Weather, Climate, Culture

Weather, Climate, Culture

Weather, Climate, Culture

Weather, Climate, Culture

Synopsis

Throughout history, the weather has been both feared and revered for its powerful influence over living creatures. Not only does it control our moods, activities, and fashions, but it has also played a crucial role in broader issues of cultural identity, concepts of time, and economic development. In fact, the weather has become so ingrained in our everyday routines that many of us forget just how profoundly this omnipotent force shapes culture. With the continuing rise in global warming and consequential change in weather patterns, our awareness and understanding of this topic has never been so important.This fascinating book is the first to explore our close relationship with the weather. From folklore to visual representations, agricultural and health practices, and unusual weather events, Weather, Climate, Culture demonstrates that the way we discuss and interpret meteorological phenomena concerns not only the events in question but, more complexly, the cultural, political, and historical framework in which we discuss them. Why is it politically safe to discuss current weather conditions, but highly controversial to discuss long-term climate change? Why are the British renowned for talking about the weather and why, in the eighteenth century, was this regarded as genteel? How can accounts of cultural or moral change be associated with narratives of changing climate and vice-versa?Drawing on a wide range of case studies from around the world, this pioneering book provides an original and lively perspective on a subject that continues to have an incalculable impact on the way we live. It will serve as a landmark text for years to come.

Excerpt

All humans experience the variations in atmospheric conditions and in meteorological phenomena that we call weather and climate. Indeed, all terrestrial animals, except perhaps cave-dwelling ones, experience these variations as well. It could be argued that, much as the receptor cells in the eyes of humans and other diurnal creatures have evolved to perceive the range of frequencies of radiation from the sun – what we term ‘visible light’ – so too the receptor cells in the skin have evolved to perceive the range of temperatures in the atmosphere. This atmospheric and meteorological variability is of as great consequence for the activities of humans as it is for other animals.

Unlike other animals, though, humans have unusually varied and elaborate forms of social life and communication that are made possible by language and by culture. Our complex forms of collective life influence the way that we are affected by weather and climate, creating both forms of vulnerability and capacities to reduce impacts. Our highly developed cognitive capacities allow us to recall the past and to anticipate the future. We draw on this strong temporal awareness when we discuss weather and climate. In societies around the world, people talk about the recent weather and the weather that is to come, they remember the conditions months ago and anticipate future seasons, and they discuss the weather far in the past as well. These multiple time frames form a key aspect of human experience of the weather.

Physical experience of the weather provides a common focal point in many societies, through both commiseration and celebration. Many cultures note links between exceptional climate events and historical events. In a related manner, the regular sequence of the seasons often serves as an image for the steadiness of time's passage and the permanence of the fundamental parameters of human existence. Ritual practices integral to the spiritual life of many societies often address these annual cycles. Accounts of cultural or moral change are often associated with narratives of changing climate and vice versa; references to a ‘golden age’ of prosperity are often accompanied by descriptions of a mild climate. Weather can be called or diverted by human actions, and atmospheric conditions . . .

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