The Sudden Tempest of Ultimate Summer

by Belle Waring on May 10, 2021

O Kali’s feet are red lotuses wherein lie heaps of holy places. 
All sins are destroyed by Kali’s name as heaps of cotton are burnt by fire. How can a headless man have a headache?
I am irresponsible, cruel and arrogant,
I am the king of the great upheaval,
I am cyclone, I am destruction,
I am the great fear, the curse of the universe.
I have no mercy,
I grind all to pieces.
I am disorderly and lawless,
I trample under my feet all rules and discipline!
I am Durjati, I am the sudden tempest of ultimate summer,
I am the rebel, the rebel-son of mother-earth!
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!
—Kazi Nazrul Islam
[Translation: Kabir Chowdhury] 

We can think of two versions of The Ministry of The Future, each of which invites us to imagine a world in which we make difficult, creative choices to mitigate the effects of climate change, and ultimately prevail. In the first book, a whirl of technological, sociological and financial solutions are attempted. Some are cautious science, some desperate acts of brute force, such as filling the atmosphere with particles to rival the cooling effects of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption (and indeed, scientists are seriously considering this, which I have always thought would be the first true action on climate change). In the second book, a careful ruthlessness prevails. People still use container ships? They are sunk in spots to create new reefs. Billionaires have gotten rich on carbon fuels, and have no plans to stop? They are brutally stabbed to death in their own beds before their companions can even grasp what’s happening. But, which of these two books above has Kim Stanley Robinson written? Having written the first seems to say he can’t write the second, and yet can he still have written both?

I’m not going to go through what the first book would be like; it would be like The Ministry of the Future! Our heroine Mary Murphy, head of the Ministry of the Future, makes the rounds, doggedly insisting that the central banks issue a carbon-backed coin, helping push most of the people in any given country into a smaller area than they occupy now, doing the hard boring work that saves the world. My initial feeling was that this is the real book, the wildlife corridors and rewilding, the solar power, the self-sustaining farms in India, caste system erased along with kerosene. It follows that Kim Stanley Robinson does not want us to feel a visceral attraction to violence. Or that he himself does not find it attractive? So that perhaps any appealing parts were accidental. Taken as the first book, The Ministry of the Future offers a thousand non-violent ways to deal with climate change. The book is genuinely so hopeful, optimistic—a love letter both to profoundly creative thinking and to the long slog of successful bureaucratic progress. And also a love letter to the pleasant orderliness and orderly pleasures of Zurich, which no act of violence can unseat as the safest place in the world. It made me want to move to Zurich. This version seems the most like a Kim Stanley Robinson book in any case (though as I recall there’s violence in the Mars trilogy.) So I will present my case for the second book, and its problems—and its solutions.

The Ministry of the Future opens with an act of climactic violence in Uttar Pradesh, where the pre-monsoon heat has become humid, with disastrous results. I have been in India during the pre-monsoon time when it was 45, which I do not recommend except for the genuinely hallucinatory effects, but it was dry, I’ll give it that. My childhood home of the S.C. Low Country, by contrast, is regularly 37-39 in midsummer, with 65% humidity. We had fans, though rarely A/C, and so as a 6-year-old I learned I could count to 1000 sheep. This was even after I realized you had to make the sheep distinctive to occupy enough of your mental bandwidth to force the hypnagogic state. So, this one has a floppy ear, and this one a few freckles of black around the mouth, and this one a smear of yellow in its eyes, and so forth. More and more damaged, maybe. But it was in vain, I just lay on the sleeping porch waiting for the increasingly loud clamor of birds and the headache white dawn. So this spoke to me. 

In the end, helpless, everyone goes into the lake, where the above-body-temperature water cooks them in a stew of drowning and decay. The reverse of what my father taught me: even in the blood-warm waters a hurricane forces ashore, you will die of hypothermia. After the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki people did the same, walking down into the lakes in the parks to cool a fire burning inside them, unslakable. This has always been a source of nighttime horror to me. In the end only American clinic-volunteer Frank May is left alive, forever scarred by the knowledge that he had a thermos of cool water he shared with no one.

