I set down these words on the 9th of March in Manhattan. Historically, the average temperature on this day of the year is 40°. If the weather forecast for today, March 9, 2021, is correct, and at this writing it looks like it will be, the temperature will hit 61°.
“Today is going to be a beautiful day,” the radio said this morning.
Everyone is happy. People are making plans to eat outside, go running, walking, whatever, everyone in New York who can break away from work or other obligations is determined to enjoy today’s “good weather.”
I feel it too. I have a meeting after I finish writing this. The sun will feel sweet on my face. More people will be smiling; even if I have to surmise that from the twinkle in their eyes above a mask, their pleasure in this good weather will be infectious.
We have got to stop thinking about warm, sunny, hotter-than-usual weather as positive. Weather isn’t climate. But hotter-than-usual weather multiplied out, repeated as it has been for years, reflects the existential threat of climate change. Hotter-than-usual weather repeated over time is killing coral and plants, extinguishing species of animals. It will ultimately kill us, and if not us, our children, and if not them, our grandchildren. I have not yet met my grandchild, but I don’t want my grandchild, or yours, to die before he or she has his or her own grandchildren.
We’ve been greeting “beautiful days,” i.e. hotter-than-usual days, by pulling on tank tops, grabbing picnic baskets and heading to the park. This is understandable. This is insane.
There are, if you pay attention, signs that everything is wrong. Trees whose first buds appeared in late April now pop out in February, fresh leaves frozen off as the weather turns cold again, though not as cold nor for as long as it should. Asthmatics, those human canaries, suffer from “spring” allergies all “winter” long. There are so few birds.
The proper response to one too many hotter-than-usual days in mid-winter — for that matter, it is also an appropriate way to greet a series of hotter-than-usual days in summer — is fear. We are on the way out. We are killing ourselves. This is seriously messed up.
Anger follows fear. We should hate the ecocidal maniacs who are too greedy and stupid to see that their relentless quest for short-term corporate profits is murdering us. We should despise the politicians who sell us out to these psychos. We should be ashamed of ourselves for tolerating both sets of crazies.
Unless we are idiots, action should come next, and damned soon. The truly great thing about a 61° day in New York City in March (in March!) is that it makes it more enticing for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers together in public spaces to protest and demand sanity from their overlords. There are no winter coats or cold-stiffened bones to stop demonstrators from hurling teargas canisters back at the cops.
Saving ourselves must begin with a mental shift.
An 80° day at the South Pole might be pleasant for sunbathing scientists. But it would be radically inappropriate regardless of the time of year. A 20° day in Bali might be fun for Indonesians who’ve never been in a snowball fight. But it would be wildly wrong, allowing for normal variations of high and low.
I come to you in praise of “bad” weather. On the 9th of March, New Yorkers ought to be happy to see sleet. They should smile at their neighbors as they tiptoe through filthy slush puddles pooled at the street corners. Climate change has turned the world topsy-turvy; in a topsy-turvy world, good weather is bad and bad weather is good.
Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.