Act: Inspiration

What Could Possibly Go Right?: Episode 32 Kim Stanley Robinson

March 23, 2021

Show Notes

New York Times best-selling author Kim Stanley Robinson joins host Vicki Robin this week. Widely recognized as one of the foremost living writers of science fiction, Robinson is the author of more than twenty books, including The Ministry For The Future, the best-selling Mars trilogy, and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and 2312. In 2008, he was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine.

From his perspective as a utopian science fiction writer, he answers the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:

  • That science fiction, literature, and arts have “become a kind of a necessary tool of thought for thinking our way forward”.
  • The value of the Paris Agreement in ensuring the rights of future people and all living beings to a livable world.
  • The risk of reaching wet-bulb temperature levels where a high enough heat and humidity combination is fatal to humans.
  • That we do have enormous scientific and technological powers, but our inaction comes down to matters of capitalism and pursuit of monetary profit. “We’re in an economic system that will not pay us to do the right things.”
  • The idea of carbon coins and carbon quantitative easing for positive impact.
  • The benefits of significantly increasing the world’s land surface left to animals.


  • Book: The Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Book: Half Earth by E. O. Wilson
  • Book: How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire by Andreas Malm

Connect with Kim Stanley Robinson



Kim Stanley Robinson  

Although we’re in a dangerous moment, doomism is not appropriate. We can make a good future. That’s still within our technical and political powers, we just have to tighten our gut and get out there and keep punching at it.

Vicki Robin  

Hi, Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right?, a project of the Post Carbon Institute. Today I have such a privilege of speaking with the author of one of the most important books, in my humble opinion, in the field of sustainability, “The Ministry For The Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson. He drives his novel through a wide range of forces and threats and opportunities, good ideas and dark possibilities that make up our situation here on earth today. He maps one course through it through his novel, and a pretty believable course through it, about how we might squeak through as a civilization towards surviving and turning the corner, turning the tide by around 2050. It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It’s not without massive dislocation, but he insists on positing mitigations that can still work. The field of future predictions goes from adaptation to what we cannot change, mitigation to what we can change, and basically denial, like not even getting on the screen. It sounds a little bit like AA but he insists that we still have time, and we can’t give up on doing the right thing, and in breaking through the many psychological, social institutional barriers to doing what we know is right, but seems impossible.

So as you can tell, I’m a bit of a fangirl, but I got over it enough that we had a substantive conversation about the many threads in his book and where he sees them emerging today. That’s the important thing. He really made a case for not directly arguing for but he convinced me that every meeting for the future needs a storyteller in the midst; needs somebody who can paint the picture of the future that inspires the work, that actually is the hard work that’s being done by policymakers and decision makers, which tends to be pretty boring stuff when you try to dive into it. I really think him as a storyteller is a huge contribution.

So anyway, a little bit about him. He’s an American novelist. He’s widely recognised as one of the foremost living writers of science fiction. He began publishing novels in 1984. He’s published 19 novels and numerous short stories and is best known for the Mars trilogy. His work has been translated into 24 languages, and many of his novels and stories have ecological, cultural and political themes, and feature scientists, his heroes. His wife is a scientist so he knows them up close and personal. He’s won numerous awards, including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. Robinson’s work has been labelled by The Atlantic as the gold standard of realistic and highly literary science fiction writing. According to an article in The New Yorker, Robinson is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science fiction writers. His work has been described as humanist science fiction, and literary science fiction. Robinson himself has been a proud defender, an advocate of science fiction as a genre, which he regarded as one of the most powerful of all literary forms. I think you’re really going to enjoy this conversation.

Vicki Robin  

Welcome so much to What Could Possibly Go Right, Stan, and I really appreciate you agreeing to talk with us in this context of this podcast. I’ll just say your book starts with an overwhelming crisis and a small doorway to solutions. There’s a deadly heatwave in India and a newly formed UN Ministry authorized by the Paris Climate Accord that represents the rights of future people and all living beings to a livable world. One of the things I love is that throughout the book, we watch so many of the threads that are alive now; policies and protests, eco-terrorism, economics, lifestyle change, geoengineering, and more that just ping pong through time, all somehow muddling toward a shift adequate to avert collapse. You weave in explanations of psychology and social psychology and you give voice to the sun. It’s like almost everybody has a role in this story. And it’s, in fact, the story we’re living, that everybody does have a role.

