Who'll stop the snow?

Posted: Dec 20, 2009 12:00 AM

It's snowing

People express this simple fact with markedly different emphasis and emotion. With joy, my 10-year old screeches it at the top of her lungs. My wife mutters it as if an invading army had just crossed the Potomac — perhaps from Copenhagen, where they had huddled to “do something” about the climate.

This current burst of precipitation is no light dusting: We’ve received more than a foot of snow, and it’s still coming down, the air full of the swirling white stuff.

I like snow. It excites me — in some part because I’m slow to appreciate new realities. I react just as I did in school (more than three decades ago): That is, a miracle has occurred, preventing the cruel teacher, world, you-name-it, from controlling my life as previously planned.

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But I’m not a schoolboy anymore. Snow or no snow, I have a column due Saturday evening, and so I must write. Yet, how can anyone sit still in their basement to write when snow pours out of the sky above?

The fond memories of sledding with my daughters over the years, and making snowmen, cross my mind. I don’t even object to shoveling. It’s hard work, but it is also good exercise, leaving one with a firm sense of satisfaction, provided one avoids keeling over from a heart attack.

Minutes ago I could have been found shoveling the driveway and the walk, and cleaning off the cars. The snow was coming down faster than I could shovel it out of the way, so I gave up.

I guess “I can’t get me no satisfaction,” at least not until the snow lets up. But there is some serenity: I can easily accept that Mother Nature is more powerful than I am. (It’s an ancient wisdom: Do not fret about what you have no control over.) And there is nothing anyone can do about it — not President Obama, the federal Congress, the Supreme Court or the United Nations.

For someone who perhaps works too much and plays too little, snow — especially a blizzard — reminds me that sometimes life tosses out curve balls, and that, when that happens, you have to go with the pitch. Hoping for a fastball right down the middle — or protesting the pitch — won’t stop it from breaking across the plate for a strike.

Or help you hit it.

So it is with snow. The flakes are like little whispers that “we’re not in control,” which is scary. But the message is reassuring, too, in signaling that the blowhards on television aren’t in control, either.

It’s often said that timing is everything. I note this East Coast snow storm coincides with the end of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, the governments of 193 nations met to dicker over how to control the planet’s weather. On the last day of the event, President Barack Obama proclaimed a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” as the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa agreed to a deal whereby developed countries will list voluntary emissions targets and wealthier countries pledged monetary aid to assist poorer countries in dealing with global warming.

The Boston Globe reported that the accord was “not legally binding” and “falls short of even the most timid expectations of what would come out of the much-anticipated talks.” Obama himself admitted that this agreement “will not be sufficient” to micromanage the global thermostat or avoid the most serious effects of climate change.

The Obama-negotiated deal attempts to limit global warming through the end of the 21st century to no more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, while some climate scientists now predict the rise will be 3 to 7 degrees.

Will it work? Can governments around the world concentrate enough knowledge and direct enough sheer force — and, with it, muster up enough compliance — to manage the climate?

Folks in Washington and Copenhagen say “Yes.” Folks shoveling the snow on my block think Mother Nature is not so easily legislated.