Ariane de Gennaro
When you think of small talk, you think of the weather. Everyone tends to have an agreeable opinion about it. Play your cards wisely, and you can weaponize the forecast to neutralize even the most awkward encounters. But recently, the New Haven climate is a matter of controversy.
I’ve spoken to weather-experiencers all across Yale’s campus. Prior to when temperatures had hit their peak, most people were utterly nonchalant. They’d direct our conversation to what they deemed to be more ‘interesting’ directions, curious as to why I felt compelled to devote an entire article to the subject. But, considering the misleading flux of temperatures we have experienced this year in New Haven, the weather has become elevated beyond casual small talk.
There is a precedent for autumn here in the Northeast.
The first couple November afternoons are traditionally deceptive. Take a look out the window and you might notice the brilliant blue skies, slowly drifting leaves, and glaringly bright sun rays luring you into the false sense that jackets are for the weak. But when you step outside, the reality of a 52° high and a 38° low should set in.
However, this year, autumn is not living up to my usual expectation. The sunny skies really do make the air feel, dare I say, hot!? Checking the forecast these days never ceases to surprise me. Now, when my roommate tells me it’s 25° out, I need to ask for clarification whether it’s celcius or farenheit.
The weather is no longer the Switzerland of conversational topics. Some people have enjoyed frolicking around Old Campus in crop tops and cutoffs, while others have serious worries about climate change.
Selfishly, I need separate seasons like I need each food group. Variety is the spice of life! The temperature should be like the moon. Waxing and waning. Cyclical. As we venture closer to fall’s end, I yearn for a chilly unsettling of my routine. The shining sun should only project a mirage of warmth. Heat should be coming instead from down jackets and overworked heaters.
In my New York state of mind, autumn should mark the beginning of hands-in-pockets season. Flushed cheeks season. Breathing in and out and watching the fog dissolve season. Fiddling with the tassels on your scarf season. Doubling up on socks season. Huddling with people you barely know season.
Selflessly, I realize the reason behind all of these bizarre temperatures relate back to something deeper. Global warming has disrupted the natural progression of seasons. Humanity’s neglect of the environment has spiraled into profound imbalances that we are starting to see in projected forecasts.
This weather should serve as a wake up call. Now that climate change visibly and directly impacts our daily routines, suddenly everyone has something substantial to say. In the past week I have been asked, more times than I can count, to share seriously formulated opinions about the weather. Instead of chatting about how nice it is outside, people are starting to consider whether the warmth is nice at all.
Autumn is the season of change, but this amount of change is unnatural. The evolving discourse surrounding recent weather patterns signifies most Yalies agree this is no typical November. But will the sudden interest in temperatures might fade until the next major weather event? Maybe. Considering how our culture casually normalizes the impacts of climate change, the weather might revert back to small talk.
Of course, it shouldn’t. Yes, we need to hold governments and large corporations accountable for their emissions since they greatly contribute to the problem. But in the short term, the only carbon footprint we control is our own.
To keep autumn from disappearing, I suggest that we align our selfish desires with our selfless ones. When routine use of a reusable tote bag feels too onerous, think of cuddling up under knit blankets by the fireplace. If a shorter shower makes you feel colder, imagine the phenomenal, full body sensation of drinking a steaming beverage on a below freezing day. Our daily sacrifices could amount to a growing, cultural shift that makes the endangerment of autumn an issue of priority.
Whether or not people care, I will always hope there will be layers of clothing on our shivering bodies. And if not, at least layers to the dialogue we continue to have about the weather.