Storm Control

The politics of weather is the story of the moment, but it’s actually just the latest chapter in a very old debate. Weather, the control of weather, and the implications of that control has been a political lightning rod the cause of much politicking for the past two centuries.

In early to mid 1800s, meteorologist James Pollard Espy, also known as "The Storm King", contended that he could abolish storms, floods, droughts, excessive heat and cold, all by strategically planting timber plots, and setting them on fire as needed. (The heat would create an updraft that would form storms, he theorized.)

This was not regarded as far-fetched in its time. In fact, the concern wasn’t whether Espy’s plan could work –the more serious worry was about who would control storms. (Thus setting the stage for many a sci-fi movie plot.) When Espy’s project came before Congress in 1854, one senator from South Carolina said "I would not trust such a power to this Congress…Congress would be sure to make it rain in some places while they would deny it to others." In other words, he envisioned rain for the North, drought for the South.

This theme of distrust continued into the 1890s, when the feds experimented with making rain and stopping tornadoes by means of loud explosions –gun powder and dynamite. Again, there was a concern in Congress over who would control this potentially awesome power. One representative from Texas fretted that "government agents would bring rain down on any man’s land who would agree to support the administration, and discriminate against those who were not in favor of the administration."

And he didn’t mean it metaphorically! Ain’t history grand?


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