Climate Change Denial

December 19, 2006

I’M DREAMING OF A GREY CHRISTMAS

George Marshall @ 1:45 pm
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We have fetishised snow- creating an elaborate commercially driven fantasy of the snowy Christmas at exactly the time that snow is disappearing from the European winter. Ersatz snow- spray snow from a can, polystyrene snow, computer generated snow- appears on every shop front, in every tv advert, on people’s windows and front doors, across the mastheads of magazines and newspapers, on every Christmas card. Increasingly there is machine generated snow on the ski slopes where snow is actually supposed to be (see this article for example)

And there is not so much as a single snow flake in sight. This is set to be the warmest English winter on record. The autumn of 2006 has been nearly one degree hotter on average than the autumn of 2005, itself the hottest ever recorded. Even the experts are shocked link…. If these temperatures persist there will be no snow at all across most of England this winter.

The prognosis is clear. Assuming that the there is no collapse of the Gulf Stream, within one generation low land Western Europe will become permanently devoid of snow.

We’re virtually there already in southern England. The number of days of snow has fallen by two thirds during my lifetime. The heaviest snowfall my children have experienced in their five years of life is one inch three years ago. Since then there has been hardly enough to speckle the path.

And yet kids occupy a media generated world of constant blizzards, snowball fights and snowmen. This morning my children sat and watched a Christmas special of Bob the Builder set in two feet of snow, introduced by presenters surrounded by spray-on snow. (Look at this if you can bare it) They were inspired to build their own snowman fetish out of a white blanket thrown over a chair with stick on eyes and a carrot for a nose- just like they’d been told by the snow cult. It was cute, but painful too.

Snow has always been a component of the image of Christmas in both the traditional pagan/Christian festival and the more recent consumerist potlatch. What is interesting is not just that it persists in the face of a marked changed in actual climate, but that its promotion and commodification are becoming even stronger. It has taken on a socially constructed meaning that exceeds any intrinsic meaning; a fetish, in other words.

Humans have a marked historical tendency to fetishise the natural world as they destroy it. Look at the recent spate of penguin fever as discussed by Martyn Carless in the last posting. Think of the national symbols that live on long after their prototypes have been virtually eliminated – the cedars of Lebanon, the Bald Eagle of the US, the tigers of Korea, the Aracaria tree of Chile, and there are many more.

snow canWhat is also happening here is a deliberate rejection of the very rapid changes that are happening around us. Snow has taken on a life of its own in our constructed reality as a symbol of stability and tradition. The loss of snow is one of the harbingers of climate change and it is precisely for that reason that our collective response is to ignore it.

4 Responses to “I’M DREAMING OF A GREY CHRISTMAS”

  1. This was a fine post, and informative for an American who knew it was bad in Europe, but not exactly how bad. There is an important point you have neglected – that all of the fake snow will be a subconscious testimony to the idea that “science and technology will be able to take care of anything.”

  2. Think also of the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Bears … animals long extinct in Britain which live on only in fairy tales.

    Think also of Australia – where Father Christmas arrives on sledge with reindeer in midst of midsummer heat!

    Myth has a powerful hold on our minds … often more powerful than the reality we witness with our senses.

  3. A warning: be careful not to take too seriously the fantasies peddled by modern consumerism, that is, by confusing them with the myths of an earlier culture seeking to confront the outside world. Often children still learn about the environment in reality, but cannot learn how to act on that learning when they grow up.

  4. Neill says:

    Maybe we do get less snow, but be aware what you see on TV is a myth. Its just like Santa Claus – a fantasy. There’s no harm with a bit of fun this time of year.

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