— Talk Science To Me (@TalkScienceToMe) December 14, 2013
Snow in Cairo. Snow in Jerusalem. Snow in Syria. Snow in Turkey. Informed local opinion says there’s been no snowfall in Egypt for 112 years. As the tweet above notes: no one alive had ever seen snow on the Sphinx before.
In 1872 Christina Rossetti wrote a “Christmas poem” for Scribner’s Monthly: published by her estate in Rossetti’s Poetic Works in 1904, and first set to music as a Christmas carol in The English Hymnal in 1906, tune by Gustav Holst. Even as a child I knew that this was a description of a Northern Europe winter (and a part of the winter that usually arrives after 25th December) not a description of December in the part of the world where the “Christmas story” happened, in Nazareth and Bethlehem and Egypt. Later I learned that if Jesus existed, he hadn’t been born on 25th December: when Christianity moved to Rome, it had taken on the Saturnalia traditions and – perhaps even before the move to Rome – Jesus had been given Mithra’s birthday.
In the bleak mid-winter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter, Long ago.
A snowy winter in a part of the world that never usually sees snow is not a sign of global cooling. There is snow in the Middle East because since Wednesday, the winter storm named “Alexa” has been bringing an unusual chill to the region, and there is a lot of moisture in the atmosphere. (See: causes of snow.)
We are melting the Arctic ice. We are changing weather patterns brutally. Temperature and pressure oscillations in the Arctic appear to be strongly associated with weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere. In the Middle East, people in homes already ruined by war, or sheltering in refugee camps, are experiencing the kind of weather that has never in human memory been normal for their part of the world.
Unless you are a global jetsetter, your individual use of oil is not make-or-break. Yes, we can all use cloth bags for supermarket shopping instead of plastic, yes we can avoid flying where we can take the train, but it’s oil use and abuse at government and corporate level that has to change if we are to survive as a civilisation.
Which, honestly, I mostly don’t think we will. The corporate entities that benefit on a quarterly basis from using up fossil resources are too powerful for governments to want to act against them, or for individuals to be able, and the corporate propaganda against climate change is both conscienceless and scarily effective.
Meantime, there are refugees in the Middle East who could use some help. Merry bloody Christmas, everybody.