Historical Understandings of Weather and Society, From the Everyday to the Extreme
- Alexander HallAlexander HallUniversity of Birmingham, School of Philosophy, and Religious Studies
Throughout history human societies have been shaped and sculpted by the weather conditions that they faced. More than just the physical parameters imposed by the weather itself, how individuals, communities, and whole societies have imagined and understood the weather has influenced many facets of human activity, from agriculture to literary culture. Whether through direct lived experiences, oral traditions and stories, or empirical scientific data these different ways of understanding meteorological conditions have served a multitude of functions in society, from the pragmatic to the moral.
While developments made in the scientific understanding of the atmosphere over the last 300 years have been demonstrably beneficial to most communities, their rapid onset and spread across different societies often came at the expense of older ways of knowing. Therefore, the late 20th century turn to emphasizing the importance of and interrogating and incorporating of traditional ecological knowledge within meteorological frameworks and discourses was essential. This scholarly research, underway across a number of disciplines across the humanities and beyond, not only aides the top-down integration and reach of mitigation and adaptation plans in response to the threat posed by anthropogenic climate change; it also enables the bottom-up flow of forgotten or overlooked knowledge, which helps to refine and improve our scientific understanding of global environmental systems.