Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weather, Infrastructure, Civilization

It has been too long since I've written - I blame the weather, the cold turning people within themselves, making it ever so much more difficult to look beyond the layers of warm clothing they wear and slow down to observe what is going on around them.

I have, however, been thinking a lot about the weather. In thinking about Norway, in living through cold days in New York, I realize that it is in the cold that we are most dependent on infrastructure - to whatever extent we may or may not notice it. It seems no surprise to me that people in the deserts of Austrailia remained light-travelling nomads for so many centuries, while Northern Europe and mountain communities worldwide quickly settled into villages and developed systems to pool their resources.

Cities and rural areas become incapacitated in snowy or icy conditions without proper vehicles, labor, planning, and foresight to clear and salt roads and routes. I can remember North Carolina schools and businesses closing upon even a slight possibility of snow or freezing rain because over their vast areas of land, they simply did not have the infrastructure in place to make a safe commute for its residents.

In New York, the clearing of the streets is taken as a given, with most residents rarely even witnessing the early morning plows hard at work. Sidewalks are expected to be walkable under any circumstance, with local property owners I've seen finding any range of solution from shovelling, to salting, to pouring antifreeze - as seems to be the preference of some auto mechanic shops in queens. I see the outages and delays in the subway system, the ongoing weekend track replacement work on the 7 line, and for once I truly realize - it takes a lot of labor to sustain so many people living in a cold climate.