Out of Control: MET Lecturer Makes Sense of People and Weather

The world can be hard to understand, and the weather even harder. In a new Boston Globe “Ideas” editorial, Dr. Regina Hansen, faculty coordinator of the Metropolitan College online Undergraduate Degree Completion Program (UDCP) and master lecturer of rhetoric at BU’s College of General Studies, lent her perspective on the ways humanity has historically made sense of the skies, primal elements beyond its control, and the experiences it collectively weathers.

“[E]xtreme weather and the stories we tell to make sense of it are as old as humanity, born of our dependence on and fear of nature and our need for control,” Hansen wrote. Short of a more immediate explanation, she offered, human beings will ascribe personal characteristics to the challenges they face, transforming the chaos of what happens in the world into a simple matter of someone’s whim, often characterized as deity-like personified forces.

“This conception of weather as alive and potentially out to get us has existed at least as long as stories of Zeus and Thor and Indra. It encourages humans to see ourselves as both at odds with the elements and at their mercy, surrendering all agency to the ungovernable forces of nature.”

Charting out the multitude of sky-god derivations from across Earth’s hemispheres, Hansen took note that, despite humanity’s penchant towards high-minded explanations for matters beyond reach, we may now be in a moment where a pull towards fictiveness dangerously outflanks reason, especially when the world’s latest inclement weather patterns—including floods, drought, wildfire, and otherwise—are being attributed to human behaviors in need of correction by reliably vetted sources.

“When it comes to the weather, human agency may prove as destructive as any mythical creature,” wrote Hansen, who also authored the young adult fantasy novel The Coming Storm. “That climate change is human-induced is the consensus of working climate scientists, scientific organizations, and official government bodies the world over, and this may prompt us to look at these stories of monstrous gods and sentient storms in a different way: We have more control than we think. In recognizing our own agency, we might recognize our responsibility as well, rather than pretend the planet is in the hands of the gods.”

Read more in the Boston Globe.