up one morning and sat down outside the kitchens

Meanwhile the cloud of drones had been growing overhead

But the drones all went at the guards

We are from the African Union Peace and Security Council. This mine has been nationalized by the new Namibian government

declared us liberated. Nationalized, they said. Told us that now we were worker-owners of the mine, if we wanted to stay. If not, free to get on buses and ride away

Chapter 67

Taxes are interesting. They are one way governments guide a society and fund governmental activities

It’s possible that both debt and money were invented in the earliest cities, specifically in order to enable and regularize taxation

At certain moments in history excess personal wealth was frowned on, and the scale of progressive taxation grew quite steep. In the early 1950s, a time when many people felt that wealthy individuals had helped to cause and then profit from World War Two, the top tax bracket in the United States had earners paying in income tax 91 percent

Capital asset taxes, sometimes called Piketty taxes, tax the assessed value of whomever or whatever is being taxed. Usually these have been applied to corporations, but the same kind of tax can be applied to individuals.

If set steeply enough, a progressive tax of this sort would quickly cause big corporations to break up into smaller companies, to decrease their tax rate

Land taxes, sometimes called Georgist taxes, after an economist named Henry George, are taxes on property, meaning in this case specifically land itself as an asset

A tax on burning fossil carbon, which could be called not a tax but rather paying the true cost, could be set progressively, or offset by feebates, to avoid harming the poorest who burn less carbon but also need to burn what they burn to live

If all fiat money everywhere went digital and got recorded in blockchains, so that its location and transaction history could be traced and seen by all, then illegal tax dodges could be driven into non-existence by sanction, embargo, seizure, and erasure.

So, targeted changes to the tax laws— would that really be a revolution, if it were to happen?

Chapter 68

Mary was flown back to Zurich in a military helicopter

They don’t think it’s a good idea for you to live here anymore, I’m sorry

She could still walk to work from here, if they would let her.

Which they did

A woman and girl entered the room, and Frank looked startled.

These are my family

Chapter 69

In Saudi Arabia, during the height of the hajj, what appeared to be a coup by the military resulted in the deaths of an unknown number of Saudi princes

The king was in New York at the time, and was said to be in hiding and not planning on going home

now to be called simply Arabia, the new government told the world. The Sauds were done.

Arabians respected the pressing need to decarbonize the world’s economy, and intended to use their oil only for plastics manufacture and other non-combustible uses. The new Arabian government therefore made an immediate claim to the CCCB, the Climate Coalition of central banks, which recently had been established specifically to administer the carbon coin, saying that their full conversion to solar power, to begin immediately, and their refusal to sell their oil reserves for burning, deserved compensation in the form of the CCCB’s newly created carbon coins, sometimes called carboni. At the rate of one coin per ton of secured carbon, the Arabic claim was estimated at about a trillion carbon coins; at current exchange rates this came to several trillion US dollars, which would make Arabia instantly one of the richest countries on Earth, at least in terms of national bank assets. If the present currency exchange rates held, they would be wealthier than if they had sold their oil for burning.

After a period of delay the CCCB agreed

This sudden loss of supply sent oil prices and oil futures sharply up. Oil was rarer now, therefore more expensive, which meant that clean renewable energy was now cheaper than oil by an even larger margin than before

Soon after this, Brazil’s government entered another paroxysm of corruption charges, leading to the resignation of the right-wing president and then his arrest. Quickly there followed the triumphant return of the so-called Lula Left, now also called Clean Brazil, with a promise of clean government representing the entire populace, also an end to oil sales, clearly modeled on Arabia’s move

now mainstream economists everywhere were fearful that this sudden flood of new currency was going to cause massive deflation. Or perhaps inflation: macroeconomics was no longer so very clear on the ultimate effects of quantitative easing, given that the evidence from the past half century could be interpreted either way. That this debate was a clear sign that macroeconomics as a field was ideological to the point of astrology was often asserted by people in all the other social sciences

Some of them were asserting that the carbon coins were merely replacements for petrodollars, which had always been pulled out of the ground like rabbits out of a hat

So: either a huge boon, a complete calamity, or a non-event. Thus the economists, faced with explaining the biggest economic event of their time. What a science!

This was the world’s current reigning religion, it had to be admitted: growth

But this time, growth might be reconfiguring itself as the growth of some kind of safety. Call it involution, or sophistication; improvement; degrowth; growth of some kind of goodness. A sane response to danger— now understood as a very high-return investment strategy! Who knew?

