Editorial – The Silver Lining

On this Victoria Day long weekend–affectionately known by countless Canadians as May Two-Four–the lifejackets will be pulled out of storage, the highways will be bumper-to-bumper, and everyone will be hoping for good weather. All eyes will be turned skyward, and if the clouds unleash a torrent or the temperature turns chilly, there will be grumbles about the lousy weather and ruined weekend. But those clouds remind me that behind every rained-out ball game and wind-tossed wedding party there is, indeed, a silver lining: that human beings can’t control the weather.

Not to come down too hard on the side of the misanthropists, but let’s face it, there aren’t too many human endeavours that haven’t been sidetracked or mismanaged by our baser instincts.

Before we go on, let’s make one important distinction: weather predictions are not the same as weather control. If technology can come up with ways to predict violent storms, droughts, or earthquakes, if we can somehow prevent the catastrophic ruin and loss of life from the next tsunami or Hurricane Katrina, it would be criminal not to. Government bungling and slipshod levees aside, advance warnings and effective disaster management programs make sense.

Right now nature deals the weather cards, but there are plenty of schemes afoot on how to change that. There’s cloud seeding, which involves putting chemicals such as silver iodide into clouds. The idea is that the chemicals create snow or rain by condensing the moisture in the clouds into ice.

That one’s been around for a while, but a newer idea would see microwave energy blasted from space satellites to interrupt the convective flow of tornadoes. The silver iodide technique has also been suggested as a way to control fog or reduce the size of hailstones.

The real corker has to be this one, though: some scientists have suggested that, to fight global warming, a man-made ring of spacecrafts or small particles should be positioned around the Earth. The logic? The ring of objects would cast shade on the tropics, lowering temperatures and mitigating extreme weather. And the side effects? Enough illumination to brighten the night sky as much as a full moon would.

It would, like so many other things, start out with the best of intentions. But imagine if the same corporations and governments that strip-mine the land and pollute our water could control when and where it rained. Imagine if the relative handful of people with power and control, the ones who throughout history have forced millions from their homes and property in the name of profit, could actually decide what the temperature would be; could hold meetings to determine which countries would get the climate to produce good crops, or which ones would be left in too-dry or too-cold conditions and forced to import food at inflated prices.

The thought makes me glad that the average weather forecast is a chancy prospect at best.

So if it does happen to rain this holiday weekend and you find yourself staring through the screen and watching the Jet Ski bobbing forlornly at the edge of the dock, here’s what to do: stick out your tongue, catch a few raindrops, and just be very, very glad that the sun, the wind, and the rain are still completely out of our control.