In this week’s episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with acclaimed science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson. Through books like New York 2140 and The Ministry for the Future, Robinson explores how climate change could transform civilization—even closely studying scientific advances and other academic research to inform his fiction. Robinson describes his hope that economists will do more to consider creative ways to address climate change and viable systems outside conventional capitalism. Robinson also describes his takeaways from the COP26 climate summit and why he sees both the formal negotiations and organized protests as potentially productive for speeding action on climate change.
Listen to the Podcast
- Reimagining economics: “I’ve looked at behavioral economics, happiness economics, doughnut economics, and environmental economics, of course. I would say that they’re all trapped in capitalist realism a little bit too much. They’re all useful for my purposes because they are all trying to deal with the present system, but they don’t work very hard at imagining the next system … [Economics] is important; everybody bows to it, and it’s a giant discipline. And yet, you do not see the Journal of Post-capitalist Economics … I’m still frustrated by the lack of good work in that regard.” (9:08)
- A climate policy idea straight from the pages of The Ministry for the Future: “The central banks would pay a ‘carbon coin’ for every hundred tons of carbon sequestered out of the atmosphere or kept in the ground. It gets a little loose as to what the definition would be of how you earn a carbon coin, but anybody could earn it, from an individual right up to a nation-state. That way, the central banks would be paying hard cash for people to decarbonize.” (14:38)
- Protesters at COP26 want more from political leaders: “What I hope [Greta Thunberg is] directing her accusations at is the world leaders, the political representation at the highest levels. Those people have to step out there with some guts, and make commitments, and then hope that their constituencies keep them in office. For them, it must be personally challenging to make that kind of commitment. But that’s what the protestors were mostly protesting about—not against COP, but against world governments that send their representatives to COP.” (22:53)
Top of the Stack
- The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
- The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes by Zachary D. Carter
- “Improving Discounting in the Social Cost of Carbon” by Brian Prest, William Pizer, and Richard Newell
- Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth
- The concept of “carbon currency” by Delton Chen
- “Hypothesis for a Risk Cost of Carbon: Revising the Externalities and Ethics of Climate Change” by Delton B. Chen, Joel van der Beek, and Jonathan Cloud
- Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet by David Attenborough and Johan Rockström
The Full Transcript
Daniel Raimi: Hello, and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources for the Future. I'm your host, Daniel Raimi. Today we talk with Kim Stanley Robinson, acclaimed author of many books, most recently Ministry for the Future. Stan's books vividly illustrate some of the most devastating potential consequences of climate change, but that's not all they do. They also offer innovation and optimism, imagining the ways in which we can prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change and adapt to those that are unavoidable. This conversation is definitely not your standard Resources Radio fare, but we think you'll really enjoy it. We talk about Stan's recent visit to COP26, his views on climate economics, modern monetary theory, space opera, and more. Stay with us.
All right. It is really a thrill to welcome to the show Kim Stanley Robinson, author of so many great books. Stan, thank you so much for joining us today on Resources Radio.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Good to be with you, Daniel.
Daniel Raimi: So, we're going to talk about all sorts of stuff today, but we always ask our guests how they got interested in working on environmental issues in the first place. So, how did you start thinking about this stuff and writing about this stuff? What brought you into this realm?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, it must have started pretty early on. I grew up in Orange County, California. It was actually orange groves when I was a child, and then the groves got pulled out, a giant city replaced it, and that gave me a sense of rapid history and technological change. While I was an undergraduate, I went up to the Sierra Nevada of California for the first time and have been a Sierra person ever since. It was the culmination of those things—it's a California experience to be aware of your environment. And as a science fiction writer, it always struck me that the planet itself was interesting as a science fictional-type object. So, it all came together and made sense to me.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. And this isn't science fiction at all, it's part fiction, part nonfiction, but your story about the orange groves being ripped out reminded me of the film Chinatown, one of the great works of art having to do with the removal of orange groves.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Yes. That is a very valid point to bring up right now because of the ongoing droughts because the entirety of California is a plumbing system: it's terraformed, and the water that's there is substantially from elsewhere or has been captured by a reservoir and canal system. When the drought hits 35 million people in California, I'm stunned that people aren't more scared than they are because we could get down to quite extreme water shortages. Then I suppose agriculture will have to be shut down, but even, so you'd think they would be talking about negotiating with the people up in Portland, Oregon, to suck water out of the Columbia River and run it down to Lake Shasta, et cetera, et cetera, but I don't hear any Plan Bs emerging on the waterfront. We'll see what happens, but I'm scared on that front too.