These non-petro developing nations therefore were the last big carbon burners of note, and they were significant

Russia kept selling its oil and gas, which was a good thing for Europe, as much of Europe was heated in winter by Russian gas. As was made clear when the pipelines were bombed in the coldest part of that winter

They were also selling their pebble-mob missiles

They were small, they launched from mobile launchers, they came from all directions in a coordinated attack in which they only congregated at their target in the last few seconds of their flights

What people then had to consider was that this list of targets could be greatly extended

Meetings at Interpol and many other agencies concerned with global security were inconclusive as to the source or sources of these attacks when they happened

Pebble mobs might even be a force for good, because now war was rendered impossible. It was mutual assured destruction, not of civilian populations, but of war machinery. An end to the twentieth-century concept of total war, a return to the focus on military-against-military that had characterized armed conflict before the breakdown of civilized norms established at Westphalia in 1648, then forgotten in the twentieth century

A heat wave hit Arizona, then New Mexico and west Texas, then east Texas, then Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and the Florida panhandle.

Somewhere between two and three hundred thousand people died in a single day during that heat wave

Chapter 70

COP meetings of the Paris Climate Agreement kept happening every year, despite the increasing sense of irrelevance

There was no judge, no sheriff, no jail. No sanctions at all

But what else did they have? The world runs by laws and treaties

Chapter 71

defining sequestration becoming an issue

ministry should form a sort of shadow government, Dick said, so that when the system breaks down, people have a workable Plan B to turn to. So AI group has been trying to sketch a workable shadow government and put it up on websites. Plan B is open source.

Chapter 72

The habitat corridor idea was just one early move in the larger Half Earth project

With wild animals critically endangered everywhere

As proof of concept, Y2Y has done wonders for showing people how it all could work. Animals had free passage up and down it, and protection from hunting

Millions of animals were tagged, and thus now participating in the so-called Internet of Animals

Connecting that great bio-island to Yellowstone meant getting Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Nevada on board, and though there were political complications in all these states, the truth was they were mostly emptying of humans across huge swathes of their rural land

So, but what about going east? Meaning east into the eastern half of the United States, and the eastern half of Canada?

Well, most of Canada is empty, really

The United States, not so much

The situation had to be handled with a touch of delicacy.

First, money. Significant applications of money. Then persuasion. Hedgerows often saved soil, they built soil, they were considered worth the land they took. Native plant strips, the same. No-till ag, the same. Habitat corridors had to be seen first as extensions of that kind of agriculture, done to increase soil building and soil resilience

And to tell the truth, the upper Midwest, and the states west of it all the way to Seattle, were hurting bad. They were emptying out anyway

Those upper plains were never meant to be farmed

Now all the young people were taking off and never coming back.

What would make them stay? Wildlife protection! Especially when you could make a good living at it, better than the debt-ridden drought-stricken winter-blasted poisonous hardscrabble farming that people had been attempting for the previous two centuries

It was working pretty well, when we ran into a snag. A militia group

We ended up going with cowboys wrangling a herd of wild horses

Chapter 73

Modern Monetary Theory was in some ways a re-introduction of Keynesian economics into the climate crisis

implied that full employment should be the policy goal of the governments

So a job guarantee (JG) was central to [[MMT]]’s ideas of good governance. Anyone who wanted a job could get one from the government, “the employer of last resort,” and all these public workers were to be paid a living wage

Critics of MMT, who sometimes called it “Magic Money Tree,” pointed out that Keynes had advocated deficit spending during economic contractions, but also the reverse in times of expansion, governments gathering in enough in taxes to fund things through the next crisis. To ignore this counter-cyclical necessity and regard money as infinitely expandable was a mistake

Also, if governments offered full employment then they were in effect setting the wage floor, and if that caused inflation and governments then stemmed that inflation with price controls, then government would be in effect setting both wages and prices, thus taking complete control of the economy, and at that point they might as well dispense with money entirely and go to the Red Plenty

There were some who responded to that question with: yes, why not

re-orienting economics’ ultimate goals to human and biosphere welfare, thereby changing its policy perspectives and monetary theories

So the MMT crowd admitted they were proposing a move to a new political economy, rather than merely adjusting capitalism

Enough governments were convinced by MMT to try it. That it influenced so much policy through the late thirties was regarded as a sign either of progress or of desperate fantasy solutions.

