About this title:
Nowhere in the world is weather as volatile and powerful as it is in North America. Scorching heat in the Southwest, hurricanes on the Atlantic coast, tornadoes in the Plains, blizzards in the mountains: Every area of the country has vastly different weather, and vastly different cultures as a result. Braving the Elements is David Laskin's delightful and fascinating history of how our unique weather has shaped a nation, and how we've tried to cope with it over centuries.
Since before Columbus, the peoples of America have struggled to make sense of the capricious and violent nature of America's weather. Anasazi Indians used the rain dance (and sometimes human sacrifice) to induce rain, while the Puritans in New England blamed the sins of the community for lightening strikes and Nor'easters. IN modern times we carry on those traditions by blaming the weatherman for ruined weekends. Despite hi-tech satellites and powerful computers and 24-hour-a-day forecasting from The Weather Channel, we're still at the mercy of the whims of Mother Nature.
Laskin recounts the many dramatic moments in American weather history, from the "Little Ice Age" to Ben Franklin's invention of the lightning rod to the Great Blizzard of the 1930's to the worries about global warming. Packed with fresh insights and wonderful lore and trivia, Braving the Elements is unique and essential reading for anyone who's ever asked, "What's it like outside?"
Journalist David Laskin writes, "The history of weather is both a history of nature and a history of human desire. A history that is made and erased every day." And the history of American weather is particularly problematic: "Our weather and climate have been strange since the beginning of our history. Our perceptions have always been skewed by expectation, our memories distorted by self-interest." From a European perspective, North American weather is never usual: it is too hot, too cold, too violent, and, for most of the continent, much too dry. But Americans' minds never quite catch up with the weather where they actually live: "When we move, weather is the last thing we leave behind and the first thing we find when we arrive. Weather, in a sense, is home." Laskin's great insight is that the weather is never what we expect, because we always misremember the past. And in America in particular, this unexpected weather is always a sign of something: God's vengeance, human tampering, the progress or the regress of civilization. Laskin covers American weather from the warm spell that lured the Norse to Greenland, through the little ice age and the dust bowl, up to the greenhouse anxieties of the turn of the millennium. "We are constantly making and revising the history of weather, but weather itself is ahistorical. Infinite, fathomless, incalculable, it just keeps happening, regardless, every day." --Mary Ellen Curtin
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