Imagining a Ministry for the Future

Introduction for Bethany Copsey and Sofia Batalha by: Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul

The future tends to be daunting, especially when we think of it through the lens of all that is currently broken. Through the following narratives, Bethany and Sofia manage to do two complicated things: pluck the reader from our present moment and the rules that bind it, and infuse in their audience a calm sense of hope. This is no easy feat and both authors accomplish it through quite different methods.

From the very first sentences of her entry, Bethany has her readers 100% engaged. Her entry is as creative as it is bold and unapologetic. Without letting us know what she’ll do or asking if we’re up for the ride, she’s effortlessly transported us to a parallel universe where things are changing for the better. She takes us to a world brave enough to imagine a path and she crafts this environment so eloquently that it does not feel unrealistic.

The moment I began reading this entry, I realised I had been transported someplace else; after that, I just wanted to know more. I wanted for that immersive experience to last. At the same time, I never stopped questioning what I wanted for the future—the challenges I think we’ll face and what solutions could be put in motion to address them. The handwritten texture added to the teacher’s comments and the diary entry just made it all more tangible, real and relatable. Provocative, engaging, timely, innovative and bold. I loved this entry.

With a different hope-producing approach, Sofia focuses on vindication. Her narrative does not play around with a future that might be. Instead, the author dwells in how things could’ve—nay, should’ve—been. She relies on what her instinct finds troubling and uses that to identify misogyny, racism and fear in the narratives written by imperialist views. These imperialists’ views continue to be deemed unquestionable. They often signal out otherness and portray it as less or wrong.

Sofia’s re-writing of the blind prophet Fatima is so evocative that it could easily have been a luscious painting bursting with color. The texture of green leaves, the protuberant tree roots poking out of the land and the fluid movement of mystical women is dreamlike. This idyllic imagined moment is only perturbed by a creeping man and his biases, which impede him from admiring the women in all their grandiosity and, instead, makes him fearful. This is almost a metaphor or our own times and holds such valuable lessons for all readers. Sofia’s narrative does justice to overlooked and misunderstood communities while inviting readers to be critical observers and open-minded narrators.

‘Alright everyone—let’s get started. I know it’s Friday afternoon right before the holidays, but we’re still in class, so listen up. Stephie, Emma, Tamara, that’s you three too please.

‘So, as you all know, we’ve been doing a lot of work on thinking about the future, and working on activating our imaginations and thinking of how the world might look in 2050. We’re finishing this topic and starting with a new one after the break, so there’s just one final assignment that builds on the ideas shared by Kim Stanley-Robinson in his Ministry for the Future.

‘I want you to create your own Ministry for the Future. Have a think about what the structure will be and what their primary tasks will be, and include a list of ministers and their role. Who do you want to see serving on this cabinet? These people can be people you know personally, figures from history or people you respect today.

‘I have a print-out for you all to explain further—but just before I hand it out, there are a few things I want you tobear in mind with the assignment. Make sure you really engage with your imagination. You are in charge of this scenario, so you can dream up anything you want, but I do expect you to be able to explain your reasoning. Tell me why you have chosen who you have to be on the Ministry and why these are the most important tasks in your view for them to take on.

‘This is really an exercise in hope. I know we’ve spoken a lot about eco-anxiety in this class. We’ve spoken a lot about racial injustice, gender injustice and about all the issues we see going on around the world, but for this one, really try and imagine how the world could be and infuse it with hope!

‘And remember, it’s due next week Friday, so I expect everyone’s on my desk by then!

‘Take one and pass it along.’

The Future: Assignment 3.

It’s the Year 2050. As the climate crisis was accelerating in the early 2020s, an international body was ‘charged with defending all living creatures present and future who cannot speak for themselves.’ This is the Ministry for the Future.

You have been appointed as one of those tasked with deciding the Ministers who will serve on this Ministry as well as their remit.

You need to answer the following questions about your own Ministry of the Future. You can get creative with the format, but please make sure to cover these.