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that’s understandable. Well, we could definitely talk about California water issues for the next half an hour, but I think we won't. Instead, let's talk about you and your work, which spans so many fascinating areas. One of the themes that you come back to regularly is climate change and imagining how climate change might shape the future features prominently in so many of your books, including the most recent one, The Ministry for the Future. What drew you to imagine those different kinds of futures under a changing climate?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, reality itself and the current day force the issue. If you're a science fiction writer, you can do near-future science fiction or far-future, which people think of as “space opera,” zipping around the galaxy and spaceships. And in between, there’s a very interesting zone a couple of hundred years out that I've spent a lot of time, which I call “future history.” Well, near-future science fiction, and even a couple of hundred years out, has been entirely overwhelmed by the climate crisis. If you're going to write at all realistically about those time zones anymore, you can't help but start to write climate fiction because it's an over-determining factor.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that makes sense. One of the things that always strikes me about your books is this really rich, wonderful blend of fear around climate change but also optimism, innovation, and hope. I won't go into too much detail, but the opening scene of The Ministry for the Future is really brutal, it's like a gut punch, and it's incredibly effective. And then a lot of other examples of the book offering optimism and innovation and hope. Can you talk a little bit about how you blend those elements together and what the motivation might be behind it?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, it seems to me that it's just the reality principle: that's the way reality itself is, it's a combination of hopes and fears. I would say that every person is a science fiction writer in that regard: that you have hopes, you would like to have a good life, and you therefore do things in the present to try to make a good future—that's your utopian imaginary. And then, in the middle of the night, you're worrying, and you're missing certain biochemicals in your brain, and everything seems really dark and dire—that's your dystopian imaginary. So, fears and hopes, everybody does it.
The trick in a story, I think, is to sustain a balance where, while reading it, you feel a thrill of recognition like, “Yeah, that is the way reality is. There are bad things coming down on us and every individual's going to die.” So, it's pretty easy to imagine that if you don't block that imagination and yet keep on working and good things happen also—a story has to negotiate that emotional balance.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. Do you have a process by which you come to the innovative solutions that people figure out, or how do you brainstorm on stuff like that?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, I read, I talk to scientists, I try to survey the literature, I try to look at what's most germane to the story that I'm trying to write, and then I sort things out, like “Okay, this story needs to know these kinds of things.” Often I don't know those things in enough detail to write. Then I'll sketch out a first draft that's extremely weak, and then I'll see what I really need to know, and then go ask people about it or read up on it. So, I research on a need-to-know basis, story by story. It is true that the cumulative effect of having done Antarctica, the Green Earth trilogy, New York 2140, Aurora, and now Ministry for the Future, means that the research from earlier books actually was really helpful for this work on the most recent books so that it can appear to be extremely knowledgeable as a book.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. This next question touches on the issue of talking to scientists and researchers and keeping up with the literature. For listeners of Resources Radio, you'll know that RFF is predominantly an economics research institution. Economic concepts and economic models come in for some harsh treatment in Ministry for the Future, which was really interesting to read about. Can you talk a little bit about those critiques that you lay out in the book of some of the conventional climate economic modeling that's been done in the past? I'm also wondering how you keep up, particularly on climate economics, which has changed a lot over the last 10 or 20 years or so. Can you just talk about that issue in general?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Sure. Well, I think that Ministry for the Future is extremely respectful of the power of economics. I've been much more critical and dismissive in earlier books, including the Mars trilogy, and plumped for entirely new—and you might say, post-capitalist—future political economies, with a back of the hand to the idea of late capitalism. Well, you can't do that and still stay realistic to the world that we're in, and then suggest solutions to the situation we're in right now. You have to acknowledge that we're in a nation-state system run by a globalist capitalist economy and see what levers there are to escape the mass extinction events.
I've looked at behavioral economics, happiness economics, doughnut economics, and environmental economics, of course, going all the way back to Herman Daly and eco-economics, et cetera. I would say they're all trapped in capitalist realism a little bit too much. They're all useful for my purposes because they are all trying to deal with the present system, but they don't work very hard at imagining the next system.
