Clouds & Clouds

Once there were only clouds.

Then we imagined symbolic clouds,

 later we classified clouds,

and now we use cloud services.

Documenting and reflecting about weather is a behavior that drastically has change in the latest centuries. Through the historical images we are able to see how painters have been engaged in illustrating weather through dramatic clouds. Most of these dramatic weather illustrations were although not communicating the actual weather of that time, but rather adding a symbolic value to the weather. A dark sky was not ”bad” weather but rather domesday or a reminder of committed sins. But with the enlightenment and science as a counter narrative towards the religious understanding of nature, weather became a scientific matter to be classified as any other natural element under the rule of human. Clouds became Cumulus, Stratus, Cirrus, Nimbus, etc… The science of weather forecasting was born!
Today our conversations about the weather are much more complicated since they are embedded in the consequences of climate crisis, a growing weather forecasting industry and the accumulation of weather data that requires more and more physical storage, also know as ”cloud services”.
Sadly our awareness of the climate crisis does not always correlate with our consumption of weather forecasting. Consuming weather data does not necessary implies our participation in raising awareness or acting to combat the climate crisis, as it should be! The large scale consumption of weather data does mainly communicates the awareness of how fragile a certain business sector can be due to drastic weather conditions. The green energy sector depends very much on the daily weather, and so does global shipping infrastructure as well as the travel and tourism industry.
It seems that we are facing a cognitive disorientation when not being able to properly connect ”strange” weather to climate crisis. Obviously we do not fully understand the existential value of grasping emotions and facts that ”we are the weather” as Jonathan Safran Foer carefully explains to us in his book about human behavior and weather. So where to enter, how to start the awareness raising that we are the weather? Could a humble step consist of engaging in a dialogue between the science of climate and our feelings about the weather?
This essay was originally published for the Goethe-Institut Norwegen