Weather change – Culture Change: the influence of climate change on culture

What will we do as we move towards a less stable climate, as extreme weather becomes more common? 

Already we are a species divorced from the natural environment, in concert with which we spent millennia evolving. We have lost not only our intuition, instinct and responsiveness to the rhythms of the living world, but also our ability to think outside. Not to think “outside the box”, I do mean think outside.

The important things in our world are all done inside. The things that are valued; law, medicine, business, even arts and culture. Our outdoor selves, for the majority of people, are felt during small gaps in “real life”; recreational time when we tend the garden or take a walk, or in summer play on the beach, camp and do outdoor sports. 

What is the impact of this? We can’t do surgery or use computing systems outside so why bother to discuss the indoor nature of virtually all professions? The point is not to suggest we find outdoor alternatives for our existing professions, but merely to reflect on where this has taken us.

With an ever increasing distance from the living world, and a tendency towards health and safety legislation, suing and compensation in the case of accident, we are pathologically averse to any unpredictability. While we may exhort the wonders of the natural world and clearly see the need to encourage our pollinators to thrive, our seas to be filled with life not plastic, and the remaining tigers to have some chance of survival, we cannot go that step further to accept the releasing of the reins that is involved in taking our place in the living world again.

Of course, unpredictability is thrust upon us, as when during March storms fences were blown down and transport disrupted. 

But the key point is that the lack of predictability of the living world creates cost inefficiency, and therefore it goes against the grain of the culture into which we are born.

I know this because I consider the weather when I am preparing for each session I run for my CIC, which gets people into closer relations with the living world through a varied programme of outdoor activities. Will anyone come out when its rainy and grey? Or when the forecast has black warning arrows on the wind speed (even at speeds when the wind is only strong enough to break twigs not branches)? And therefore will those who commission us do the maths and conclude that it is not cost efficient to run outdoor wellbeing courses in the winter… or spring… or autumn?

Record breaking weather is a regular thing now. And while we may not yet be in the throws of the chaos predicted if we fail to act effectively and immediately on curbing carbon emissions, we are still shifting our cultural norms to respond to these changes. How many workplaces in the UK have had to install air conditioning to cope with summer heat in recent years, where before there was none? I don’t have any statistics but anecdotal evidence from media coverage suggests many. 

And what happens outside the workplace, when we have a heat wave as we did last year in May and June? To avoid heatstroke we are advised not to go outside. And when the storms that raged over 2 weeks in March bring unsettled windy rainy weeks? Stay inside. And what about when its freezing and there is ice on the ground or prolonged snow? Stay indoors.

I am not commenting on the rational of these behaviours here, I am observing the trend that we are likely to see increase, perhaps exponentially depending on the degree of extreme weather we encounter in the next decade. 

For those of us whose working lives are outside this is worth thinking about, as 10 years is not a long period of time in our working lives. We may feel that outdoor work is a less viable option to be able to support ourselves economically. What you are more likely to feel though, if like me you are drawn to your work from passion rather than profit, is a sense of bereavement that people may be on the road to severing these fragile strands that we are building to reclaim our place in the web of life, to our whole interconnected selves. 

What we miss from not having this link to the living world is huge. I don’t need to quote the scientific literature to prove this to you. We each sense our own call of the wild every time we find the stillness and clarity to hear it.

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