Sunday, October 17

Thar's snow on them hills!

A couple days ago it got suddenly frigid and rainy, and when the clouds parted we saw a decent amount of snow had dumped on the mountains near my home, the first snow of the year. My colleagues didn't believe me at first when I said there there was snow on the mountains. "The Jura?" one said, surprised.

These are the Jura Mountains—as in Jurassic Park, as in the Jurassic period, as in the place where dinosaur fossils from this era were first found—rising up suddenly out of the farmland, so they're high enough to have a treeline and get early snow, but close enough that I feel I can reach out touch them when I'm riding my bike home. I live in one of those concrete block apartment high-rises in the lower right.

I'm excited about the snow, because I'm chomping at the bit to go boarding but haven't had time to make the trek to the glaciers near the Matterhorn, the only place in the region where the slopes are open now. But I have mixed feelings about the weather. It means more rain, which makes commuting a pain.

Why should I have feelings, though, about the weather? It happens, and I deal with it. Unless I'm planning on moving to the Bahamas or something on account of the snow, it doesn't particularly matter how I feel, right?

I just finished a book on how climate change has shaped human society since the last great ice age, and one of the most interesting aspects was how people got tied together, and tied to their land, as populations rose and people expanded into less ideal habitats for hunting and gathering. Socieites became more organized, which means some hierarchy, which means some rulers at the top. These rulers often claimed to control the weather, albeit indirectly through some god or gods. If the weather was harsh—a severe drought, a shift in rainfall patterns, a little ice age sets in—it was widely seen as divine punishment, and if severe enough the rulers lost their legitmacy as the societies dissolved into chaos.

So have we gotten past this idea of weather as divine? Well, see this "rapture index" and decide for yourself.


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