Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (Cynthia Barnett)

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History is a journey of the human experience with regards to nature's single biggest fuel for this planet.  Cynthia Barnett's book takes us through an epochs-long journey of how rain shapes, makes, breaks, and changes our world.  She also focuses on how changing patterns in rain, whether influenced by man or other forces, can change societies as well.

Our experiences with rain, whether too much or a lack thereof, has shaped a large amount of our literary and cultural experiences.  Books like Grapes of Wrath are devoted to the experiences many endured in migrating from the Plains to California in the Dust Bowl era.  Musicians and musical genres have been influenced in large part by climate and rainfall; Barnett discusses the influences of gloomy climates in Seattle and Manchester on the music of New Order, the Smiths, and the Seattle rock scene. In many respects, Barnett artfully weaves through all of the ways that rain shapes our society beyond the mere agricultural and societal impacts on life and property.  Rain shapes the emotional and economic experiences many have.  Barnett also devotes a significant amount of coverage to our own understanding of predicting rain patterns and our attempts to manipulate them, from loud explosions in West Texas in the late 19th century to silver iodide experiments in hurricanes in the 1950s and 1960s.

The author effectively tells the story of how rain is an equal opportunity employer, destroyer, enabler, and disabler combined with being a part of everyone's dialogue regardless of economic standing of location.  We're all impacted by what falls or does not fall from the sky and how too much or too little can change all of our lives.  Barnett devotes some coverage to our changing climate's impact on rain patterns, which is important to note regardless of views of man's influence on the climate.  Rain will continue to have an impact on us going forward and, Barnett argues, will shape our stories, successes, and failures in the generations to come.