The other thing I love is that you don’t assume they are better angels save the day. You just assume we’re who we are and somehow or another we muddle toward this livable future. So in this past year with the pandemic and anti-racist and anti-colonial movements, growing wealth gap, terrible politics, the whole story, has shaken up our certainties and our assumptions. People are scanning now for meaning and direction, and the purpose of our podcast really is to provide people who care with voices of people who thought deeply about these issues to help us all orient. Anyway, here we are, and getting around to my basic question, Stan, which is: In the face of all that is going wrong, what do you see could possibly go right?

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Kim Stanley Robinson  

Well, thank you for this, Vicki. I appreciate the opportunity to speak and especially about the things that might go right if we did them, because I really have spent my working career as a utopian science fiction writer. I’ve conceptualized it that way. I came at it from many different angles, going back about 30 years now and inspired by my teacher and friend Ursula Gwynn, who was the great utopian novelist in the generation before me, and my colleague from Scotland, Ian Banks. It’s a rather small crowd of people doing utopian science fiction. Now, it’s become a kind of a necessary tool of thought for thinking our way forward, so that if you try to decide what things we need to do now, as individuals and as a society, it helps a lot to have an image of what we’re aiming for, and what’s possible. So I’ve been doing that for a long time.

But now, I think that combined awareness of dangers coming from climate change and global warming and habitat destruction, and then also the pandemic as a slap to the face, and a realization that we are in a one planet civilization, that the biosphere matters, that things can go wrong fast, and that it’s a delicate balancing act, a coordinated set of technologies and social systems, all working together in an improvisational way that isn’t really super well-guided by any kind of, quote, world government or world coordination. We do have the UN and I want to say that amongst the inspirations for me in writing this latest book of mine, and just the latest try at this effort, The Ministry For The Future, the Paris Agreement that was signed at the congress of parties meeting in Paris in 2015, was a monumental achievement and a major event in world history because it sets up the platform for us to discuss how to go forward in dealing with all these crises. So I decided to base my novel around the Paris Agreement as an organizing principle, and an international agency. Then I also began to take on board the news that we can’t let the Earth’s temperature get very much higher than it is now, without creating deadly heat waves. This so called wet-bulb temperature, wet-bulb 35, it’s a heat index. It’s a combination of absolute heat and humidity. When you get to a high enough heat and humidity combination, it’s simply fatal to humans who aren’t in air conditioning. This is somewhat new, I don’t think you could go back into the Wayback Machine more than about five or seven years, and people weren’t talking about this. Quite a few intellectuals or humanities people, economists, were all talking about adaptation, that we’re simply not going to be able to hold to the 1.5 C limit, or even the 2 C limit, we’re gonna shoot by that. And humans are tough, humans are adaptable, will simply adapt, we’ll do what we need to do. They didn’t realize that in fact, we can’t adapt to certain temperatures that were very close to right now.

So there’s two things going on. We’re in an emergency situation, a decade where it’s an all hands on deck type situation. Then on the other hand, we have this organization, we have this platform structured agreement, the Paris Agreement, that has the right to set up standing committees. So I have them set up a standing committee in The Ministry For The Future, and my novel’s organized around that. So that’s the setup, and then looking at the largest problem that I could see in getting in the way of us dealing successfully with this issue, because we do have enormous scientific powers. We have technological powers. Probably, civilization is more powerful now than it has ever been by magnitudes. But we’re still not succeeding in decarbonizing fast enough. So what’s the problem there? Well, I decided that it’s basically simply a matter of money, of economics, that the way that neoliberal capitalism, which is the world order right now, it’s the economic system of this world, and even China and Cuba are part of neoliberal capitalism; it rewards itself by way of profit and shareholder value. But that means profit in a different way. Profit is another index, that indicates that you’ve pulled out more value than you’ve put back. And it’s okay to exploit people, it’s okay to exploit the biosphere in non sustainable ways. If you can make a profit, it’s good. And that’s really like the one rule that rules us all, the one rule that binds us. In that system, capital always goes to the highest rate of return. And the highest rate of return could be anything, but capital will not go elsewhere. So that if there was something destructive that gave you an 8% return on your investment, and there was something actually quite beneficial to the biosphere, and to people of the future, that only gave you a 6% return on your investment, the money would go to the 8%. It’s an algorithm. It’s not a law of nature, but it’s a law of the currently running civilization, right?

