Knowing the weather (in China)

I wrote a piece some time ago for Scapegoat in a special issue on the weather. The contribution, entitled “Knowing the weather – Heavens and Super computers in China”, focuses on the politics of weather forecasting (in China). Below the abstract:

The manipulation and governing of the weather has been the aspiration of humanity for over thousands of years (see e.g. Fleming 2012). A lot of such inspiration comes forth from the idea that the erratic rhythms of the weather reflect and inform social realities on earth. Knowing and predicting the weather would provide foresight into impending events. Attempts to ‘know the weather’ were initially inspired by mythological and religious narratives. A technological attempt to monitor and anticipate the weather is of a more recent date. These efforts reveal that our fascination with and relation to the weather embodies a timeless essence. We have always and will always be interested in knowing the weather.

The issue features a range of interesting contributions on the weather theme and is on sale here. From the blurb:

What are we talking about when we talk about the weather? We are talking about the rain, the clouds, the air, the breath, the fog, the gas, the dust, the soil, the carbon, the climate, the bomb, the border, the math, the sensor, the sensorium, the satellite, the snow, the ice, the exorcist, the shaman, the gods, the future, the good fortune, the bad luck, and the better times ahead.

As a container term, “the weather” has generally referred to things that happen in the atmosphere. However, how the weather happens is now a subject of serious debate. In western culture it has historically been capricious, beyond control and beyond reproach; today, the weather is increasingly something that exists, to some extent, as a byproduct of human decisions. Its mixture of gasses, salts, dust, and debris can be contaminated, and its intensities of heat, pressure, and moisture can be modified. Today the weather can commit a crime, and those responsible held accountable. Understanding the extent to which the weather in general is a product of human decisions is now an international juridical project. A critical reassessment of how the weather happens, what its mixture consists of, and how it ought to entangle human life is necessary.

This issue consists of eighteen contributions including original English translations from French, Korean and Indonesian, interviews, essays, reviews and projects.