This isn’t a natural disaster, rather the violent convulsions of a wounded planet, and it triggers human violence immediately. Even before the exodus to the lake, men steal Frank’s generator and window A/C unit, which he is using to try to keep people alive in his clinic. They force him to look down the all-consuming black circle that is the barrel of a gun, and tell him, “this is your fault” and, “you did this.” Ambiguous. Him personally flaunting resources with his clinic, drawing people there? More like: you white people did all this, and what’s more you want to tell us what to do with the feeble means we have left.

There are three things in the novel which I think advocate most earnestly for violence. Firstly, an unknown group manages to capture everyone at Davos. (So far so good, we are all thinking.) They are deprived of basics like running water and end up having to carry their own shit outside in buckets. (Again, seems eminently fair.) This is all narrated by a nauseating billionaire whose main concern probably is lacking the ability to upload to the future version of Tik Tok. She mocks the propaganda they are shown about world hunger. The only one that gains any traction is a series of interviews with the billionaires’ children, whom she thinks must have been selected for awfulness, until the parents in the room begin to fall silent in pained recognition. But then … the worst violence they are subjected to is earnest PowerPoint presentations! And while we can all agree this is probably excruciating, perhaps there’s something more? The narrator is triumphant upon release, insists that she has learned nothing, and is happy she will get to dine out on this story for the rest of her life! Again, perhaps a different ending to this section seems better? Like, for example, killing everyone? There is absolutely no way I am alone in wanting everyone to be lined up against the wall and shot. Fictionally, I mean. And no way, to my mind, that Kim Stanley Robinson isn’t absolutely expecting you to be disappointed by rationality, and instead to call for blood.

I am a person forgiving in life but vengeful in fiction. When I was in group therapy one time the others had to deliver a kind of verdict on your life near the end and theirs was unanimously, why do you even talk to your parents? I have a lot of good reasons here, and am right, and people can change, and you can love them even if they are … difficult and so on. But what did I love best as a girl? The end of The Little Princess: the destruction of the headmistresses’ life, and her meek sister’s sudden, vengeful pronouncement: you’re a hard, cruel woman, Maria Minchin! And in life what is best? Book 22 of the Odyssey: the death of the suitors. When Odysseus strings the bow, shoots through the axes, and then Antinous’ white throat, it is a beautiful thing. So, fictionally, I want everyone at Davos to get killed. Or can I cloak a genuine vengeful design on billionaires as a mere fantasy by wrapping it up in a very attractive wrapping paper printed with plans to stop Antarctic glaciers from sliding down into the sea by pumping the meltwater from the lower regions back up to the top, using power from Russian nuclear submarines, hoping eventually to create a dry area beneath, such that the glaciers will be nearly stopped as they grind, dry, against the stone below, unlubricated by melt and not hastened further by friction-created heat. See? There was barely any violence in there at all. Shiny white and blue sastrugi! 

And here we come to the second aspect of The Ministry of the Future which makes it seem the second of my two proposed books rather than the first. One that invites us to be ruthless. Grimly ready to do what is necessary. The Children of Kali are a terrorist organization formed in the wake of the heat wave. I was excited when they were introduced. I wanted them to blow things up and then retreat into the arms of Mother Kali, black with the dust of the graves. And this is what they do, more or less. A black obverse to the shining coin of the Ministry. But their killings are so targeted, their plans so careful, that you realize they must have a chairman too, and points of order. Board meetings in the charnel house. 

My family’s carbon budget is busted by one thing: round-trip 26-hour trans-Pacific plane flights. Not last year, of course. But every other year. Sometimes twice. If someone would take me on a dirigible I would absolutely go, (or would it be too slow, in all honesty?). So how would we get to no plane flights? The Children of Kali would crash my plane, my children on it and all, forcing a mass of small drones into the engines, along with 59 other planes in a single hour. And however much people might discover they were mostly private  jets or commercial aviation, I would still be dead, and just pray there was no moment, not a single one, when my children and I looked at each other in the eyes, still alive, stomachs in our throats, falling, falling. But would it work, assuming I weren’t killed? Would I book a flight after that? Realistically, I would still want to do it and my family would refuse. I am a stupid risk-taker. But after the second round? No. And then, the development of commercial airships, eventually so good with solar and wind that they produced rather than consumed energy, offloading it when they docked. 