There's work to be done on the discount rate that I don't find they're being done properly. In other words, the discount rate is set way too high. William Nordhaus got the pseudo-Nobel for setting the discount rate way too high for a viable future. It should maybe even be zero. And then nobody seems to be working on social reproduction: the fact that humans do things for other humans to keep humans alive that capitalism then predates on and is parasitical on. If you didn't have social reproduction, you wouldn't have profits anywhere. Well, where are the economists talking about that? Nancy Fraser criticizes it, but nobody talks about it. And the carbon coin. Of course, this is a new concept that I went into quite deeply in The Ministry for the Future because I think there's some possibilities there for sneaking out of this crisis by a super Keynesian or modern monetary theory-type push on quantitatively easing money that is specifically spent on decarbonizing.
But in short, I think economics is still too neoliberal, too academic, too chickenshit, and it hasn't taken on capitalist realism when we need it in an emergency. It's important: everybody bows to it and it's a giant discipline. And yet, you do not see the Journal of Post-capitalist Economics. There are some think tanks that are working at this stuff, but it's timid stuff compared to what we really need right now. So, as a writer trying to think about this stuff, I read everything I can. I'm still frustrated by the lack of good work in that regard.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, that's interesting. I think on the narrow issue of the discount rate, I think there has been a lot of work on that since the Nordhaus work that you referenced, including at RFF.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Good.
Daniel Raimi: Several of my colleagues have been working hard on discounting and certainly come up with lower numbers than, let's say a 4 percent discount rate. But your critiques are really interesting, and I think they should be heard by climate and environmental economists who are working on this stuff. That lack of imagination is one thing that actually strikes me about environmental economics: I don't know if you've ever attended an environmental or energy economics conference, but one of the things that is so weird is that everybody literally uses the same format for their PowerPoint slides. There's a single program that everybody uses, and everyone uses the same font, the same layout, and the same order. It’s always struck me as really bizarre.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, mutual comprehensibility: you can see how people fall into that, and people only write about the stuff that other people already know about, so you get accepted in the papers and you get understood. This happens in every discipline.
I've been hearing about what you might call “shifting discount rates” in a bell curve so that you start at zero but then in order to avoid infinities in your calculations, over time, you bail out to a slightly higher discount rate. Some people have said the opposite, that it should be that you have a discount rate and then you shade it towards zero as you get further out into the future. I don’t have the technical chops to talk about this, but one thing I find interesting when we're talking economics is that I've been speaking to central bankers who are interested in the carbon coin. Of course, I can say very little except “go for it.”
But the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) is 89 central banks as a giant think tank or exchange of ideas. They have a white paper with nine points for how to green finance—maybe the carbon coin's a symbol for those nine points, maybe not, maybe the carbon coin would be the 10th point, I can't tell. But work's being done.
Also, I have to give a shoutout to Doughnut Economics and Kate Raworth because of the image—you look at Johan Rockström’s planetary boundaries and the outer circle of the doughnut, if I understand it right—but in any case, it's a new image. If you were to graph it on your PowerPoint, you'd have to say, “Wait, what does that mean?”
And Delton Chen in his paper on the carbon coin has some circular, or equivalently new, diagrams to try to rethink the issue. So, I don't want to be dismissive or critical of economics because I do think good work is being done. It's just that having been to COP26, we need more of it. We need more of it fast.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. That's really interesting. I'm actually not familiar with this doughnut economics idea, so, I'll really enjoy looking into that. Before we go on to the next question, which is about COP26, you've referenced the “carbon coin” a few times. Folks who are listening who have not read the book, but I'm sure who will soon go out, pick up the book, and read it probably don't know what you're referring to. So can you explain to us this concept of the carbon coin?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Sure. Part of it comes out of a paper that’s online by Delton Chen and his colleagues, and now he's part of a little think tank devoted to it. The idea is that the central banks—so we're talking fiat money, not cryptocurrency—the central banks would pay a carbon coin for every hundred tons of carbon sequestered out of the atmosphere or kept in the ground. It gets a little loose as to what the definition would be of how you earn a carbon coin, but anybody could earn it, from an individual right up to a nation-state. That way, the central banks would be paying hard cash for people to decarbonize. Some people call it “carbon quantitative easing” in that you would make up a whole lot of new money, as in the quantitative easing of 2008 or 2020, but devote that new money to decarbonization first. It isn't just money to give to the private banks in the usual way. So these are the two parts of the carbon coin.
I will add quickly, because it gets us into very deep waters, that I take it as a logical extension that if you keep carbon in the ground that you might otherwise have burned, you're going to take a huge loss and probably deserve compensation for sequestering carbon. Therefore, we're going to have to pay the petrol states for their lost income. This is a shocking amount of money, and it's a shocking geopolitical reality: you can't have 10 of the strongest countries on earth go into a gigantic depression because they can't burn their stranded asset. They might try it anyway, in which case we're torched in a different manner. So, there's going to have to be a financial or an economic fix to this conundrum of “How do we not burn carbon that people have already borrowed against and used as financial assets and resources and payments for their citizens?”