Chapter 74

One day, working a camp food line and seeing a distraught refugee’s face out of the corner of his eye, he understood that eventually everyone was post-traumatic, or even still mid-trauma

Frank seldom talked to anyone, but sometimes he did, and then he found himself babbling a little. But asking questions too, and listening to what people said to him

They used English like a hammer to get their meaning across, they banged in nails of meaning

All the militaries of the world were focused on counter-terrorism

Meanwhile hunker down. Try to stay lucky. Don’t fly on private jets, or maybe any kind of jet. It was like eating beef; some things were just too dangerous to continue doing

Maybe you should stop reading the news. Stop watching the screens.”

“I’m reading Moll Flanders. It was the same for her.”

They didn’t worry like we do. They faced up to Nartsuk. There was no such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“Or else it was everywhere. Just the water they swam in

Chapter 75

National Students’ Union website showed that thirty percent of the union members had now responded YES to the union website’s standing poll asking them if they were in so much financial distress caused by their student debt that they would like to see the union initiate a fiscal non-compliance strike, by not paying their next debt payment

Student debt was a trillion-dollar annual income stream for the banks, so this coordinated default meant that the banks were suddenly in cash-flow hell

this time the Fed asked Congress to authorize their bailing out the banks in exchange for ownership shares in every bank that took the offer. This was either nationalizing finance or financializing the nation, in that now it was clearer than ever that the country was in effect run by the Fed

same month, the African Union informed the World Bank and the Chinese government that they were declaring all African debts to these organizations to be odious debts.

And in the very next month, in China the workers known informally as the billion took over Tiananmen Square, by the simple expedient of walking into it by the millions

Seeing an opportunity in all this turmoil, the Kurds declared Kurdistan in the part of Iraq they already controlled, with significant chunks of Syria, Turkey, and Iran included within the new boundary

Money was made of social trust. Which meant, in this spasmophilic moment, with everything changing and the ground falling under one’s feet in immense tectonic jolts, that money itself was therefore in limbo. And that was scary

liquidity freeze

Since money is an idea, a system based on social trust, when things go south, and trust disappears in a poof, then there simply isn’t as much money as there used to be

So with groans and clanks and huge ripping sounds, the world’s economy ground to a halt. A great depression was back at last and in full, after almost a decade of recession

Unemployment quickly surpassed the 1930s high-water mark of twenty-five percent

The internet as a market didn’t work when no one trusted money.

people began to use their YourLock accounts as sites for digital microbanking that was of some real use, and showed potential for some kind of post-capitalist crowd banking

Despite all the interesting efforts, as the economy circled the drain, it became clearer: for this moment, it was the central banks or nothing

all of them in theory owned by the public they reported to

Thus the shadow government devised by the Ministry for the Future in Zurich, Switzerland, became one template for a new plan

Mondragón, Kerala, MMT, blockchain, Denmark, Cuba, and so on: all the elements had been out there working all along

Surely sequestering a hundred tons of carbon couldn’t be so hard. DIY DAC became a vibrant side activity

Chapter 76

I joined the US Navy out of high school

the Navy is well-run

Among other things, we’ve run 83 nuclear-powered ships for 5,700 reactor-years, and 134 million miles of travel, all without nuclear accidents of any kind

Because the system was engineered and built for safety, whatever the cost. No cutting corners to make a buck. Done that way, it can work. Probably the Navy should run the country’s electricity system, I’m just saying

now that pebble mob missiles exist, none of our ships could survive an attack by hostiles

So what it means is that the submarine fleet is all we’ve got in a real war

But so think of the Navy in peaceful times

the surface fleet of the US Navy can serve to deploy protective services, and also emergency relief. Like the Swiss military over the last few centuries, its main function will be to bring disaster relief in coastal areas

Then later I looked it up and learned that admirals’ salaries top out at $200,000 a year. No one in the Navy gets paid more than that per year. So they call this the pay differential, it’s sometimes expressed as a ratio from lowest pay to highest. That ratio for the Navy is about one to eight

Whereas in the corporate world I’ve read the average wage ratio is like one to five hundred. Actually that was the median; one to 1,500 happens pretty often

Who is incentivized to do what in a wage ratio of one to a thousand? Those getting a thousand times more than starting wage earners, what’s their incentive from out of that situation? To hide, I’d say. To hide the fact that they don’t actually do a thousand times more than their employees. Hiding like that, they won’t be normal. They’ll be bullshitters

And for the lowest income folks, what’s their incentive? I’m not coming up with one right off the bat, but the ones that do eventually come to mind sound cynical or beat down or completely delusional