The Children of Kali also force down the consumption of beef to negligible amounts in a beautifully ingenious and quite necessary way. How? “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.” Kim Stanley Robinson gives us innumerable fascinating and peaceful ideas about how to change the world, but isn’t this also a fascinating non-peaceful idea (insofar as there will be idiot Americans who continue to eat beef on principle and fall terrifyingly ill)? To note, none of our characters is upset by the Children of Kali’s actions. We’re not given any words or thoughts about it from them, but I think we can take it to mean they’re not denouncing it. And why would they? At two fell swoops the Children of Kali have eliminated two of the most serious obstacles to fighting climate change (and they do more).* And if a few people had to struggle to embrace both their children equally as they plummeted into the cold Atlantic, then so be it. After all, “[e]ven those earrings/—children’s corpses—/look stunning against the Mother’s ears.” “How Can That Black Woman Seem So Beautiful”, Kamalakanta Bhattacarya

The third aspect of a ruthless The Ministry of the Future is subtle. At the start, Frank wants to join the then newly-formed Children of Kali, but they won’t have him; just another do-gooder white boy. He wants to help anyway, somehow, by hurting people, freelancing terrorism. Eventually, he contrives to kidnap our heroine Mary for a short time. This strangely appeals to the worse angels of her—and our—nature. Being the victim of a violent crime paradoxically leads Mary to seriously consider Frank’s idea, delivered with wild-eyed conviction, that some violence is the only solution to climate change. To cut the Gordian knot with weaponized drones, a black wing of the Ministry? When she brings it up with her Nepali second, Badim, his response is, “imagine that there might already be a black wing of The Ministry for the Future.” This is a startling thought to Mary, (and to the reader); up till now the Ministry’s biggest conflicts have been with staidly grasping bankers unwilling to consider the issue of carbon-backed currency. Are there already UN-backed terrorists out there, terrorizing billionaires? Mary is enraged. She wants to know, but also, not to know. Not a recoil from violence so much as from the idea of violence. But only after Badim explains: “One aspect of a black agency is that … [n]othing can be written down, nothing can be hacked, no one can talk to outsiders. The people in charge aren’t to know about them.” In the end Mary makes a curious leap of faith, as if to say: there are some acts of violence— even most acts of violence—that I won’t tolerate, that I know will lead to cycles of violence. And I want to know everything that you do. But I also accept that you’re not going to tell me what you do, and that you may well commit the very acts of violence I deplore. This isn’t really cowardice on her part. On the one hand she has been convinced by Frank—by his terrorizing her! (She goes on to have a long relationship with him in what amounts to an extended act of kindness on her part.) Like Frank, she looked down the barrel of the gun and felt a sudden need for it to be pointed at someone else in particular. So she commits to Badim’s plans with clear eyes. But on the other she is really, although she might not like to think of herself as such, a lynchpin in the world’s fight for survival. Her generosity of spirit, which is tempered by a willingness to make people very uncomfortable, has to stay itself for her work to go on. If she were the leader of a terrorist cell she would not be herself.

The strange generosity of spirit that moved this commitment is made plain at the book’s close. Retired, Mary considers all the internet rumors that The Ministry for the Future had a thousands-strong group performing extra-judicial acts of violence and changing the world through the most direct sort of direct action — an idea she rejects with an equivocal acknowledgement that lots of money disappeared into Badim’s division. She asks Badim, now head of the Ministry, ‘do you have someone the way I had you?’….’Someone to do the dirty work, you mean?‘…’Yes’ He laughed. ‘No’ he said. ‘No one I trust the way you trusted me. I don’t know how you did it ….What I think now is that what you did was way harder than I thought it was.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You trusted me.’ She regarded him. She wondered if it were true. Maybe it was. ‘Sometimes you have to,’ she said finally. ‘You just throw yourself out there. Throw yourself off the cliff and start making the parachute.’ ‘Or start to fly,’ he suggested. She nodded dubiously. She didn’t think she could fly. ‘Let me know if I can help, she said. ’I will,’ he said, but he was shaking his head very slightly. No one could help him with this.