So therefore, we’re kind of doomed, because we’re in an economic system that will not pay us to do the right things. So that being identified, I think… And I don’t think this is controversial particularly. It’s not an original diagnosis to me, I am more reporter than I am an original thinker, but I saw that this was a compelling argument, that we’re in terrible trouble. Then I thought, well, you can’t just revise all the rules of civilization in the next five years when you need to do it. So what in the currently existing system could be turned to use and overwhelm that one simple algorithm of profit. And there I came to quantitative easing, and again, I’m just reporting what a certain small slice of the political economy world of economics and political economy has been testing out ideas of their own and ferociously discussing them amongst themselves. But what we’ve all seen is that quantitative easing in 2008, after the big crash in real estate, and then last year with the pandemic, and then last week, with the giant bill from the US Congress, and the same things had been going on in the European Union, is the creation of new money. And what’s interesting about it is when you add the word carbon quantitative easing, is that the new money is specifically designated, like an earmark in Congress, specifically designated for decarbonization work first. After that, you’ve spent it on good things and it flows out into the economy like any other money. It’s a medium of exchange, of storage of value. But the first spending of it created by governments – I should add here, because it’s really important to say this is not a cryptocurrency. This is not a private currency like Bitcoin, which is basically a scam and, in fact, a horror movie of a scam in that it burns a whole lot of carbon to make something that’s basically as valuable as tulips. In other words, it’s just a speculative bubble.

But I’m talking about fiat money, which is to say money created by governments and backed by the central banks. So if the central banks were to get together and to say we are going to create, like this year’s bill, a couple of trillion dollars every year, that go directly in to decarbonization work and pays for the necessary things that would save us from these wet-bulb temperatures, the things that would begin to lower the temperature, suck carbon out of the atmosphere. And also stop us from burning more carbon by way of fossil fuels, and even fossil fuels themselves would have to be regarded as a kind of a stranded asset, and the nations in control of fossil fuels of which we’re one and there’s about 10, or a dozen major petro states that need to know that their finances are not going to be ruined by keeping that carbon in the ground, because they’ve already loaned off of it, they’ve already borrowed off of it. So the financial arrangements resemble what John Maynard Keynes had to do after World War One, and it’s after the depression, and after World War Two, is to begin to use the powers of government to back money to be spent to do the right things. We know what the right things are. So it’s really a matter of paying for them.

Vicki Robin  

Yeah, you know, I’m not brilliant either. But I mean, I’ve been trying to go upstream and the problems that we have, to find the spring from which flows all the things we struggle with, and of course, it is the design of money and shareholder value. I don’t know if you did any research on me, but I’m the co-author of a very popular book called Your Money Or Your Life, which really teaches people frugality in service to self-liberation from the work and spend hamster wheel. But the system is still soaked in capitalism. All we’re doing is teaching people to be better capitalists, and capitalists who know how much is enough and value something other than money and stuff. So I’m watching in that community, people grapple with the dicta of Your Money Or Your Life, which is get the maximum return so you can retire early. And the dicta of social responsibility, which is put your money, put every financial transaction in service to the things that you think are good, true and beautiful. You know, it’s a conundrum. So I was very attuned to how you centralized this carbon coin and basically invented a system that rewards the proper behavior. So I have two questions about that. One is, a friend of mine, who’s also been a longtime sustainability buff, a leader, observed that a very small percentage of that $1.9 trillion is going to anything that you could call green. So we’ve just bet the farm on this huge stimulus without any push towards doing the right thing. I mean, it’s doing the right thing by justice somewhat. I mean, there’s many right things in that bill. But it doesn’t drive us in the right direction. So I’m curious about where you see this idea of carbon quantitative easing actually coming into being? What’s sprouting that we could cooperate with? 

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Well, I want to say that I know about your project, and it is not being a better capitalist, but really being an anti-capitalist, because capital is all about growth and more, and then your project was about enough is better than more, because life matters more than making money, which is an index of a good life that doesn’t actually work very well. This problem of the index, where you put many factors into one number and pretended that one number properly represents all the many factors, is one of the technical problems that we have that we’re not addressing in economics. But your argument that enough is as good as a feast, as the old saying goes, one of my favorite sayings, and indeed enough is better than a feast because a feast makes you sick; well, this is a powerful argument. I would also say that although the reason $1.9 trillion dollars, let’s call it $2 trillion, I don’t know why they didn’t just round up.

Vicki Robin  

It’s like 99 cents versus $1, just to get people to buy it.

