The End of the World as We Know It

by Leanne Ogasawara

Ministry of the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson (October 2020)


The year is 2025.

Frank, who is an American aid worker living in northern India, is alarmed to wake up one morning to an outside temperature of 103° F with 35% humidity. Things go from bad to worse, when the power grid goes down, and there is no air conditioning. As temperatures climb to 108° F with 60% humidity, people begin dying. They are being cooked to death.

Known as a wet-bulb temperature event, a sustained combination of high temperature plus high humidity exceeding wet-bulb temperature 35 °C (95 °F) will likely cause death, even in a healthy person sitting in the shade with plenty of water to drink.

When things become unbearable, Frank takes refuge with many others in a shallow lake. But the water is too warm –and by morning, everyone in the lake but Frank is dead. He has no idea why he survived –but life will never be the same.

The shock surrounding the event, which saw millions die in Uttar Pradesh, led to the formation of the Ministry for the Future. Part of the United Nation’s Convention on Climate Change, it was founded under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement with an office set up in Zürich.

The people of India are rightly furious. They point out that the Europeans sucked their resources dry for hundreds of years, and by the time they shook free of their colonialist yoke and tried to develop, they were being told by wealthy Europeans that, “Sorry, you are too late to the party. Rising CO2 and all that.” Indian leadership argues that they use far less coal-generated electricity to bring their people out of poverty than the Americans do to live what in America is considered a normal life.

Compare the average electrical energy consumption per capita 12,071 kWh in the US to 1,181 kWh in India.

Located in a part of the world that will bear the initial brunt of the crises, India had expected that other members of the Paris Convention would come to their aid.

Drones were seen overhead so the Indian people knew the situation was being monitored, but at the end of the day, they appeared to be left to die.

And so, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Read more »

Visual Histories: Peter de Swart and Rachelle Reichert

by Timothy Don

The current economic crisis is crushing artists, museums, and galleries everywhere. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, an exorbitant rental market made maintaining a practice difficult before this crisis hit. It’s even harder now. With 3QD’s permission, I’m going to use this column to talk about the work of some of the artists and art professionals I have met here. I ask you to support artists wherever and however you can.

Peter de Swart, works on paper: Triptych

The triptych form is associated with religious painting. It first appeared as a feature of early Christian art and became popular for altar paintings and devotionals during the Middle Ages. While Peter de Swart’s Triptych is not overtly religious, it emanates an undeniably religious or spiritual aura. It is, in a word, numinous. To encounter this painting is to witness a sacred transaction. You’d have to be a stone to look at it and not experience a yearning for the divine. Why, apart from its rearticulation of the history and symbolism of the triptych form, is that?

It must have something to do, first of all, with the simple purity of the object pictured, which appears to be a bowl of some sort. Bowls are one of those inventions (like scissors or chopsticks or the hourglass) that we got right the first time. They were perfect the moment they appeared. In the bowl, function lives harmoniously with form. Its shape is so ideal as to be almost Platonic. Furthermore, bowls are used to prepare and serve food and drink, which means that they give sustenance, enable shared meals, and consequently help to strengthen communal bonds and deepen human relationships. Finally, bowls are vessels. Like hands and pockets and ships, they hold and contain and convey things—but they are not grasping like hands, nor like pockets do they secret away their contents, and they don’t trade goods and gold like ships. Quite the opposite, in fact: Bowls are generous, open, gratuitous. They give away the things they hold.

All of these attributes (form, use value, ethos) lend bowls a quasi-spiritual redolence, but they do not make bowls sacred. If this triptych depicted a bowl no different from any other bowl, then its effect would be decorative rather than numinous. This bowl is special. Again we must ask: Why is that? Read more »