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, it's true. It's such a big issue. I think one of the really big questions is whether it's more efficient to address it on the supply side or on the demand side or some combination of the two. And the carbon coin, conceptually, I imagine, could be used on either end, but I think it would mostly be relevant to the supply side.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, I think if you drew it down out of the atmosphere so you had direct air capture—it’s kind of expensive—but if you got paid for it by the ton of carbon, suddenly it wouldn't be so expensive because you were getting paid for it, et cetera. It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation where anything should earn you one if you're sequestering carbon. And that would get a technical definition and a monitoring force of people like bond rating agencies, so there would be possibilities for strange corruption and problems, but that’s the way of the world. Once you decide that you're going to pay for doing something, you have to check whether they did it or not.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. And to some extent, we're already there, with net-zero pledges that rely on carbon offsets through forestry and things like that. Those are already a major accounting challenge.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Yes. That's a good point. It'll be very similar to that.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. Well, so let's move on from this topic and ask you about your trip to Glasgow where you recently returned from, you attended COP26. Can you tell us about some of your general thoughts?
Kim Stanley Robinson: I'm still sorting them out. It was overwhelming, and I'm quite confused. In some ways, I was tremendously impressed and encouraged. The process of 190 countries getting together in a room: they were hammering out laws and norms, sentence by sentence and word by word—it's impressive. I was invited by the UK government and given a badge to go into the negotiating sessions themselves. That was by far the best part of COP26: to see the actual work in the room. You couldn't help but love it because of the attention to language and to detail by serious people. So, there was no bullshit involved. There were hard disagreements being disguised under that language having to do mostly with money. I was interested to see that process, too.
For the rest of it, well, the COP system is made up to be a ratcheting system: at each COP, they try to ratchet countries’ promises to make them tighter and tighter to get us closer to that 1.5°C rise in temperature limit. There are two problems. The ratchet is a little too slow because we need it to be done in the next few years to get quite a bit further than the ordinary process would go because 190 countries have to agree. It's a total consensus system, which means any one country can in fact mess things up, and they do. So, it's necessarily slow, and we need it to go fast.
And the other problem is this: it keeps coming back to money where the rich nations really have to give money to the poor nations for adaptation and for clean energy and for clean water, et cetera, et cetera. Nobody wants to give away money. This is one of the ways in which carbon coin might be a little bit of a way out because this wouldn't be someone's money, this would be new money backed by the power of the big central banks like in the United States. And so, in a way you could say, “Yes, you have this $500 billion a year talking to the developing world, or even $2 trillion a year, which is estimated as the necessary price. We just made it up, but we'll back it.” And at that point, you've got an enormous amount of human work. You've got basically full employment in places that are suffering with unemployment to do the necessary mitigation work and clean energy, et cetera. So I see it as a fix, but right now, it's just barely being discussed at this point. It would require a giant amount of mutual trust, which is a little short on the ground.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, absolutely. Well, having spent so much time in those private negotiating sessions, I'm curious what your impressions were not just of the negotiations on the inside, but the atmosphere surrounding it. There are lots of side events and over 10,000 people in attendance. What was the feeling outside of those rooms to you, and how did it contrast with the feeling inside the room?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, it was like a big trade show or Comic Con. It had an entertainment aspect: “If you come into my pavilion, you learn more about this, you learn more about that.” Many of them were quite terrifying to go into, like Francophone Africa, or the places under stress. Some scientists put together a country called the cryosphere, which would be to say all the ice on the planet, including permafrost, and that was absolutely terrifying. It was just like one of those island nations, like the president of the Maldives, who is prominent there. So, a little bit zoo-like. It was overwhelming. You could not possibly see everything that was on display, so you had to stagger around by chance, or make a thoughtful examination of what you might want to learn about. But I suspect it's a little more of the former. You kept your eye on what you wanted to get accomplished, and then the trade show was just, “Well, who did I run to when and where?” It was more like 40,000 people inside, and it was one of the biggest exhibition halls I've ever seen with all kinds of rooms. It had a circus-like atmosphere that was, well, I don't want to be negative because even though it was circus-like, everybody was focused on climate and “we need to do something” or “our country has a solution,” or even “our company has a solution.” Outside the gates of the Blue Zone, which is where all this was happening, there was a Green Zone where there was an informational, educational, entertainment program going on. Very lively, very full of hope, cheer, song, and story.