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Yeah, $2 trillion. Well, poverty reduction is indeed green work and justice at the same time. So there is some great stuff in the earmarking of that particular bill. But on the other hand, it resembles the earlier quantitative easing in that it’s a way to keep the economy liquid. It’s a way to keep people out of bankruptcy. So the fact that it did as much as it did to reduce poverty, and especially child poverty, is actually you can call that a kind of green work. So it’s a great bill. However, it’s true what you also pointed out, or your colleagues. There’s more to be done. Bloomberg Green has a good article about how so much of the quantitative easing since the pandemic hit has not actually been targeted to building better as Biden used to call it in the campaign. We haven’t built back better at anywhere near as much as we could have, and that’s a bad sign. It’s been a little bit too much business as usual.

But this is why one has to talk about carbon quantitative easing and the banks, the central bankers, and I’m talking about Christine Lagarde and Powell, the Head of the Fed, the President of the World Bank. I’ve seen a hopeful sign here. They have all begun to wave their hands and say, Look, we’re central banks, we’re here to stabilize the value of money. That’s our one goal, along with helping unemployment as a subsidiary of that. We are here to stabilize money for you. But we see that if you told us to create money to be spent on decarbonizing projects, we could do it. So the invitation is out there from the central bankers in a recent set of speeches that has come out since the pandemic, but even in the second half of 2020. I found this surprising. In my novel, I have my Minister for the Future pound on the central banks for 5 or 10 years to get them to agree to this. And yet here we’re already seen.

So this was an enormously hopeful sign to me. We do need to pick up on what they’re saying. The idea of the carbon coin is somewhat typical, but it’s a way of creating a carrot for us, as well as the various sticks of carbon taxes and the like. If you don’t burn a ton of carbon, you get one carbon coin. If you pull a ton of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, you’re rewarded with a carbon coin. And that could be by the way that you run your agriculture, for instance. There are already, regenerative agriculture pulls carbon down into the soil. I mean, that has a diminishing set of returns as your soil gets healthier and healthier. But there’s a lot of room for a carbon coin. And then there’s also artificial means. I’ve been looking since I finished my book into direct air capture, an industrial process for dragging CO2 out of the air and then pumping it back underground. This makes the oil companies have something useful to do, because we’re really talking about billions of ton of useless frozen ice, dry ice, frozen CO2 pumped back down into the ground. Well, that is not the highest rate of return; that would be something that you would need to be rewarded for by the central banks. So it’d be real money, the carbon coin, that would be tradable on the markets. This is the kind of the technical financial aspects of the carbon coin idea in my novel. And again, I didn’t invent it. I pulled it out of the literature that’s speculative right now. But it’s been read; this idea is getting traction. 

Vicki Robin  

It’s fabulous. What other ideas do you see from your book that are getting traction now? 

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Well, there’s one that I wanted to bring up, so thanks for that, which is the idea of leaving a lot of the land surface of the Earth to the wild animals. E.O. Wilson had a book called Half Earth, and he proposed that half of the land surface and half of the oceans be simply left empty of humans. It was aspirational, and it was also a kind of charismatic mega idea. Everybody thought, Well, you know, he’s over 90 years old, he’s obviously become a philosopher and become too idealistic. That’ll never happen. 10 years later, after the publication of that book, the European Union and the Biden administration and other organizations have talked about, we need to leave 30% of the land empty of humans to let animals do their thing. 30% right now. I guess I’ve read that about 15 to 20% of the land surface of the Earth is in a protected wilderness status of one sort or another. So it’s a big jump in that, but also humans are moving to the city and agriculture is changing fast. So in that combination of people naturally moving to cities, and in agricultural changing from a kind of industrial roboticized process to something that’s more community based and more sustainable, less fossil fuel driven and less fossil fuel fertilized.

In all these processes, you get to a situation where habitat corridors for wildlife are going to help us to avoid a mass extinction event, which we’re trembling on the brink of, and which would be a devastation that the future generations that humans could never recover from. So I’m loving that. There’s a Y2Y corridor, Yukon to Yellowstone; and of course, this is the Canadian Rockies, it’s easy to do their habitat corridors where wildlife can just move freely. They’re talking now about Y2T, Yukon to Tierra del Fuego, that the whole spine of the Americas becomes a gigantic habitat corridor and wild animals are allowed to survive because there’s so much on the brink of extinction across the board.

