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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Everyday Meaning of Climate Change

Two disparate news items caught my eye today: first, this New York Times story about how warm weather this year is making it hard for competitors to prepare for the Iditarod dog sled competition.  And then this this Huffington Post item breaking the news that Monopoly is dropping the iron token.  Is nothing sacred?

But the Iditarod story did hit a nerve, for reasons distantly related to the Monopoly story.  Ever since I started hearing about climate change about twenty years ago I've wondered, among other things, what it will mean for our social experience of the weather.  In some ways it's a trivial concern: compared to rising oceans, crop failures, species extinctions and expanding disease ranges it's just not that important whether we expect and celebrate weather-related rituals in the same way.  Frost at Thanksgiving, snow at Christmas, a blizzard at a Packers game, the Iditarod: we'll get used to changes in those rituals and less obvious ones (assuming they even happen, which is obviously not a sure thing).  (My list is obviously winter-centered, in part because it's winter now but also because I grew up in a warm climate where cold weather was something special; maybe others are delighted at the prospect of these rituals passing.)  But you don't have to be an anthropologist to realize that rituals matter, and their passing (if they do in fact pass) will be a loss. 

I suspect we tend to undervalue the impact of those losses, because the benefits are so inchoate.  But it will be a different world if we don't have an Iditarod.  Not necessarily a worse world, I guess, although traditional societies more closely tied to natural rhythms will likely suffer more.  But a different world nonetheless.  Just like a world without the iron token.  But a lot sadder.

Posted by Bill Araiza on February 6, 2013 at 04:00 PM | Permalink


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Here Rio de Janeiro, Christmas is celebrated without snow. I find it quite easy to adjust to the fact that there is no Christmans mania, no lousy music, no Christmas rush for the month of December.

Those who want snow might get to see some in the southern states of Brazil during the Summer Olympics!

Posted by: Jimbino | Feb 7, 2013 6:04:04 AM

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