Only now has Badim realized what Mary did in trusting him. And that by being unable to trust he has left himself beyond help, trying to work both the glittering ice and the blue-black works of the Ministry at once (if one imagines so great a black wing, like an iceberg—and who can say?) Mary decided to endorse violence and non-violence. It worked! Is it different from one of the creative solutions given elsewhere, dyeing the remaining ice in the Arctic yellow, creating vast corridors for the animals and rewilding of the land? A hydraulic paradox, merely, requiring the steady, unstoppable power of Mary’s personality to work? And so Kim Stanley Robinson has written the first book after all, with a creative solution to fold the violence into the peaceful?

But a part of me worries that this super-position of violence and non-violence will collapse into violence, so that Kim Stanley Robinson is endorsing a violent approach to climate change as being necessary, fully as necessary as the other measures. It wouldn’t be meaningful to speak of Gandhi as non-violent if it were the case that he also delegated some people to commit acts of violence. Downing planes, killing billionaires with laser-like precision—do any of us object? The UN’s blue helmets turned black, and suddenly someone to fear? Colonializers doing the glamorous work with dirigibles and elk, and leaving the dark men and women from India to do the difficult, working as gardeners for years to get close to a well-guarded victim, same as always? I am honestly not sure how you could write both books without the second book becoming the “real” book, and the one the characters themselves would object to, if you let characters do that sort of thing. But perhaps there’s no need to worry about a contradiction on this front, because perhaps we straightforwardly need terrorists if we are going to make real progress in fighting climate change, and Kim Stanley Robinson sees this. Yet it seems to me he is more like Mary, wanting to fight climate change with reasonable and creative solutions, buffalo back on the Great Plains. And it is not as if he is a terrorist! But still there are two books, and if we interleave books one and two we will get a sheaf of alternating pages, some advocating for organic farming in Kerala, some for murder. In the end, maybe this is just and right.

*This was meant to be somewhat handwavy and dramatic but it seems it is so handwavy and dramatic as to be aggressively wrong. Please read the comments for helpful corrections.



Brett 05.10.21 at 4:27 pm

I feel like the plane stuff would happen twice, and then we’d get a massive international counter-push and surveillance state that would make the Patriot Act seem like a friendly visit from the local constable. Stuff like putting RF jammers near airports to counteract drones, etc.

How long could the Children of Kali survive against that kind of scrutiny and pursuit? Or Mary’s connection to them stay secret? History suggests it wouldn’t be long – it’s hard enough to keep conspiracies secret, especially when they’re large.


Brett 05.10.21 at 4:30 pm

Also, I maintain that the focus on air travel and the “carbon footprint” is the epitome of treating climate change in particular and environmental problems in general as an avenue for the demonstration of individual virtue rather than as the systemic problems they actually are. Air travel remains a pretty minor source of emissions, significantly less than what’s produced by using concrete – but it looms far larger in the public consciousness.


Tim Worstall 05.10.21 at 5:24 pm

This always puzzles me:

“eliminated two of the most serious obstacles to fighting climate change”

Aviation is about 2% of human emissions. A rounding error more than anything else. Why is so much attention paid to it?


nastywoman 05.10.21 at 5:27 pm

‘And also a love letter to the pleasant orderliness and orderly pleasures of Zurich, which no act of violence can unseat as the safest place in the world. It made me want to move to Zurich’.