So when I saw those announcements, and I saw that Europe has got a gigantic rewilding Europe project where they’re doing everything they can to bring wild animals back into Europe. And big, big stretches of Europe, Western Europe, are being abandoned by people who go to the cities because they can’t make a living in the tiny villages that were in the centre of Poland or the centre of Spain, etc. in the Balkans. This is quite a wild continent in its topography. It’s easy to make habitat once you focus on it. When I see that that’s happening, too, as part of a green project as something that you would get your carbon coin, you would definitely be paid a lot of carbon coins for making habitat corridors because it would be creating carbon sinks at the same time that you’d be saving wildlife. So I’ve seen that happening. I’m kind of amazed. And there’s actually been people have read my book The Ministry For The Future. Many people say, Oh, so optimistic, so utopian. Other people have said to me, Why do you have these things happening in the 2030s, or the 2040s? They are happening now. And that’s been usually encouraging to me.

Vicki Robin  

That is fabulous. I’m going to break my own boundary and I’m going to go a little extra time, because these two things. There were two elements to the book that seemed necessary, in addition to the two that you singled out. And one was the geoengineering of the Arctic ice, and stopping the flow, because as you pointed out in the book, so goes the ice, so goes the planet. That seemed to be a linchpin that you portrayed as successful that really is one of the save the days things. Then another is the eco-terrorism, and you sort of layer in a little bit that the ministry itself has this black wing that’s maybe engaged in that, but you have the children of Kali. And I think we see that happening now, in a sort of encoded way, whether it’s the storming of the Capitol, or whether it’s the alt right or Antifa. There are people who are going on the street saying this whole system is wrong, and we have to stop it. That seemed to be the crash day where all the planes fell out of the air, many of them. That seemed to be another crucial shock, and so I just would love to hear your thoughts about the necessity of those two elements in creating enough space for the carbon coin negotiation.

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Yeah, well, I’ll go backwards order, and I’ll be brief. The eco-terrorism thing I hope we can avoid. I don’t want to imply by my book that it’s necessary. What I would say is if we don’t come to grips with these problems now, then 10 years from now, there’s going to be so much suffering, that people are going to be stupendously angry and there will be violence, right? It would be a good outcome if it were as targeted and asymmetrical and smart and effective as the violence that I portray in my novel, which is of a kind of a mission impossible, hit the right nerves of the rich and they will give up their ill-gotten gains type story, but also just in Kuwait, spasms of angry violence that don’t actually accomplish very much. That’s much more common. And we’ll see that if we don’t deal. So that’s what I wanted to point out in my novel. Not that we need it, but that if we don’t cope, well, we’re going to see it anyway and it’s going to be ugly.

I don’t want to be in support of violence against other humans. I’m interested in civil resistance, I’m interested in disobedience, I’m interested even in sabotage, the destruction of destructive machinery. There’s a good book by Andreas Malm called How to Blow Up a Pipeline. And it’s not a technical guide. It’s about the philosophy of how do you resist destructive technologies that we know we can supersede already, but it’s in the interest of certain private parties or quite wealthy to keep using these destructive technologies? Well, should we stop that outright, physically? This is an open question. Let me leave that one, because that’s like the depths of an endless philosophical, painful discussion that we do need to have. I’m glad you brought it up.

Then the geoengineering is a very speculative hopeful thing on my part. I grew up on the beaches of Southern California, I love beach culture, and the beaches are doomed, because of sea level rise that the heat that we’ve already put into the earth system is melting enough ice that sea levels are gonna rise inevitably, and you only need about a metre sea level rise and all the beaches in the world, of the entire earth, will all be underwater and gone along with their cultures and along with their biomes. The biosphere at the shoreline is incredibly rich, and it will be endangered in a bad way. So I’ve spent two seasons in Antarctica, widely separated. Once in 95. Once in 2016. I love it there. And everybody who goes down there – well, I shouldn’t say everybody, but a lot of them – love it with an inexplicable love, which I think has to do something with loving small town life. But also the place is beautiful. So a glaciologist said to me, We have a technology for draining water out from the underside of glaciers. And glaciers don’t melt in the air, they slide into the sea, and they melt in the ocean, at least in Antarctica, which is really the big player in this question. They said, if we were to suck the water out from the bottom of glaciers, where it’s basically melting a little at the top, sliding down holes in the ice to the bottom, and then lubricating the motion, the gravity assisted motion of ice into the sea, you pull out that water on the bottom, it’s like turning a waterslide into a dry cliff bottom or a canyon bottom and ice slows back down to its original speed. I said, Well, why haven’t you written this up? And they all looked at me like I was a fool and said, We don’t want to become geoengineers. We don’t want rocks thrown through our windows and death threats in our email. We just want to do glaciology. So you write it up. So I did. Now I vetted it with other glaciologists that hadn’t given me the idea. And they said, Yeah, that could work in a canyon bottom. It might not work on this side of a plane, some ice in Antarctica simply sliding sideways down into the ocean, on a front that is sometimes maybe 100 miles wide. They said, There, you might not be able to stop that slide. But if you had a canyon based glacier, like you have in Greenland all over and where you often have in Antarctica; they said, Yeah, that should work. And it would be easy to test it and find out and we have the technology already, because drilling through ice is amazingly simple compared to drilling through Earth. So that’s why I ran with the glacier plan.

