• Tag Archives Usuhaia
  • Climate Shock

    Samain                           Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Brother Mark wrote from Ha’il, Saudi Arabia and asked about culture shock for us as we returned to the US.  I said no, not much, since the Veendam is a floating exemplar of North American Western culture.  After heading to the grocery store this morning, I might modify that response a bit.

    Specifically, I began to compare the 39 degree, gray, windy day here in Andover to the 82-86 degree days we just experience in Rio de Janerio.  While Cariocas and their tourist companions don their minimal beach garb, grab the nearest towel with an outrageous design and slather on the sun tan lotion, I put on my Ecuadorian alpaca zip up hooded sweater with llamas on it, my Usuhaia winter hat and the wool scarf Kate knitted for me during the first weeks of our trip, to buy groceries.

    Geographers and historians warn, rightly I think, about attributing too much influence to climate and geography; still, the difference between a brisk sub 40 degree day and a sunny 85 degree one is substantial.  It affects the mind.  As I cranked up the Celica and pulled out of the driveway, I felt exhilaration and stimulation, a sort of well, let’s get on with it attitude.  My Carioca equivalent woke up, walked outside, felt the warm sun and his mind turned toward the beach, the beautiful women in their revealing swim wear and a night at a salsa bar.  Climate has its impacts.

    Above the Tropic of Cancer sit the big cultural engines of the world:  China, the US, Europe, Russia.  That’s partly because of the imbalance of land masses in the north, 60+ % of Earth’s land is in the northern hemisphere and partly because of the geographic and climatological conditions.  It takes more effort to survive in temperate climates than in tropical or sub-tropical ones.  By that I mean it takes more energy expenditure.

    That having to survive drastically different seasonal conditions would have an effect on culture is almost tautological.  That it has a positive effect is not so obvious, but it seems to have had at least an impact that requires temperate climate folk to work harder to make it through the long fallow time from late October through sometime in March.

    As I went to the grocery store today, I felt this difference vicerally, being only a couple of days away from Ipanema and its sun oriented lifestyle.  I’ve never been a sun focused guy, see my post about not being a beach person, so I find the temperate climate suits me.  In fact I prefer it so much that I have moved steadily north in my life:  Oklahoma to Indiana, Indiana to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Minnesota.

    So, yes Mark, I did experience culture shock, from a hot one to a cold one.