Don’t –
Move to Konstanz it’s just about 40 minutes from Zürich and as it is on the Swiss-German border – BUT in Germany –
you don’t have to pay for your Aperol Spritz outrageous 15 Schweizer Franken –
AND Konstanz is in a ‘Bundesland’ which is ruled by Die Grünen and has Environmental Rules and Regulation Robinson only can dream about.
(Like the ‘Bodenseewasser’ you can drink out of the ‘See’ AND mix your Aperol with.



Oliver Morton 05.10.21 at 8:13 pm

@Brett I think you are right that they seem to have an easy run of it. But perhaps worth bearing in mind the possibility that the CoK are inside/have sympathisers inside a lot of the organs that might be used against them.

@Tim There are probably a few things at play. One is that IIRC the IPCC used to weight carbon dioxide emissions at altitude for reasons that didn’t make much sense, which they have now stopped doing. Another iconographic point is that planes are clearly “of the atmosphere” which gives their emissions a perceived salience. A third is that aircraft emissions are growing, a fourth that one of the problems here is that almost everything is a rounding error in itself. UK emissions are <2%, I am pretty sure — but they can’t be given a by on that basis. Perhaps most importantly (again in perception terms): though flying may be a small part of overall emissions, the consumption-associated emissions of people who fly are, I would guess, a pretty high chunk of the ball game. The flying itself may not be all of that story, but it stands for the whole.


Mark Pontin 05.11.21 at 4:15 am

Oliver Morton: “one of the problems here is that almost everything is a rounding error in itself.”

You know what isn’t a rounding error? The 7.1 gigatons per year of greenhouse gas emissions — 14.5 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions — from cattle agriculture. (And that’s a lowball estimate.)

You know what else? Not every country is producing an even split of that 14.5 percent. India, it turns out, has the world’s largest cattle population, but the lowest beef consumption of any country. Thus, cows in India live longer and emit more methane over their lifetime. And annually one cow can belch or fart 220 pounds of methane.

See forex: -“Tackling Climate Change Though Livestock”
from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Given the above, maybe Robinson’s fictional Children of Kali would really need to be blaming and immolating themselves and not “westerners.” Unless it’s westerner Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution back in the 1960s.

Brett wrote: “the focus on air travel and the “carbon footprint” is the epitome of treating climate change … and environmental problems … as an avenue for the demonstration of individual virtue rather than as the systemic problems they actually are.”

Indeed. There are two kinds of climate change denialism.

The first kind is the overt denialism we’re all familiar with from, for instance, American Republicans and libertarians like Charles Koch who refuse to accept that environmentally-extractive capitalism has run out of environment to extract from and dump ‘externalities’ into.

The second kind of climate change denialism is the standard (western) Green outlook, which accepts climate change as real, but fixates on carbon footprints and assumes climate change will be solved by enjoining social virtue on everybody as we forego carbon-producing technologies, return to a balance with “Nature,” and so slow the otherwise biblical Flood-like rise of the Earth’s oceans on the way to the 22nd century.

Green climate change denialism sees air travel as unnatural technology and so inveighs against it, but sees cattle agriculture as natural, which is why we haven’t heard many Greens inveighing against cattle agriculture till recently. Green climate change denialism sees geoengineering as unnatural and, thus, evil. Green climate change denialism thinks that when humanity gets to Net Zero, the problems of climate change will go away, as if all that 30yr timelag of warming from heat that’s already in the pipeline in the oceans will instantly and magically disappear.

In short, Green climate change denialism is a socio-religious exercise, and knows and cares very little to nothing about science. That’s why it makes fatuous statements like, “Climate change is in large measure, a problem of extreme wealth and wealth inequality. Thus, addressing the climate crisis requires discussing potential alternatives to the global neoliberal order,” as a recent post here on Crooked Timber began.

Neoliberalism needs to die, to be sure. But the problem of climate change in 2021 is not merely a human social problem any more. It’s a planetary-scale problem in physics and chemistry, in which Green orthodoxy is fundamentally dishonest and determinedly ignorant about the scale of the problem.

What’s the scale of the problem?

