The first talk in the Davis Climate Speaker Series 2021 drew a record number of registrations of nearly 400 admirers eager to hear about Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel. Long-time Davis science fiction and climate fiction writer, Kim Stanley Robinson offered the mostly home-town audience of nearly 300 folks his astute comments on his latest book, The Ministry for the Future. Another 100 registered and no doubt plan to listen to the Cool Davis YouTube recording (scroll to bottom for link). The engaging Q&A that followed Stan’s comments included the author’s responses to 24 wide-ranging questions, leaving another 43 questions waiting for another time.

City councilman Lucas Frerichs introduced his long-time friend and favorite author. “Kim Stanley Robinson’s climate fiction explores the urgent threat of climate change and the loss of biodiversity on Earth. His writing encompasses how to understand and transform society’s dangerous trajectory toward climate chaos. As Stan says, ‘We’re in a science fiction novel now, which we are all co-writing together.’ ”

We are paying ourselves for doing the wrong things

Robinson spoke for 25 minutes. He began this novel once he faced the truth of our situation on Earth in earnest. He became genuinely scared that we could actually hit temperatures we humans literally can’t survive.

He created a novel to expose the truth of our plight. The burning of fossil fuels is tied to how companies want to make money by burning all the reserves they have. We can only afford to burn 500 gigatons more, yet oil companies have discovered 3,500 gigatons of fossil fuels which they “deserve” to burn! This is the story of the next 30 years!

Simultaneously, we are in a period of mass extinction and in a state of global capitalism, which doesn’t give nature much of a chance.

Robinson explained, “we have already invented what we need for infrastructure: clean energy and carbon neutrality. But we haven’t invented the political and economic systems that will pay for them. Instead, we are paying ourselves for doing the wrong things that are destroying us.”

Robinson decided it was really important to emphasize the politics and the economics of the problem. In his book, he explores political, economic systems that pay us as a civilization to do the right things well, to create sustainability and justice. Stan describes a return to Keynesian theory, like during the Great Depression. He takes the novel farther into post capitalism and explores EO Wilson’s idea of half Earth to preserve biodiversity.

Kim Stanley Robinson capture from YouTube video Feb 26, 2021.

Student speaker inspired elders

Megan Phelps, a senior honors student in Environmental Science and Management at UC Davis spoke eloquently. “People wonder what they can do to change the path of climate change. I believe that the most important thing a person can do is whatever helps them remember that right now, in this crucial time, they are alive.”

Megan continued: “That means writing and painting and getting our hands in the dirt to grow our own food; embracing laughter and creating community. It means demanding change: demanding that we decarbonize our energy system, electrify transportation, improve cement materials, increase family planning, and educate people. We must end wars, stop fighting, and move from a system of extraction to a system of care. It means speaking the truth, talking to our friends, marching in the streets, running for office, divesting, ending our insatiable consumption, and challenging the values that got us here.

I am organizing a youth climate fellowship program in my hometown of San Diego, where youth just passed a resolution against fracking through their school district. I am part of a UC Green new Deal Campaign—we are demanding that the UC confronts its carbon footprint, teaches on the climate crisis, and addresses injustice in the process. I am biking and walking, eating mostly plants, and not buying from Amazon! And, I am watching sunsets, drinking water, trying to get enough sleep, and laughing with my family,

We must do all we can do to protect our futures. All we can do is celebrate the world we have and create the future we want…by living it.”

Megan Phelps capture from YouTube video Feb 26, 2021.

Questions were numerous and wide ranging

Here are some of the thought-provoking questions Robinson fielded:

Among the aspects of your books that I’ve really enjoyed, and that I’m also curious about, is how your writing speaks of an incredible confidence in engineers and scientists, in people, to meet challenges whether they be construction materials, science, robotics, geology, terraforming, atmospheric engineering, molecular biology, or politics. Can you speak to whether the adversity of recent years has challenged or confirmed your outlook?

The recent polar vortex event in Texas seemed eerily similar to the opening sequence in The Ministry for the Future. Do you think that this could be the precipitating event for significant changes in US energy infrastructure and policy?

How do we begin to convince doubters that climate change is real? Every time there is a strong cold spell it gets them all claiming that it disproves global warming. It seems if we can’t move the public dialog, then it will be hard to get consensus to make actual change.

In The Ministry of [sic] the Future, you mention regenerative agriculture. Is that something we could do in and around Davis, do you think? Or are there other actions that you think we should be taking locally?

How important is it to reduce air travel in the larger struggle to reduce carbon emissions and create a sustainable society? Do you have your eye on other technologies that could replace air travel?

There will clearly be climate refugees (already are). What do you envision will happen with the throngs of people seeking refuge in a world scared of immigration?

Project Drawdown ranks the effectiveness of various actions we can take. Highest on the list that an individual can do is eating a plant-based diet. What are your thoughts on this?

Local bookstore partners with event

The Avid Reader Bookstore reports sales are up for Robinson’s novel at the bookstore where a limited number of signed bookplates are available with each purchase of The Ministry for the Future.

Watch for the formation of a reading group for The Ministry for the Future to be announced soon. Loaner copies of the book will be available.

The Climate Speaker Series is organized by Cool Davis, Friends Meeting House, and Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice. This initial talk is followed by three more talks this spring. Cool Davis continues to celebrate its 10th year with a mission to inspire the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate, and improve the quality of life for all.

Next steps

  • Sign up with Cool Davis to receive news and information about future opportunities and events.
  • Explore our Cool Solutions at to make your sustainable living plan.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel at
  • Like us on social media @cooldaviscity
  • Listen to the video recording of “Kim Stanley Robinson Speaks” at
  • Join Cool Davis, Friends Meeting House, and Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice for the following speakers in our Davis Climate Speaker Series 2021:

Mark Reiff – Climate Change and Capitalism – Tuesday, March 23

Hugh Safford – Fire Trends in California – Thursday, April 29

Ermias Kebreab – The Green Moo Deal Thursday, May 13

Lynne Nittler is a local activist and lifelong environmentalist. She was a founding member of Cool Davis and served as the board Secretary for eight years. She continues as a contributing writer and active collaborator in her role with the Yolo Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice, a Cool Davis working group which sponsors many community climate events. She played a significant role in stopping twice-daily, 100-car trains of explosive tar sands oil from Canada coming through Nor. CA to the Bay Area refineries in 2014-16, regularly organizes and/or attends protests at the capitol and in town, sings with the Davis Raging Grannies, organized eight Interfaith Climate Summits and innumerable evening speakers, films, concerts, reading and discussion groups, assisted youth in the 2019 Youth Climate Strike, and is currently active with Fossil Free California, among her many passionate efforts to stem the tide of climate change.