By Trudy Frisk
“I’d shoot the TV,” stated my sister, “if I wasn’t afraid of the flying glass!”
She was reacting to the nightly weather report and she’s not alone. Every day British Columbians are yelling insults at their tvs, unfortunately unheard by the smiley weather reporters.
In our permissive society where almost any variant of sex, violence or political malfeasance is allowed on tv, there are still forbidden words.
They are, ‘clouds,’ ‘showers,’ ‘precipitation,’ and ‘cool.’ Once these were considered part of normal weather. When did that change? When did the forecaster’s obsession with hot, sunny weather begin? These people don’t ‘report’ the weather; they cheer for their favourite. Any possibility of cloud or rain is deprecated. When did the only good day become a sunny day?
“Well, it’s another bright, beautiful day. Temperatures will be in the high 30s,” chortles the weather person. Residents of Anywhere Outside Vancouver, getting their valuables ready for evacuation from a wildfire, counting the lightning strikes on the deadly dry terrain, listening to the thrum of helicopters carrying water to douse yet another fire, have stopped watching the ‘weather report’ in bewilderment and begun gritting their teeth in fury.
It may be news to the boys and girls in tv land, but the chipper weather person is rapidly becoming the most reviled character in the media.
Part of the problem is the rural/urban disconnect. Ask any weather forecaster and food comes from the grocery store, electricity from a socket in the wall. Water flows from a faucet. What happens outside the lower mainland can’t possibly affect urban dwellers.
Where do these people train? Brigadoon: the mythical never-never land where the real world intrudes only once a year? Some forecasters acknowledge high temperatures are melting interior snow packs, causing flooding along the Fraser, but viewers can tell their admission takes an effort. It doesn’t last long.
“Insensitive” is the mildest term I’ve heard to describe weather reports last year when wildfires were burning across B.C. with new ones starting each day. Thousands of people were evacuated leaving their homes and, often, their livestock behind. And the weather reporter’s chirpy comment?
“It’s going to be another day of glorious sunshine! There’ll be a few clouds in the morning, but don’t worry. They’ll all be gone by afternoon and you’ll be back up to thirty-eight degrees!” No, ‘insensitive’ doesn’t begin to describe it.
Not only do weather people seem unaware of the consequences of hot, dry weather in rural areas, they don’t appear to have heard any global news for decades.
How else to explain a recent announcement that “Iqaluit is basking in twenty-eight degree weather!” Basking? Basking! Global warming has been a major topic of public discussion for more than twenty years. Whatever one’s opinions on the causes of global warming, or ‘climate change’ as it’s now called, it has certainly been featured in all media.
People bleed at their ears if David Suzuki shows them a photo of sad polar bears bereft of their ice floes, wandering the rocky shores near Churchill, MB., staring forlornly out to sea where the seals they depend on for food are swimming. Canadians are riding bicycles, eating locally, switching to fluorescent lights, all to avert ‘global warming.’
One wonders how weather forecasters missed this.
“What difference does it make?” people ask when I rant about weather reporter’s obvious bias for hot dry days.
“It’s only the weather.” Could there be a more damning comment?
TV is an education. It teaches people who watch it what’s valued by society and what’s not. The message is that recreational opportunities for some are more important than threats to homes and livelihoods of rural British Columbians.
“It’s an affront to anyone who has a basic understanding of what happens when the pavement stops,” says my sister. Hardy, skeptical British Columbians have come to their own conclusions.
My sister says last summer’s weather was the dominant topic for discussion in her small interior B.C. town.
When she mentioned to a local minister, “I’m probably an agnostic, but, if you would consider praying for rain, I’d appreciate it,” he replied, “I’ve been praying for rain for the last four days.”
Later the same day, a First Nations fellow confided to her, “You may scoff, but, when I get home, I’m going to do a rain dance!”
Is there a future for weather reporters?
The current format unites British Columbians beyond Surrey but that unity creates stress and exacerbates urban/rural tensions. It must also be admitted that even forecasters in smaller cities subject to water restrictions, power outages and the ever present possibility of wildfires still follow the pattern of praising heat and sun.
Can’t they just report? No smiling for sunshine, or frowning for rain? If they won’t, there are options. TV stations could just show us the numbers. They’re on the screen, anyhow, right next to the weather people. We can read a five day forecast and interpret a weather map.
If not, there’s simple technology. Who remembers the little ‘weather houses’; individual indoor weather stations popular years ago? They operated on humidity. In one door of the house was an old witch; in the other were Hansel and Gretel. If the weather was going to be fine, Hansel and Gretel came out. If not, the witch appeared. One can argue that equating the witch with rain reinforced negative stereotypes, but at least we were spared annoying comments.
Or, we could go further back in human history. A colleague and I were discussing weather forecasting recently. He’s a golfer; he takes a keen interest. We could, I suggested, revive the ancient custom of killing a chicken and reading its entrails to foretell the weather. He thought for a long moment before responding: “And you can eat the chicken. You can’t do that with a weather forecaster!”