If humanity reached Net Zero by 2050, we would also — as Hansen et al have pointed out — end fossil sulphate emissions and so close the cooling fossil sulphate parasol and unveil an additional warming of 110% of realized warming (+/-30%).

In short, we’re inadvertently geoengineering already with the particulate release accompanying our industrial greenhouse gas releases. See this paper from 2016 on the effects of the GFC of 2008, with the accompanying dip in industrial and commercial activity and consequence reduction of carbon release it brought —
“Disentangling greenhouse warming and aerosol cooling to reveal Earth’s climate sensitivity”

Think about that: one-third of potential warming from increased greenhouse gas concentrations has been masked by the aerosol cooling and particulate release — that accompanied humanity’s industrial greenhouse gas release. If we were to magically reach Net Zero and decarbonize, that aerosol release would halt and within about six months or so heat retention in the Earth’s atmosphere would be unmitigated — would go into fast-forward.

What would that look like in 2021, now that there’s much more heat in the system.

Well, Siberia is burning —

In this context, imagine global warming suddenly erupting by a factor of 1/3rd because we decarbonized and reached Net Zero and didn’t continue the geoengineering. It wouldn’t be the slow Flood-like rise from melting envisioned by the Greens. It would be a massive methane clathrate release quite likely resembling the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum.

So we’re going to geoengineer because we’re already geoengineering. We need to figure out better ways of doing it than aerosol particulate release. Green orthodoxy is in total denial about that.


Idiot/Savant 05.11.21 at 4:49 am

@Brett – the Children of Kali seem to have the resources of a major intelligence agency, and TBH probably are one under another name. But it is still surprising that someone is not being labelled a state-sponsor of terrorism for backing them. Though OTOH given that real-world intelligence agencies are going “climate change is a major threat to global security”, maybe a bunch of them are looking the other way / cheering from the sidelines?


Omega Centauri 05.11.21 at 3:26 pm

Aviation emissions were “overweighted” because they also create short term effects, adding condensation nuclei and moisture to the upper atmosphere. This increases high altitude clouds which have a substantial warming impact. Aviation is also growing, and difficult to decarbonize.
There is work on electric aviation for short haul and regional flights, and hydrogen powered aviation, but any large scale usage is decades away. Green sourced hydrocarbons (from plants or captured Co2) will not solve the high altitude clouds problem.

Concrete is another thorny problem. Multiple green alternatives have been demonstrated, but the cost premium is far too high for large scale deployment.


Moz of Yarramulla 05.12.21 at 5:13 am

I got the impression that CoK were a front name for a whole bunch of different groups, many with resources generally only available to nation-states or billionaires. Think Al Quaeda or CIA. But the flip side is that at least some of their actions only require a small group with good focus and quite limited resources. The difference between “The White Plague” and the BSE attack is small, and as biotech advances the cost of either is dropping. Especially if, like CoK, you’re not worried about slightly over-hitting your target – if bison or reindeer also get BSE will they care? This isn’t Gareth Morgan wiping out possums using a plague that then escapes to Australia, it’s more like discovering that masks to prevent covid also prevent the flu.

That style of “organisation”, though, is by design impossible to pin down. Just as anarchists cross over with authoritarians in organisational structure, the difference between a deniable state terrorist group and a rouge state terrorist group is hard to detect. The CIA running drugs to fund undeclared wars… official or unofficial? The “lone wolf” fascist attacks in the US could easily be matched by anti-billionaire attacks if the anarchists decide that violence is required, and how would we know the difference except by looking at the targets? What if the fascists also decide that private jets are a good target? That would really confuse the issue.

So quite how we as readers distinguish between officially unofficial and unofficially unofficial secret government actors I’m not sure. I suspect we are not supposed to be able to distinguish.


Cian 05.12.21 at 7:34 pm

How long could the Children of Kali survive against that kind of scrutiny and pursuit? Or Mary’s connection to them stay secret? History suggests it wouldn’t be long – it’s hard enough to keep conspiracies secret, especially when they’re large.

By definition our knowledge of conspiracies is limited to the ones which were not kept secret, so we really have no way of assessing how easy it is to keep them secret.