Outside the gates of both of them were protestors from Glasgow and elsewhere who were wonderful. I think their shouts—like Greta Thunberg's “blah, blah, blah”—it's not the Paris Agreement discussions that are “blah, blah, blah.” Those are “law, law, law,” and they're important. But what I hope she's directing her accusations at is the world leaders, the political representation at the highest levels. Those people have to step out there with some guts, and make commitments, and then hope that their constituencies keep them in office. For them, it must be personally challenging to make that kind of commitment. But that's, I think, what the protestors were mostly protesting about: not against COP, but against world governments that send their representatives to COP.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. That's certainly the impression that I got as well from the media coverage that I saw of some of those protests. Your perceptions are really interesting. We just recently aired an episode with our vice president, Billy Pizer, who was also at COP, and hearing his impressions that are in many ways, similar to yours. One of the themes of Billy's comments was that the side events, the private companies, and the non-state actors, that there was really a lot of action on that front. And in some ways, the bringing together of those communities was, maybe not as significant as the government-to-government negotiations, but certainly very significant.
Kim Stanley Robinson: I would agree with that. I went to several of those meetings myself and they would be on a specific topic. One was new nuclear: can we do a new, safer nuclear and convince people that it's a carbon-neutral, or a low-carbon, burn, compared to fossil fuels or a replacement of empowered energy? They were very enthusiastic to see each other. Another one was a stopping deforestation group, a forest group, completely filled with energy. And then there was one that was a finance group, like, “Can we get private capital to invest in this stuff as—maybe not the highest rate of return in the current rubric, but soon to become the highest or the best or the most reliable—the best way to go long and a solid source of investment?” And so, this is to go into a zone where you have to acknowledge that the ordinary rules of capitalism are going to change in this next decade to the point where they have to be marshaled to this cause.
I think legislation is important in that, but if the groups come together and say, “Let's do this on our own,” because they feel the fear, and they're well-educated people in positions of power and with lots of money, then it's great to see. It’s going to be a public-private combination that solves this problem. It's not going to be a mass government program that takes over everything, although there are some clear signs that that might be the best way to go. But since it's unlikely to happen, you need to include the private sector and get their energy involved.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, I agree. I think that sentiment is being adopted wider and wider every year, especially as government action doesn't get us where we need to go. One question that I really wanted to ask you about, and it relates to a couple of things we've already touched on, is the relationship between art and politics. You're an artist, you're a writer, but you work on topics that have a very clear political valence. You're at these negotiations, you're one of the most highly placed artists to be able to contribute to these discussions, to be informed by them, and have that two-way dialogue. Can you just talk a little bit about how you think about your role as an artist in the political or advocacy process?
Kim Stanley Robinson: Yeah. Yeah. It's a problem for me obviously. I think all art is political, but if you think of music without lyrics or you think about art or abstract paintings or sculpture, it's not so obvious how they're political, although they are. But the novel is quite obviously political because you're choosing a theory of history to write a novel, and a theory of personalities, and all these things are political. And then the science fiction novel—setting things in the future, and then portraying a course of history that gets to that moment—that's obviously political. So, you have got to be aware of that, and you play that game, and still try to make it good on the level of a work of art, the equivalent of a vase, or an abstract sculpture. The balance is sometimes overwhelming for me, but it's obvious it needs to be done.
I look to great predecessors, Bertolt Brecht, and explicitly political writers, and then I try to figure out, “Well, what would my characters say about this?” and try to make up characters that are not like me. I must say that I feel that very strongly that I have a lot of characters that aren't much like me personally, and provide clear space for them and let them speak their minds. And then I have a dialogue or an argument going on, or sometimes even a fighter, a revolution between characters who have their own views and have their own integrity that if you're a reader, you could say, “Well, that character hasn't been turned into a villain,” just because he holds these particular political beliefs that look to be in contradiction, perhaps to the political beliefs of the author of the book, or of the novel as a whole thing taken that way. So, as I say, it is a tough balance to hold to and to make lively and real. But I have done my best, and I feel like these novels are indeed novels.