Chapter 78

He flew into Lucknow and got on the train into the city and then took the subway and bus out to the branch of the City Montessori school that he had gone to as a child

he could have ended up in Nepal forever, in a Rawang hill village

he could have lived his whole life in the middle ages, trapped by parents

But a German had passed through with an aid group, and when he got caught stealing from them, by no means the worst of his boyhood crimes, it was Fritz who sat him down and interrogated him, as stern as a policeman, but cheerful too, skeptical of his badness

And then Fritz had spoken to his father, saying, Send this boy to the city. Give him a chance. And his father had done it and he had ended up in Lucknow, his father’s home town

The city amazed him, it stunned him. It was such an upgradation of his fortunes that he had not slept more than three hours a night for the rest of his childhood and youth, and all because of the violence of the spin of thoughts in his head, the day’s inrush tumbling up there like clothes in a washer. Lucknow: now luck. The place had made him

And then when he moved to Delhi he had changed again

Forged in the fire: yes, these were Children of Kali, staring at him as if calculating where to insert the knives

You don’t tell us what to do, she said. You’re like firangi now.

I am not, he said. You don’t know what I am. You know enough to ask to meet with me, I’ll give you that, but that’s all you know.

We see what’s happening. We brought you here to tell you to do more.

And I came when you asked, to tell you the time has come to change tactics. That’s a good thing, and it’s partly because of what you did. You were doing the needful, I know that

now, if you keep killing the wicked ones, the criminals, now that all the worst of them are dead, then you become one of them.

The worst criminals are not dead, there are many more of them, she said fiercely

The big criminals are dead or in jail, or in hiding and rendered powerless. So now if you keep killing, it’s just to kill. Even Kali didn’t kill just to kill, and certainly no human should. Children of Kali should listen to their mother.

We listen to her, but not you.

He said, I am Kali.

Chapter 79

The time approached when Frank was to be released from prison

That he could spend four or five hours without a thought in his head— this was what the life here had given him. He didn’t know if he wanted to give that up. Dissociation? Serenity? He didn’t care what he called it. He wanted it

He didn’t want anything. Well, that wasn’t quite true. He wanted to be free of fear. And he was interested to see more animals. And he wanted the people in the refugee camps to be released like he was going to be. These were all different kinds of wants, and some of them he could try to pursue, others were out of his power

Then he felt a slight wave of nausea, and a cold sweat burst out all over him at once. He sat there, willing the sensation to leave him. To his relief it did. But now his clothes were damp, and he sat there feeling weak and cold.

This had happened a few times recently. He hadn’t told anyone, had brushed it off

Then he asked her about her refugee division and what they were doing. He said to her, There’s something like 140 million of them now, and growing all the time. That’s like the entire population of France and Germany combined. It’s as bad as it’s ever been

Have you looked at what happened at end of the world wars? There were millions of refugees wandering around starving. They put Fridtjof Nansen in charge of the problem after World War One, and he came up with a system they called Nansen passports, which gave refugees the right to go wherever they wanted to, free passage anywhere

he needed it, whatever it was. This Irish woman was kind of crazy, kind of ominously interested in him, really, and quite often a bit vengeful and harsh, pushing him around in ways that bothered him, very irritating; but he had gotten used to her visiting. He needed her

Chapter 81

they don’t just shift their money into tax havens?

T: We’ve killed those. That’s maybe the best thing about blockchain for fiat money— we know where it is. There aren’t any hiding places left. If you do manage to hide it, it isn’t really money anymore

Is the Russian government on board with all this?

T: Hard to say. Maybe so. Soviet nostalgia is getting stronger

It’s still a battle inside the Kremlin, but the evidence is clear. And that Soviet regard for science still holds for a lot of Russians. It’s a Russian value too. And they think it’s funny that the Soviet way might save the world. It’s a kind of vindication.

Chapter 82

Stores are bottlenecks, being distribution centers and not that numerous. You kick them in the balls when you attack their distribution centers. Their stock price drops at news of such attacks, and they have no way to counter that.

Then on July 16th big parts of the internet, the online store of stores, stopped working. That felt freaky. And we had done it

A canonical example of how much the lack of a Plan B can hamstring a revolution is— well, pick any revolution you’ve ever heard of!

But consider this one example, which is actually an example of how the lack of a Plan B can stop a revolution from even starting in the first place, despite the crying need for one, so it’s especially relevant for us now: meaning Greece and the failure to Grexit

Syriza then promptly accepted austerity and the EU’s leash, going belly-up and begging for a bail-out.

Why did Syriza do that, why did they betray the wishes of the people who elected them? Because they had no Plan B

What was it? Big parts of it have been there all along; it’s called socialism

public utility districts

The necessities are food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity, health care, and education. All these are human rights, all are public goods.

