Commentary – The most tedious topic of all

Joe McWilliams

What’s the most tedious topic of all?

The weather! It’s a safe one, though. Maybe not as safe as it once was, what with that pesky climate change thing going around. But at least it’s something we still have in common.

Once upon a time you’d come to school [or work] on a Monday morning and pretty much everybody would have watched the same TV shows, or gone to the same movie or attended the same bonspiel or hockey game. Lots of shared experiences to shoot the bull about.

Not anymore! Now you come to work, or the coffee shop being uncomfortably aware that some of your cronies said some very nasty and intolerant things about immigrants or certain political leaders. Or – even more likely – passed on some myopic propaganda claiming climate change science is a communist plot.

So you don’t talk about those things. And if you don’t watch Survivor and don’t care about it, what does that leave? The local weather, of course!

So…let’s see. When it gets to -30C these days, it is very, very inconvenient. School buses stop running on some routes. All the oldtimers will tell you when they were kids the buses ran at least until -40C, which happened for at least several days every winter.

When was the last time you saw -40C? It’s getting to be a long time ago, or was when this was written.

Back then, of course, we weren’t so reluctant to dress for cold weather. These days, gangs of teenagers can be seen suffering for their own weird notions of what’s fashionable. No gloves, no ear-covering, inadequate jackets, sometimes wearing little slipper-like shoes with no socks, not to mention all that exposed flesh under the artful rips. All the while yakking it up and laughing as if everything is great. Were we like that as teenagers? Was I?

Last week I saw a guy, wind chill at least -42C freezing, walking to his vehicle wearing shorts. I’m not making this up. I don’t care what anybody says, that sort of thing was not happening when I was growing up. Or if it was I never saw it, possibly because my glasses were fogged up.

But it’s only -30C! In a week [maybe already] we’ll be dealing with melting. The constant battle between the Arctic high and the Pacific low, making life interesting here in north central Alberta.

There’s this thing called the Polar Vortex. It might not actually qualify for capital letters, but something as ominous-sounding as that deserves them, in my opinion. People are watching what it does. Apparently, it has been behaving strangely in recent years and may [or may not] hold clues about climate change.

For example, did you know that a chunk of the vortex ‘broke off’ and wandered down into the Pacific, bringing snow to Hawaii? I didn’t either, but people whose biases lean in a certain direction will use it as evidence global warming is nonsense. Others will come to a very different conclusion.

Where the truth might be I don’t know, but I am quite sure winters around here aren’t as cold as they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether our actions as individuals can make much of a difference to the big picture…well, that’s a discussion worth having, I think. It’s always worthwhile to think about how to make the world a better place.

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