When people ask me to comment on things like economics because I wrote a novel about it, this is somewhat of a category error. I am a novelist. So I say, “Well, my book knows more than I do. I studied for it like a test. I took the test, I walk away, please teach me more.” And that I've learned, is the best answer. If the book pleased them or convinced them while reading it, and they have comments and they want to talk about it, then I don't try to say anymore. I try to ask them, what did they notice? What was problematic? If I were to do it again, what would I do to make it more granular, or more real to the real situation that you know of? And, of course, people will go on forever on that topic. And I am let off the hook.
Daniel Raimi: That's such a great answer. It's so interesting to hear about how you think about all this stuff. We're getting near the end of our time, but I want to ask you one more question before we go to our Top of the Stack segment, which is a big picture question. We started off this conversation by talking about optimism and pessimism or fear. As you look back over your career, how has your own perspective changed? Have you become more or less optimistic about society at large and about our ability to address environmental problems? I know that's an enormous question, and maybe it's not really answerable, but I'm curious about your reaction to it.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, it is hard to answer that one. I began my career in the midst of what felt like an acute nuclear crisis in that the world could go up in smoke in a nuclear war any day—I'm talking about the late 1970s, early 1980s. As a leftist from the 1960s and 1970s, the neoliberal turn was a gigantic shock and slap in the face. Although the nuclear threat seemed to subside, we also entered a period of mass inequality and destruction of the biosphere for the sake of short-term profits for just the richest among us. So, it's been like an ongoing catastrophe.
Now that we're here, the push has come to shove. It can't go on, and what can't go on won't go on. So, this is the thing: big changes are coming because the current order can't go on the way it's going. There are some elements of hope in that, you can think, “Well, the changes, if we were to negotiate a settlement, if we were to legislate a revolution without the violence of a revolution by way of being smart and negotiating our way there—which, many people think is quite possible, if we would just pay attention to the dangers and the opportunities—then we might rather quickly get to a new structure of feeling, a new political economy. People 10 years from now might look back at this as a precursor moment to a decade of mass change. Now, it didn't feel that way in the early 1990s, for instance. So, in that sense, I'm more hopeful than ever. But it's partly because the situation has become more and more dangerous. It's as dangerous as it's ever been in my life, where I'm trembling on the brink of a mass extinction event. That’s the thing that can't be recovered from—such as extinctions of other species, which we cannot come back from those even if we were to get our act together as a human species. We've done an irrevocably bad thing. So, dodging mass extinction as a principle for action is something that I've been promoting as well because we're very close.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, and your work is such a great way for us to imagine some of those different futures and is also a really fantastic encapsulation of the danger we face and the types of steps we need to take to overcome them. I just really appreciate you coming on the show today, and I really appreciate all of your work.
Now we want to ask you the last question we ask all of your guests, which is to recommend something related to the environment, even if it's a little tangential that you think is really great. So what's at the top of your literal or metaphorical reading stack?
Kim Stanley Robinson: At the top—and it is tangential—but I think very relevant to the crisis we're in, is The Price of Peace by Zachary Carter. Now, this is a biography of John Maynard Keynes, but when Keynes dies, it goes on for a couple hundred more pages. It's a biography of Keynes as a set of ideas. Given the moment that we're in right now, I think the history of Keynes—that he was ignored after World War I and his suggestions as to what to do with Germany, and so we got the Depression and we got World War II. Then, he was paid attention to by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s team in the Depression and postwar, to a certain extent, at Bretton Woods—and so, we got a better order than we would've otherwise. The book goes into quite impressive granular detail on this. The lessons in it, for us now, I feel are really immediate. You can take that book and look at the situation now and go, yeah, we need a Keynesian solution, we need a stimulus from the government, we need, perhaps, private finance to be seized by the government to be pointed in the right directions to get us out of this fix, so on and so forth. So, I think that would be the book I'd put on the list.
Daniel Raimi: Great. Well, thank you so much for that recommendation and for coming on the show with us today and for your work. Kim Stanley Robinson, his most recent book is The Ministry for the Future. Once again, thank you so much, Stan, for joining us today on the show.
Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, thank you, Daniel. It's been a pleasure.
Daniel Raimi: You’ve been listening to Resources Radio. Learn how to support Resources for the Future at rff.org/support. If you have a minute, we'd really appreciate you leaving us a rating or a comment on your podcast platform of choice. Also, feel free to send us your suggestions for future episodes. Resources Radio is a podcast from Resources for the Future.
RFF is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Our mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. The views expressed on this podcast are solely those of the podcast guests and may differ from those of RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals. Resources Radio is produced by Elizabeth Wason with music by me, Daniel Raimi. Join us next week for another episode.