Vicki Robin  

Well, thank you very much. I was very glad you did.

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Yeah, I hope that works.

Vicki Robin  

So finally, my one final question, and I promise it is final to the people who are listening, because we try to keep this short so that it’s just one set of dishes being done that they can get something really beautiful into their minds. So this, as Ezra Klein said, it was the most important book he read, and it’s on Barack Obama’s list. So are you being approached by politicians, economists? Are you being approached by decision makers, to help them think through how to sell the interventions that we must have, to sell what we must, you know what I mean? How can a storyteller… It seems like storytellers actually put a stake out into the future, that policymakers can actually orient towards. So is that happening? Are people coming to you?

Kim Stanley Robinson  

Yes, yes, it’s definitely happening. And partly, it’s this Zoom world. I can join a conference in DC or anywhere by way of Zoom. What I think policymakers are seeing is that they need the arts, so that they need to change the society and our culture’s structure of feeling in the way that you were doing in your book on realizing that enough is better than capitalist growth of money. That is a change in one structure of feeling. And it’s the arts, it’s a culture that creates that change in structure. So say we already have the policies, we already have the technologies, but we’re not paying for it. And we don’t even have the understanding that we need to pay for it. Well, that understanding is crucial. As I say, my book seems to fill the need that is not being filled adequately yet. There’s not a whole lot of utopian science fiction about us successfully coping with climate change. There just isn’t. And there will be more; there are young science fiction writers who are gung-ho to explore this. Now I’m kind of like the grandfather of a movement, which is great, because I think it’s important and no one artist can do more than one artist can do, which is really not that much. So yes, I’m getting calls, I’m doing conferences.

But what I often have to say is, look, I exist as a person, but my book, it’s already there. In other words, The Ministry For The Future is my contribution. I can explicate it, but I can’t really expand on it. I can hope that people read it, but I can’t make them read it. So in a way, it’s like a Potemkin village. You know, people come to me thinking there’s a real town there. In fact, it’s like a movie front. But I don’t want to, I don’t mean to make excuses or anything. I will say that my book is my contribution, and I’m happy to have made it and I’m very happy, and I want to thank you too that it’s been read and discussed in a way that is unique in my career. I have never had a response to a book like I’ve had to this one. It’s partly the title. It’s partly the content. It’s partly the pandemic, and the situation that we’re in right now all combining. I just think people needed a story like this one, and so I’ve already done it from my own perspective. I’ve got nothing more to say. But I’m very happy to encourage the process. And that’s what I think is going to be happening from now on, is just trying to alert to culture to the fact that although we’re in a dangerous moment, doomism is not appropriate, that we can make a good future, that’s still within our technical and political powers. We just have to tighten our gut and get out there and keep punching at it.

Vicki Robin  

Well, that’s a very inspirational wind up and even my cat likes it. So, thank you so, so much for this conversation. I could go on and on and on. And on and on with you. I think that it’s going to really help the people who listen to it. So thank you.

Kim Stanley Robinson  

My pleasure. And I’m loving the sight of your cat there, and the sound. So we have two cats that I have to keep out of the room because it gets a little too raucous. Thank you for this and I look forward to going forward together.


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Vicki Robin

Vicki Robin is a prolific social innovator, writer, speaker, and host of the What Could Possibly Go Right? podcast. She is coauthor with Joe Dominguez of the international best-seller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Viking Penguin, 1992, 1998, 2008, 2018). And author of Blessing the Hands that Feed Us; Lessons from a 10-mile diet (Viking Penguin, 2013), which recounts her adventures in hyper-local eating and what she learned about food, farming, belonging, and hope. Vicki has lectured widely and appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning America,” and National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition” and “Morning Edition.” She has also been featured in hundreds of magazines including People Magazine, AARP, The Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day, Newsweek, Utne Magazine, and the New York Times. She currently lives on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound and is active in her community on a range of social and environmental issues including affordable housing, local food, and community investing. For fun, she is a comedy improv actress, sings in a choir, gardens, and nurtures a diverse circle of friends.

Tags: building resilient societies, climate change responses, cultural stories, science fiction