Have I mentioned my distress at what I refer to as the ‘bumpkinification’ of America? I will explain in a minute. But, I am just as disgusted with our wimpification too. So, before I get going, let’s take a look back at this week before zeroing in on this post.
In a word, this week was all about snow. First of all, I have been sharing a set of pictures I took when we ran up to Wrightwood (see recent post). I hope this is not leaving you all snow-bored. Second, my parents were snowed out of their place in Stockbridge, switched from their annual pilgrimage to the Belmont Shores relatives down in shangrila who are marooned in Cape Cod as it turns out and instead, came to visit us for a few days, and so in addition to work, we’ve had to entertain them.
This is the winter, my time of year when I, as a native East Coaster, feel like reveling in wintery things, like snowflakes and cold and icicles and woodsy/cabiny/sweatery interiorized features. These are the collectively unconscious symbols for a drawing in of the earth and of ourselves for contemplation. Rudolf Steiner talked about this in a Jungian/Campbell archetypal and mythological vein. Each season has its own nature. One thing that truly offends me is seeing people in summer clothes in the middle of February (even in SoCal) – or out and around playing as if it were July. In the olden days, especially back home, no one would dream of being sleeveless or wearing cotton in the winter. And 70F temps like we had here all January really annoy me. OK, so I won’t belabor this.
Another reason for all this snowiness is the non-stop, round the clock, over the top, snomigosh coverage of the “snow bomb” -“thundersnow”-“snowpocalypse” -“arctic clipper”-“white-out” blizzard this week that even had a name (Juno — why, I wonder that particular name?), for heaven sake. It was so strange that every station was covering it that I almost wondered if there was some big world-shaking event that they didn’t want us to think about, while they literally blanketed us with snoverage. They predicted a monster storm for Yankee territory and while New England proper did deliver, NYC got by with a mere 8 inches. That is nothing, in my snow country lexicon.
So, this post turned in a different direction than I had planned when it drifted across my mental landscape early this week. I never get tired of trudging through this topic, so bear with me.
I was originally going to recount some anecdotes about my first year in lake-effect snow in Upstate New York, going to school. It is truly hilarious and I am sure I will toss it into a future post so you can get a kick out of how little prepared I was for the realities of six month winters, when I first arrived with my citified gear. Nope, I just have to get this off my vest first.
The planet is warming, the climate is changing, we are responsible for enough of it that changes we can make can reverse this trend before it is too late. Please, if you are going to challenge me with what the Koch network thinks about this I ask only that you can prove it with established fact from respected scientific, not propaganda sources. This is where the interpolation of ideology and belief with actual, measurable, demonstrable fact is so dangerous. I just heard a former mayor of Boston say he relied on ‘instinct’ and ‘prayer’ to meet weather emergencies. Un, no! As a private citizen, go ahead and pray. I am a supporter of prayer, which works and helps in our personal lives for many reasons. But if they are responsible for the safety and well-being of millions of people, our leaders absolutely must turn to technical experts as well as to their trained teams of responders.
Oh, and if we are not clear about the distinction between weather and climate, we need to educate ourselves. I will summarize the answer I gave one BIL when he quoted me chapter and verse of Limbaughology, i.e., that a. it was arrogant of us to think we could alter the environment (ever heard of extinctions? take a look at what is happening to our bee populations, thanks to Monsanto et al.) and b. how can the earth be warming when there are so many serious blizzards. Its simple: the heat is being absorbed by the oceans and the extra moisture evaporating up into the atmosphere is mixing with the greenhouse-induced heat and producing more storms.
The increased gas emissions from a variety of man-made activities are altering the earth’s wind and water current conveyor belt system, marooning the jet stream far to the north and reshaping its arc. That is why the wet places are getting wetter and the dry, hotter and more arid. These last few years have been the hottest for thousands of years. How do we know? Not by record keeping alone, which is relatively recent (although that measurement is consistent with others) but by things like ice core dating, sedimentary analyses, carbon dating, ocean temperature readings, mass marine extinctions (yes, hot oceans means no more fish!), etc. The data is out there. Find the science experts and read what they have to say. Unless you are a coupon-clipping Davos-card-carrying member of the highest magnitude (i.e., billionaire), you really are mistaken to subscribe to their disinformation.
And this leads me back to bumpkinism. If I were from an environment that kept me blessedly isolated in a safe bubble of immediate surroundings, I would consider myself lucky to have been sheltered by blissful ignorance and the contentment it often provides. Sometimes I get so fed up with the disturbing events swirling around us that I want to step right into a Kincaid painting and never come out. But if I came from such a safe Igloo, then, I would go out and find the world and its latest knowledge on any subject about which I had been ignorant. That could be done in many ways and is the primary reason people often leave the country for the city: to get up to speed. The best way to do that is to study the latest and best knowledge of experts. That does not mean being uncritical of them or swallowing everything one reads. In fact, when you go to good schools, they teach you how to be discerning and to sort out the valid from the sham. And, you can retire to the country later on, either actually or virtually, after you’ve been ‘schooled’ in what is, not what someone believed in the 19th century. In fact, I love rural America — where else is land affordable any more, anyway.
That used to be the way we were all raised to think. We respected those who were trained in subjects about which we were largely uninformed. Those specialists who went through the best, most learned institutions were held to be experts. I, as a psychologist, would never argue with a physicist. Today, however, there is a movement in this country to glorify obdurateness and oversimplification. Everyone runs around boasting about how backward they are, admitting they are not scientists but then spouting a facile opinion anyway! While I don’t think we should put any human being on a pedestal, clearly we need to be respectful of those who have earned the right to hold professional opinions and not hide behind a veil of stupidity as if it is somehow purer and better than being smart. You don’t even have to leave home to do this anymore, either. The information is at our fingertips all the time from the remotest village. It is a wonderful era in which to be intellectually curious.
So, when people point with glee to the fact that many of our leaders got this snowstorm ‘wrong’, it is as if to say that there was no way to know what was going to happen, that the models which turned out to be good but imperfect, were wrongly constructed and that meteorology is beyond our ken. They are playing right into the hands of the diabolical corporatists who want to keep plundering our brains and resources for their own aggrandizement. It is no different, I heard a scientist say yesterday, than knowing who is going to win the Super Bowl. There are many statistics and models that could help predict the outcome, but none of them are 100 percent certain. He went on to say, any simpleton can tell us what happened, but it takes a higher order of analysis to tell us what is going to happen.
Being so incurious is lazy. It takes courage to entertain the unfamiliar, but it is a sign of uniquely human intelligence. If that is scary, too bad! We need to human up and be willing to face unattractive facts about ourselves, both individually and as a species.
When I want to know what is likely to come, because I want to be prepared, or to help prevent an undesirable outcome, I am going to look to people who have spent their lives training in that subject. I am not going to champion my own or anyone else’s ignorance. To me, that is playing into the hands of people who want to snow us with myths and leave us bewildered or snowbound — if you don’t mind my straining the analogy!
P.S.: This just in! How timely…
Images: Beth Byrnes archives; Mountain High in early January