When Andreas Malm observed that “not even the weather belongs fully to the moment,” he was looking forward from 2016, considering the cumulative impact of present emissions on “generations not yet born.” The reverse is also true: present storms have their origins in past consumption. Up to this point, though, analysis of how human activity will intensify future weather has focused on change in a limited set of quantifiable conditions, like precipitation and temperature – and in this respect, too, the weather of the present is the weather of the past. Both this set of variables and its status as the central object of meteorological study have their origins in the eighteenth century – and so, as this essay will demonstrate, many current complaints about the narrowness of this sense of the weather have also been anticipated by the widespread debate about the objectives of empirical inquiry in which it took shape. By looking back at the concerns that this empirical model of the weather inspired when it was new, however, and taking seriously the eighteenth-century fears about what might be lost to the rise of this new science, we also catch a glimpse of the alternative (and often more expansive) models of perceiving the causes and consequences of encounters with extreme weather that were circulating at the same time. For contemporary scholars interested, after Christina Sharpe, in how to reconceive the weather as “the totality of the environments in which we struggle,” these eighteenth-century responses to the weather thus offer a timely reminder: to aim, in this effort, to acknowledge more of the social and political injustice to which we are so unevenly exposed, but also to cast light on the power we can claim to change the weather–if only we acknowledge all the ways we already make the weather for one another.
Recommended Citation / Citation recommandée
"Where the Weather Comes From."
The Goose, vol. 17
, article 46,
Literature in English, British Isles Commons, Literature in English, North America Commons