Friday, November 9, 2018

Microstory 970: Seasons

Seasons are probably more important than you think, and you likely don’t consciously realize what good the seasonal cycle has done for humanity. Seasons are caused by the Earth’s tilt, and the gravitational pull of the moon, both of which were believed to be caused by the same major impact event during the planet’s relative infancy. Lots of people know that the reason our world supports life is because it’s located within a habitability zone. Our perfect distance from the sun makes this place neither too hot, nor too cold. But this is not the only reason, because if it were, life—or at least more evident life—should easily exist on Mars and Venus as well. The gas giants also protected us from incurring too many impact events, which is yet another example of a happy medium. Scientists believe our solar system’s distance from the center of the galaxy may have contributed to habitability as well, though that is still up for debate. I tell you all this so you appreciate how impossible it is that we even exist, and how close we were to not. It may seem like winter is just an inconvenience, or detrimental to life, but that’s not the case. Many crops, including wheat, cannot grow without a cool environment, which would be bad, because a lack of winter would also prevent the advancement of technology beyond small agricultural pockets in only certain regions. But even then, life would be difficult. Just because there’s no winter, doesn’t mean there’s no cold. We would be relegated to tropical regions near the equator, which would be inundated by unchecked pathogens, and their rampant carrier pests. Rain and other weather would constantly beat down any settlements, forcing populations that survived those diseases to at least be partially nomadic. Every civilization began by founding a permanent home, and died out when that home was threatened. An interesting other side effect of winter is technological progress. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. If we didn’t need to find ways to keep warm, we wouldn’t have come up with the most basic forms of energy production, so it wouldn’t have even occurred to us to try to invent computers. It’s okay that there are parts of the world untouched by most seasons, but for the most part, the world needs its tilt, and the people on it should be grateful. Today, our home is being threatened by climate change, which at the most optimistic estimates, won’t be fixed until the middle of this century; that is assuming we immediately cease all pollution overnight. I would tell you to #votethemout if you want something done about climate change, but in all honesty, I know of few politicians and political candidates who are even willing take the necessary action to alleviate this situation. Let’s hope that changes. I may not love you, winter, but I need you, so please...stay frosty.

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