Democracy is also good, but again, for those who think this word is just a cover story for oligarchy and Western imperialism, let’s call it real political representation

The Zurich plan, the Mondragón system, Albert and Hahnel’s participatory economics, communism, the Public Trust plan, the What’s Good Is What’s Good for the Land plan (Land Ethic), the various post-capitalisms, and so on and so forth; there are lots of versions of a Plan B

One scary thing, there has to still be money, or at least some exchange or allocation system that people trust, which means the already-existing central banks have to be part of it, which means the current nation-state system has to be part of it. Sorry but it’s true, and maybe obvious

We have to enact a Plan B as law, as soon as possible

Chapter 83

I thought things were getting better. Putin’s gone, the communists are making a comeback, the oligarchs are dead or in jail.

Don’t say that! Why do you say that? The first generation is gone, but their children are thugs, you know that. We’ll never be rid of them

You have to admit it’s getting better.

Better, yes. Because there was so much room for getting better. But the more we win, the more resistance there is. The better we do the more dangerous it gets for us, do you understand that?

Is there something I can do from Zurich?

Of course. Get me out.

Beyond that?

Yes, of course. The new prosecutor general is on our side, at least to the extent of wanting better land protection

Makarov’s trying to be the opposite. The great reformer, the globalist, the democrat. Tilt more to India than China. Which means more rule of law

Chapter 84

container ships being sunk on a regular basis

Now they were gathered to discuss the first years of their big experiment, what Bob Wharton called their Hail Mary: the carbon coin

Time for reckoning: had it done what they hoped it would? Had it worked?

They had created and paid out trillions of carbon coins, and yet had seen no signs of inflation, or deflation

There were currency exchanges where they had seen efforts to manipulate the value of the carbon coin against the values of other currencies

Tools existed to strongly sanction those who tried it. One report on this had used the phrase financial decapitation

So now, what else can you do?

Outlawing dark pools and killing them off. Putting significant delays in high-frequency trading. Creating high-frequency trading taxes big enough to get trading back to human speed. Calculating basic necessities needed and providing these gratis to under-served communities.

Oh dear oh my! Not what central banks do!

But wouldn’t killing the dark pools create more trust in money, Mary inquired, rather than less?

So now they nodded as they discussed things, and translated Mary’s proposals into more respectable policy formulations. They avoided any large conclusions that would make them aware of their temerity

the Chinese finance minister, Madame Chan, joined her at the west window

Surely you don’t mean to stop there?

What do you have in mind?

We don’t want what happened to them to happen in China, or anywhere else. So now they’re teaching us regenerative agriculture, and we need it. But of course it keeps coming back to how we pay for these good things

Creation of a commons for every necessity. Also, simply the legal requirement that private businesses be employee-owned

We’ll back you, she said happily. Take the lead and we’ll back you. And Madame Chan nodded, pleased with her

Chapter 85

Argentina’s Shamballa Permaculture Project

Chapter 86

What you would want is animals around you where you live.”

“Probably so. That’s what they’re working on in California. They’ve got so much land there, and they’ve been rewilding for a long time

Chapter 87


Everyone was offered a buy-out that pretty much covered the rest of your life; housing costs in expensive places, enrollment in the school of your choice, and options that if taken, might allow most of us to move to the same city. Probably Bozeman. Some argued for Minneapolis

It was happening all over the upper Midwest, all over the West, the South, New England, the Great Lakes. Everywhere on Earth

This was degrowth growth, as the facilitator pointed out. The facilitator was really good, I have to say. She encouraged us to tell our stories. She said in towns like ours it’s always the same. She had done this for a lot of them. It was her work. Like a hospice preacher, she said, looking troubled at that. Everybody cries. At least in towns like this. She said that when they do this same thing in suburbs, no one cares. People don’t even come to the meetings, except to find out what the compensation will be. Sometimes, she said, people are told their suburb is going to be torn down and replaced by habitat, and they cheer

Chapter 89

the latest CO2 figures showed a global drop, a real global drop

Bob said that reforestation and the greening of the ocean shallows with kelp were probably the major factors

She sat there in the strange house feeling low. Something to celebrate, and no one to celebrate with

She wondered if she should move into something like Frank’s co-op

This group of people who worked for her were serving as her family, she realized

News had come just seconds before: Tatiana had been found dead outside her apartment, which turned out to have been in Zug. Shot

The killers always thought they were defending their race or their nation or their kids or their values