  1. Introduce the Year 2050 according to your vision of these times. Please include a brief description of the issues facing the human population, as well as those that may have been tackled over the intermediate 30 years (between now and then).
  2. Design a Ministry according to who you would like to see serving on the Ministry of the Future. Include five roles and who you think should fill them. You can use current ministries as an example, but make sure to also think about what needs there are in 2050. Next class (after the holidays), we’ll have a class discussion about the Ministry and decide on a final Cabinet.

Deadline: Next Friday—email through to me by 7pm.

Good luck!

Name: Emma

The Ministry for the Future was set up in the year 2025 as a response to countless climate disasters. After hundreds of years of the patriarchy, by 2050 it’s finally recognised that women, non-binary people and trans people should be at the forefront of decision-making and they play an important role in the Ministry of the Future.

Once they started putting the Ministry together, they realised how many issues there were to face, including the rights of minorities, global inequalities, and increasing fake news and far right politics. Although there was a huge amount of problems to tackle, the Ministry achieved so much in 30 years. One major highlight was a huge campaign for women and children to have access to education, which increased the total number of people who were knowledgeable and innovative enough to come up with solutions to the environmental and energy crisis. Other big steps included free healthcare around the world, no more fossil fuels and renewable energy instead, and plenty of space for youth to be involved in decision-making.

There are still many problems to face, but with better education and infrastructure, there is much more hope and action!

Cabinet Leader: AOC

Minister of Energy: Marie Curie

Minister of Health & Food: Mary Seacole

Minister of Climate Justice: Greta Thunberg

Minister of International Relations: Jacinda Ardern

Minister of Trade and Finance: Melinda Gates

The Minister for Climate Justice is the position I have introduced into Ministry for the Future in 2050. This position is required in 2050—and in between now and then—because it is very important that we not only tackle climate change but that we also look at how it affects different people in different ways. The people and countries who have contributed the least to climate change are the ones who feel the effects the most. The Minister makes sure that well-off countries have more responsibility and have to contribute more to climate change policies, and that most-affected countries have financial assistance. There are so many topics to consider under climate justice, so they first do this, but are also always looking for other ways to make sure climate justice is considered, not just climate action.

Name: Tamara

I often get frustrated with discussions around climate change, especially what I see going on in the UK, the US and other rich countries. It’s always about carbon and about the impacts that will happen in the future. What about the countries in Africa that are feeling it now? What about the huge floods in Pakistan? What about how some countries haven’t contributed but still feel the impacts? What about reparations for slavery and all the damage caused by Empires?

OK, that’s my short non-hopeful side, and now shifting to the hope…

Central to my story is reparations.

Welcome to 2050.

Over the past 30 years, there has been a major (and I mean, MAJOR) reckoning with colonialism and racism, and how this affects all areas of life. At first, people didn’t really believe it could happen. After so many times that it failed, after so many deaths of Black people at the hands of the police where supposed reckonings happened, after so many great and powerful Black people fought and gave their lives for racial justice and yet nothing really changed, and after people started using the term systematic racism and microaggressions and yet still nothing seemed to change.

Because it has affected so much, it meant that when the reckoning happened, it had to happen everywhere and required massive, radical imagination. This meant that it had to learn a lot from history, from moments and people who show this imagination—from the slavery and prison abolition movements, from suffragettes, from the Black Panthers, from youth climate movements and more!

Cabinet Leader: Cleopatra

Minister for Reparations and Abolition: Angela Davis

Minister for Cultural Relations: Beyonce

Minister for Science & Technology: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Minister for History & Education: Malala Yousafzai

Minister for the Environment: David Attenborough

Author’s note:

Two terms were made up for this piece:

HUCs: highly undervalued countries/communities

HDCs: highly dominant countries/communities

Bethany Copsey

I am currently studying Soils and Global Change at Aarhus and Ghent University. I hope to put this knowledge and grounding in the science of the soil towards a career and work in soil and climate communication, especially using creative and unexpected ways to tell stories. I am a co-founder and current member of RE-PEAT, an organisation that works to bring more awareness and appreciation to peatlands. As peatlands are an ecosystem that has frequently been considered as a wasteland, this has consistently meant we need innovative and creative ways to engage people. One of our major ways of engaging people is to use imagination, and to use peatlands as a lens through which we can explore other societal issues and topics, such as land ownership, climate (in)justice and deep time.