On October 25th of this year, I saw, right here in Bucharest Romania, and extreme weather event that I never thought I would ever see. For two days straight, we were snowed in by a huge blizzard. My landlady here told me that she had been listening to the news, and that the blizzard came in on the tail of a really freakish hurricane-like superstorm that whipped the UK. I stared out my window in disbelief as I saw the snow blanket the piazza, or open air market, below me. Only a few days before, the weather had been mild and balmy, and here we were, seemingly in the middle of winter, just barely more than a month after the fall equinox.
In talking with my landlady about how climate change has affected the weather patterns in Romania, she told me that, 20 or 30 years ago, before climate change became the major problem that it is today, Romania had a temperate climate with four distinct seasons, each having an identity and character of its own. Most specifically, she said that Romania no longer seems to have a real spring or a real fall; they have been reduced to nothing more than summer and winter battling back and forth as the weather swings back and forth between one extreme and the other.
Not long after that freakish snow storm, I had to take a bus trip to Athens, Greece to see about doing Greek Medicine workshops there. Needless to say, the bus ride was quite interesting; Bulgaria, being mostly at higher elevations than Romania, was under a much heavier blanket of snow. But, by the time we reached the Greek border, the snow was no longer there; my sister had looked online at the Greek weather report the day before, and told me that things were still balmy in Greece. But on the day I arrived, I somehow brought the bad weather with me, and the cold weather and rains finally arrived in Greece, signaling the start of the cold season there.
Anyone who has lived as long as I have, who is in their fifties or sixties, and who is honest with themselves, must admit that climate change is happening, and that the weather and climate are way different than they were when they were young. The basic science behind climate change is beyond a doubt, as the heat-trapping effects of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, have been demonstrated for over a hundred years. The accelerated warming of the earth’s average atmospheric temperature started to become noticeable in the ’70s and ’80s, and now, extreme weather events that were once very rare have become commonplace.
But what does Greek Medicine and classical Greek science and natural philosophy have to say about climate change and the extreme weather events that we have been experiencing so frequently for the past ten or fifteen years? As I see it, it all boils down to the Four Basic Qualities: Hot, Cold, Dry and Wet. The first two qualities, Hot and Cold, are the active or primary qualities that drive the other two, Dry and Wet, with Heat leading to dryness through evaporation, and Cold causing wetness through condensation.
Global warming is due to an increase in the Hot quality, or an increase of thermal energy in the atmosphere. This thermal energy does not always manifest as increased atmospheric temperature; it may also be converted into other, kinetic forms of energy. In other words, with more thermal energy, and also more kinetic energy in the atmosphere, weather patterns and systems tend to get more energetic, volatile and extreme. Storms get stronger, and even coalesce into superstorms. When the clouds have dispersed and the Sun comes out, increased heat or warmness is felt, but when the Sun is obscured, and a storm or cold front moves in, with increased energy and force, things can easily swing to the other extreme, which is cold.
Increased heat in the atmosphere leads to more evaporation of moisture, and the atmosphere is able to absorb and hold more water. This increased evaporation rate produces longer and stronger droughts and dry spells in parts of the world that have a predisposition towards them. In parts of the world that are prone to strong seasonal rains, the increased amount of water and moisture that the warmer atmosphere is able to hold will suddenly come down in massive storms and floods.
The two active or primary qualities, Hot and Cold, also drive the Jet Stream, that river of constantly moving air in the upper atmosphere which separates warm weather systems coming up from the tropics from frigid weather systems coming down from the poles. And since the poles have been warming faster than the rest of the earth, the Hot / Cold temperature differential that drives the motion of the jet stream is no longer so pronounced, leading to a slower, lazier, more meandering jet stream that is more prone to wild fluctuations and irregularities. Having less speed and force, the jet stream is more easily deterred by geographical barriers that it used to flow straight over, such as the Rocky Mountains of the western United States.
And so, political and religious conservatives in the United States, who are basically in denial of Climate Change, and science along with it, were telling everyone last winter that the extreme coldness of that winter in the midwest, where they happened to live, was proof positive that global warming was a big hoax. “How can there be global warming when my @$$ is so cold?”, they protested, mocking the scientific consensus. But if those shortsighted politicians and preachers had just gone out to the West coast, anywhere from California on up to Anchorage, Alaska, and experienced the unseasonally balmy weather there for themselves, they would have seen the folly of their ways. The last winter was very cold in the midwest because the jet stream dipped way down south in that part of the country, bringing the much colder arctic air down with it; out West, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, the jet stream was way up north, in northern Alaska, resulting in a flood of warm, balmy tropical air even up to Anchorage, Alaska. Although there can be local variations in the weather that are quite extreme, on the average, the planet is warming.
Greek Medicine, as well as traditional indigenous philosophies and worldviews the world over, maintain that the whole earth is actually one living organism, with all of its constituent parts, which are not only the planet but all life forms living upon it, being knit together into one interdependent whole. Modern business and capitalism, on the other hand, tends to take the earth and its vital support systems, which include the weather and climate, for granted, or view them with callous indifference and neglect. People tend to forget how much the vital agricultural systems that support human life and civilization on this planet are fine tuned within quite narrow tolerances of heat, cold, moisture and dryness, and how all the elements need to work together with a remarkable degree of harmony, balance and coordination for life and business to go on as usual. Changing this vital mix, or eukrasia, by only a few degrees or percentage points here and there could send the whole delicately tuned system into disarray, with droughts, floods and famines disrupting the whole agricultural cycle. And those concerns were foremost in my mind when I was watching, with considerable dismay, that freakish snow storm in late October; the agricultural harvest season was far from over – would this cause a major disruption in it, and ruin the fall crops?