Belle Waring 05.13.21 at 1:00 pm

The difference between the corn-fed cows typically produced in the US vs. grass-fed cows wrt methane output/environmental degradation is sort of indeterminate as far as I can see. Feedlot cattle have the advantage of being fattened up quickly and as they live a shorter time overall they produce less methane. However, grass-fed cattle that are raised on large areas of land participate in carbon sequestration, serving, at least notionally, as bison did, to keep the ecosystem healthier. But then much or even I think most of the grass-fed beef for sale in the US is imported from Australia or New Zealand, and that’s obviously no good. If Indian cattle were infected with a terrible disease the CoK’s popularity would, let’s say, plummet.

I eat a lot of dumb flown-in food like that in Singapore because where is my milk even supposed to come from. Singapore grew some form of imported grass and raised cows for a while, we used to live by Dairy Farm road. But there are as many milk cows as there are dudh wallahs, as far as I can see, namely none. I adored our water dispenser, like in an office, with endless cold or boiling water, but my children revolted against drinking water from Australia–which is honestly not that far away. And just now I made blueberry muffins with blueberries from California. But if those are all the blueberries there are, and you only live once, and it really makes no difference at the micro level to a collective action problem then whatever.

As to the CoK getting smeared into a think red paste by the NSA or whoever, I see why they would try. But part of the problem would be that there would be lots of freelance terrorism done in their name and then they would also claim terrorist actions done by others. And if the Indian government kiiinda didn’t care as long as they were OK, and the CoK also had infiltrators in the right government organizations, how great would western spy agencies actually be at infiltrating small groups in which everyone is a native speaker of Chhattisgarhi or Gondi or something? Not great, is my suggestion, even if we stipulate that they are trying very hard.


Brett 05.13.21 at 3:23 pm

@Cian #10

We have a pretty long history of known conspiracies, including those that fail and those that don’t but are revealed later. Generally, it’s really hard to keep a group like that secret for long if intelligence agencies/law enforcement are really aggressively trying to hunt them down and spy on them. There’s just too many weak points for a group without the backing and resources of a national government: someone has a crisis of conscience and confesses to the police, someone gets picked up on something else and confesses or turns traitor for personal gain, their method of communication gets cracked if it’s something other than couriers*, etc.

For example, a few years back the US lost its entire set of spies in China because the Chinese government cracked their covert communication system.

Obviously, it’s a novel, and meant to explore an idea. It doesn’t need to be perfectly realistic by any means. I was just pointing that out.

how great would western spy agencies actually be at infiltrating small groups in which everyone is a native speaker of Chhattisgarhi or Gondi or something?

That doesn’t bode well for anyone of Indian descent in the west and particularly the US, judging by what happened after 9/11 in terms of prejudice against anyone who “looked muslim”.


Raven Onthill 05.14.21 at 12:16 am

Me, writing 11 years ago: “I have tried in these recommendations to hew to market and vote; they are still going to be terribly difficult to implement, amounting to the sudden imposition of a great many new taxes and regulations and establishing a whole new class of rights. Still, considering that the alternatives are the collapse of human civilization or globe-spanning tyranny, it is time to start.” (

I think that, as you say, if violence becomes the method of change, the likelihood is indeed only the one book. Violence is also the primary tool of the carbon emitters. I have real doubts it can be made work in the favor of carbon reduction. It seems to me that the project of empire, also, is well under way. We may go down with our betters fighting over who gets to rule the globe-spanning tyranny; there are some indications the project has already started.

Mark Pontin@6: This is rather off what Ms. Waring is writing about, but I have addressed some of these issues in my blogging: “No amount of blaming ourselves, no amount of hurting ourselves will change physical law. The seas will rise regardless of how much we scourge ourselves or pray or beg the Almighty.” ( Also, “The response to human impacts on the environment, including climate change, if an organized response is undertaken, will be the largest engineering project in human history, and it is one that must not fail. And so, we need to start running the numbers. Now, and for the foreseeable future.” (

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