She saw immediately that her swimming was a social activity, that going out into the cold water was unpleasant enough to be a ritual that had to be shared by other sufferers to turn it pleasant

he said, “I’ll tell you what I think, although most of it is obvious, stuff you probably already know. I think she was killed by Russians. Russia is really opaque at the top, but they’ve been making some bold moves lately, and I mean by that some good moves. Really important moves, both in the open and in the black. I think it’s very likely Tatiana was part of those. She kept a lot of contacts there. So, whenever a government changes direction like that, it leaves some people behind. They’re on the wrong side of the change, they’re scared, they get angry. If some of those people who got caught on the wrong side thought that Tatiana was part of the change, maybe even directing it, then killing her could stop the turn, or at least exact a cost for it.”

I want to face up to them. To all of them, to everyone like them. Listen, this year’s COP meeting was going to be in Zurich anyway. It’s the sixth global stocktaking, so it’s supposed to be big. We can use that. Make it as big as can be

To that account of the good done, they would add a description of every outstanding problem, every obstacle to getting where they needed to be. The global situation was to be judged actor by actor. Rated, scored, judged; and if judged malingering, then penalized

The majority was being drawn down by reforestation, biochar, agroforestry, kelp bed and other seaweed growth, regenerative agriculture, reduced and improved ranching, direct CO2 capture from the air, and so on

it looked like there was a possibility that carbon coin might soon supersede the US dollar as the world’s hegemonic currency, the ultimate guarantor of value

As significantly, money itself was now almost completely blockchained

So now the various old private cryptocurrencies were only being used for criminal activities, and traded at fractions of a penny

Regenerative ag, landscape restoration, wildlife stewardship, Mondragón-style co-ops, garden cities, universal basic income and services, job guarantees, refugee release and repatriation, climate justice and equity actions, first people support

Chapter 90

Today we’re here to discuss the question of whether technology drives history.

Our tools are expressions of our intentions, so what we want to do is the key driver

Our systems are what drive history, not our tools

Chapter 91

This guy is hardly ever here, but he’s one of the original co-op members, and they let him keep his room. I just met him a while ago, and I like him. He flies an airship all over the world, following wildlife corridors and wilderness areas, basically looking for animals

Chapter 92

Word got around one morning that we were to be released. Did you hear? someone said, bursting into the dorm. They’re letting us go!

Quickly everyone had heard the news, and then most people doubted it.

They were indeed releasing us. We were to be given world citizenship

Combined with a worldwide universal job guarantee commitment, and transport and settlement subsidies, everyone should end up okay

Switzerland had committed to taking twice as many people as were now being held in all the Swiss refugee camps

Employment would be offered according to need, the canton as employer of last resort. There was work to be done. Facilities for cooperative restaurants were already in place, ready for opening if the newcomers so desired.

Chapter 93

Project Slowdown had been active for a decade, and the thirty largest glaciers on the planet, all of them in Antarctica and Greenland

drilled 327 wells over a five-year period

One of the lines was reporting that all its pumps had stopped

Hey you know what? This glacier has bottomed out. There’s just no more water to pump!

Chapter 94

The 58th COP meeting of the Paris Agreement signatories, which included the sixth mandated global stocktake, concluded with a special supplementary two-day summing up

one day of people summarizing, listing, and celebrating various aspects of the positive changes made since the Agreement was signed. The second day was devoted to listing and describing some of the outstanding problems they had yet to solve

poster halls

First, powering everything in a most literal way, was the news that a lot of clean energy was being generated.

Also, crucially, even though they were creating more energy than ever before, they were burning far less CO2 into the atmosphere, less per year than in any year since 1887.

World civilization was no longer using up more of the biosphere’s renewable resources than were being replaced by natural processes

It was also the case, though not a single poster or panel referred to it directly on this day, that the global human replacement rate was now estimated to come to about 1.8 children per woman. As a level replacement rate was hit at about 2.15 children per woman, the total human population on Earth was therefore going down, slowly but surely.

the Gini index figures for the world at large had flattened considerably

Capping individual income and wealth had flattened the top of the scale

Some land was surrendered in order to keep the owners solvent in the new tax regimes, which meant there was now more and more public land, defined as such and used as a commons

State-owned enterprises using a lot of big data and Red Plenty algorithms became less lumbering than they had been, avoiding the old bad inefficiencies, while keeping the good inefficiencies in ways that were important for resilience and justice

this new kind of economics included a lot of new measuring systems

people were using older instruments like the Inclusive Prosperity Index, the Genuine Progress Indicator, the UN’s Human Development Index Inequality Adjusted, and the Global Footprint Index. And they were also making up many new ones as well. All these new indexes for economic health were often now amalgamated to a new comprehensive index of indexes, called the Biosphere and Civilization Health Meta-Index. BCHMI.

