Thursday, June 4, 2009

Weathering the Storms

Europeans seem to be obsessed with weather. In contrast to South Africans that is. So as my Mother is a Norwegian, who (I have always had the feeling) wishes that she's rather been born English, I have somehow managed to inherit that deep and abiding concern for the weather.

I am not quite sure one can rely so much on the weather any more though (could one ever?). There seems to be a huge dissonance between what I remember, and the realities. For example I remember when I went to Norway (Oslo) when I was six years old. We arrived in autumn (I remember this vividly as I had a window seat and remember seeing the brightly coloured autumn leaves, and since then Northern hemisphere autumns have always been my favourite time of year), but even then I remember walking to school (we were there for six weeks, and what better way to keep your child out of your hair by sending them at school while they are still too young to appreciate the distinctions between school and holiday) past piles of snow on the side of the road.

When I went back to Norway at twenty, one of the first things they said to me was that I should not even hope for a white Christmas. I was lucky for several of the Christmases I was there, but there were certainly no guarantees.

I have grown up in South Africa, in the area known as the "Highveld", which has dry, hot summers. The last two years however I have not needed to water my lawn, as our summers have become, well, quite wet!

Our quality of life as humans is quite dependent on how well we "weather the storms", and we have weather forecasting, and technology to help us manage the elements. Increasingly however, it seems to be a losing battle. Hurricane Katrina will go down in infamy as to how the richest country in the world was not able to protect their poorest from the devastation of weather. There have been floods costing millions in Europe in the last few years. There are floods costing thousands of lives in developing countries (most recently I think in Brazil).

Then there was a "great storm" which this week cost the lives of 228 people on an Air France flight (to far too many people the globe around AF 447 will actually mean something). The plane just "vanished" and too many lives were lost. Being the over-thinker I have been wondering if I had ever been on a flight with some of the crew that went down (as a regular, currently platinum Air France customer). It is a true tragedy.

For me, more than anything else, it makes me realise that whatever your God, if humankind, with our vain attempts to claim there is an answer for everything (my impression of what "intelligent" people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens think), humankind (and all our efforts, like science) are not great!

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