Times Square Snow Storm New York City
A man walks through the middle of a snow storm in Times Square, New York City on Jan. 26, 2015.  Benjamin Lowy—Getty Images Reportage for TIME

Can We All Shut Up About the Weather for a While?

Jan 27, 2015
Ideas
Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.

So there was no Great Blizzard of 2015, or Snowmageddon, or anything more than a routine dumping of white stuff in mid-winter over a godforsaken region of the country that people are already leaving in droves.

The predictions for a Northeastern snow and ice storm of biblical proportions — if the Bible had snow, that is — just didn’t happen. Apart from a few Twitter jokes, what lessons should we draw from this latest media-driven anticlimax?

At the top of the list: Can we shut up about weather for a while, especially weather that is totally in keeping with the seasons in which it’s taking place? It’s only 2015, but it seems like we get storms of the century about every three to six months. Our parents famously walked three miles (uphill both ways, mind you) in sub-zero and scorching temperatures in shoes made of detergent-box cardboard while also mining coal and smoking unfiltered cigarettes by the carton. And here we are, snug in our all-wheel-drive vehicles and Gore-Tex weather wear, demanding work and school be canceled on a 40% likelihood of snow flurries.

Summer has heat waves, winter has snowstorms, get over it. Ever since The Weather Channel first went live in 1982, Americans have been in love with “weather porn,” those swirling animated displays of pixels that change from green to yellow to orange to red to blue while moving rightward across your TV, computer, or smartphone screens. We stand transfixed like 12-year-old boys looking at a centerfold for the first time as reporters dressed like the Gorton’s Fisherman stand in the rain and tell us... it’s raining. Or, worse yet, that it’s not raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing.

Part of the weather hype is driven by hysteria over global warming, which means that weather — once delivered by genial weirdos like Willard Scott and David Letterman — is as big a deal as the latest American misadventure in the Middle East (for the record, I believe that climate change is taking place, that human activity is part of the cause, and that the best way to deal with it is to remediate its effects rather than simply pull the plug on human progress).

Gorgeous, Dreamlike Photos of Snowflakes Shot on an iPhone

The following photos were shot on Greg Miller's iPhone: Snowflake IGreg Miller
The following photos were shot on Greg Miller's iPhone: Snowflake I
Greg Miller
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As one Twitter wag put it in response to the non-blizzard of the moment, “Remember: no snow = global warming, lots of snow = global warming, less snow than you thought = global warming.” The important thing being, of course, that we always feel bad about ourselves no matter what’s happening. The United States doesn’t have colonies anymore, but we can still feel bad that our productive might is somehow making the world a worse place.

Which leads to a second lesson to learn from this latest snow job: To politicians, any and every day is a campaign rally just waiting to happen. Within recent memory, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took heat for failing to react quickly and efficiently to snowstorms, among other weather events. It’s funny, isn’t it, the way that our elected leaders never really seem to be there when it matters but are always quick to petition for extra money from taxpayers, the federal government, or private businesses for the next big catastrophe?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proactively managed expectations by hyping this week’s non-storm, thereby helping to cause a run on grocery stores. Cuomo also trumpeted his actions to keep Uber from enacting “surge pricing” of more than 2.8 times its normal base fares. The whole point of surge pricing is to make it worthwhile for drivers to risk being out when they’d rather not, so we’ll see how well this exercise in price controls works out the next time there’s actually a serious weather event going on.

Which leads to a third and final lesson to remember from Nomageddon 2015: When push comes to shove, America, you’re on your own. After overseeing a nearly complete failure to execute the tasks for which New York City residents shell out exorbitant taxes, Mayor Bloomberg called the experience “character building” — for him. “Nobody has a career that goes straight up,” mused the billionaire on a radio talk show right after the debacle. You’re a chump if you think that elected officials really care about you and your misfortunes, America.

They have bigger fish to fry, bigger bank accounts to manage, and higher offices to seek than anything related to what they owe you. The sooner you fully internalize that reality and minimize the money they take from you and the regulations they bind you with, the more prepared you’ll be able to deal with the figurative and literal storm clouds life puts in your way.


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