petro-states were being paid in proportion to their stranded assets, but over time, and only for doing carbon-negative work, as defined and measured by the Paris Agreement standards and certification teams

huge amount of money was now going to landscape restoration, regenerative ag, reforestation, biochar and kelp beds, direct air capture (CO2 capture) and storage

The second day, their final day, devoted to “outstanding problems,” was a sobering reminder that they were still in the thick of it

she was thrust back into the realm of nuclear weapons and nuclear waste.

the thirty poorest countries

These thirty included at least ten so-called failed states

no nation liked to tamper with sovereignty

Mary would include American stupidity and hubris, and the assumption of being the world’s sole superpower, as one of their outstanding problems; but there wasn’t a panel or even a poster given over to that idea, no, of course not. Another word of mouth issue

continuing poisoning of the biosphere by pollution, pesticides, plastics, and other wastes and residues of civilization

mistreatment of women

Ocean health. They could do nothing about ocean acidification, nor the heating of the ocean that was baked in by the previous century’s carbon burn, nor the deoxygenation. Thus die-offs were happening, and presumably extinctions they didn’t even know about, that might have catastrophic cascading results. Ocean health would be an outstanding problem for centuries to come, and little to nothing they could do about it

Lists like these were in some senses useless, she felt

Possibly the anger generated on this day could be put to use, but she wasn’t sure

Chapter 96

She realized that she believed, as much as she believed anything, that when someone was dying, it wasn’t right that they be left alone, stuck in a bed, attended only sporadically by nurses and doctors

she began to make his room her office

she settled into her chair with her pad, started Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue on the music box to announce her arrival, and got to work on her pad

Martin had died on her just like Frank— hospice bed, painkillers, suffering through the final breakdown of his body’s functions, the end of his life, at age twenty-eight, when they had only been married five years

Chapter 98

Retirement cake

Badim has agreed to take over

Chapter 99

We’re here today to discuss whether any of the so-called totalizing solutions to our current problems will serve to do the job

There is no single solution adequate to the task

the way like-minded people working to solve the same problem will engage in continuous civil war with each other over methods, thus destroying their chances of success.

Why does that happen, do you think?

The narcissism of small differences.

That’s an odd name.

It’s Freud’s name. Means more regard for yourself than for your allies or the problems you both face.

There’s no such thing as the market.

Really! I’m surprised to hear you say this, what can you mean?

There’s no more of a real market behind what we now call the market than there is gold behind what we call money. Old words obscure new situations.

You think this happens often?


Give us another example.

Revolutions don’t involve guillotines anymore. Alas.

Oligarchic power is the usual answer given, but if it exists at all, it’s so concentrated that it’s weak.

How so? I must say you amaze me.

Brittle. Fragile. Susceptible to decapitation. By which I mean not the guillotine type of decapitation, but the systemic kind, the removal from power of a small elite. Their situation is very unstable and tenuous. It’s highly possible to shift capital away from them, either legally or extra-judicially.

Just capital?

Everything relies on capital! Please don’t be stupid. Who has capital, how it gets distributed, that’s always our question.

Chapter 100

She had agreed to Badim’s request to represent them one last time at the CCCB

Most of the same people were there, including the Chinese finance minister

Chan spoke of equity, getting better in China and the world, but still far from achieved

Chapter 101

What did we teach Beijing, you ask? We taught them a police state doesn’t work!

So we in Hong Kong fought for it, we fought for the rule of law. All through the years between 1997 and 2047 we fought

Over the years we saw what worked and refined our methods. Violence didn’t work. Numbers did

They could have killed every person in Hong Kong, and repopulated the city with people from mainland China who didn’t know any better

But there were constraints on Beijing too. For one thing they were always trying to entice Taiwan back into the fold

It was never about independence, you must understand that. It was only for one country two systems. For the rule of law that we had here to persist past 2047

We took to the streets every Saturday for thirty straight years!

since July 1, having agreed to keep one country two systems in Hong Kong, Beijing also has had to grant more and more rights to Guangdong

Chapter 102

found that Arthur Nolan, the airship pilot Frank had introduced to her in his co-op, was flying into San Francisco the following week

One old name for the wolverine, Art said quietly as they watched, was the glutton

Nothing up here could harm them, nothing scared them. Art said people had seen them chasing away bears, mountain lions, wolves. Masters of all they surveyed

The new port city on the Arctic Ocean

The opening up of the Arctic Ocean to ships had made for one of the odd zones of the Anthropocene. Traffic was mostly container ships refurbished as autopiloted solar-powered freighters, slow but steady. Carbon-neutral transport on a great circle route, and as such not much to complain about

The great shock of their arrival was to see that the ocean, clear of ice to the northern horizon, was yellow. Naturally this looked awful, like some vast toxic spill; in fact it was geoengineering, no doubt the most visible act of geoengineering ever, and as such widely reviled. But the solar heating of the Arctic Ocean when there was no ice covering it might be enough all by itself to tip the world irrevocably into jungle planet

And a few hours later they were flying over a herd of caribou that covered the tundra from horizon to horizon

Art said they were still in the Cambrian explosion moment of airship design. Many people were moving up into the sky, and traffic lanes and altitudes had been established, as with jets in the old days. Airspace was humanized and therefore also bureaucratized

She smiled. “You’re lucky.”

“It’s true.” And he added: “Especially tonight.”

She laughed at that.

He was still young enough to blush

Across the Atlas Mountains, east over the Sahel. Here there were new salt lakes and marshes being created by water pumped up from the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. Salt seas in dry basins, an interesting experiment

For now, the desert below them was dotted by long lakes.

Verne’s Invasion of the Sea, which told the story of pumping seawater onto Saharan deserts to create lakes

great plains of east Africa

Some of the streams’ water was now piped in, Art said quietly. Desalinated at the seashore and then piped up to the headwaters and released to keep the streams flowing, the herds alive. They were in their twelfth straight year of drought

He regarded her with a little smile. A shy Irishman. She knew that type and liked it. She had always liked those men who kept to themselves, who had only a sidelong look for her

Apparently aircraft carriers made excellent polar stations, being nuclear powered, and outweighing ordinary icebreakers by a thousand times or more

Can we see a pumping site?”

How many stations are there like this one?” she asked.

“Five or six hundred

The saving of civilization, right there before her. A piece of plumbing

His silence was restful. As if he were content. She wasn’t content, and she wasn’t sure she had ever met anyone who was, so it was a hard thing for her to recognize

I like you,” she said. “And you like me.”

“I do,” he said firmly, and then waved a hand, as if to push that aside. “I don’t mean to be intrusive

You could be a guest curator or whatnot.”

“I’d rather just be your girlfriend.”

His eyebrows rose at that. As if it were an entirely new idea.

Chapter 103

I don’t think anyone ever figured out who organized it.

three billion people tapped their phones to say they had taken part

Evoke the noösphere, call it into existence by everyone thinking of it at the same time

a worldwide moment during which all sentient beings aware of the project were to sing praise together to the one planet we stood on, to perform the noösphere created by this so-vast and complex biosphere, while standing on the lithosphere and contemplating the hydrosphere and circulating the atmosphere in and out of us

Chapter 104

Back in Zurich, Mary told the Swiss that she was going to move out of her safe house

There were housing cooperatives all over Zurich

The woman nodded. “I worked two buildings down, but I took notes for Badim at a lot of your meetings. I sat against the wall with the other assistants. And I went with you on a trip to India

she realized that there was probably little help she could give. The authority of her position had been a big part of her effectiveness. That was a little chastening, but no doubt true

Almost everyone in the co-op was part of the 2,000 Watt Society

The communal meals were vegetarian for the most part, and calculations were made for everything they did

Chapter 105

After we were given our passports we put our names on a few lists

Room in a hostel for us, and apartments being built. We said yes. My daughter, her husband, their two little ones

got on the waiting list for an apartment building soon to be finished

we were there. A family from Syria

Of course we all knew about the SVP, the Schweizerische Volkspartei, the Swiss People’s Party. They do well in the mountain cantons, and they don’t like immigrants.

after twelve years in a Turkish camp, two years on the move trying to get to Germany, very crazy years, very hard; then fourteen more years in the Swiss camp north of Bern.

And the SEM awarded us a small lump sum based on how long we had stayed in the camp, and that being so long for us, it wasn’t all that small. We could combine it with the savings of the Jordanian family new to Kandersteg, and together we rented an empty space in a building on the main street between the train station and the cable car terminus. The space had been used as a bakery, so it was not too difficult or expensive to change it into a little restaurant. Middle Eastern food

So what we have now, I would say, is not money (very short), nor freedom (we are still registered as Ausländer), but dignity

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