「Taming the weather」 The new relationship between man and nature in the domestication of the weather
Dr. Shiuh-Shen CHIEN, professor in geography, environment and development studies at National Taiwan University who has published a series of paper on sustainability research and volume geography studies, finds that weather modification practice is surprisingly popular in China. Despite the fact that the weather modification, a cloud seeding technology to manipulate raining, is not encouraged by the World Meteorological Organization, China is conducting nation-wide weather modification practices, with more than two third of county-level governments setting their own weather modification offices. By doing so, China’s government aims to tame the nature and secure a number of political purposes.
One of the most well-noted cases is the “blueskying” technology. In order to secure clear sky environment for the Opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics Games, China utilized all technology resource to perform a blueskying spectacle by preventing raindrops from happening at the desired time and place.
Professor Chien is cautious that the way of China conducting weather modification presents a new type of state-nature relations. Different from “mitigation and adaptation to the weather” to deal with climate change challenges as policy suggestions by the United Nations’ related organizations, China’s state-led weather modification should be regarded as a new way of adjusting the weather. Also, China’s weather modification also shows that the state is able to taming the weather and sky, three-dimensional (volumetric) nature, which is very different from the past experiences of human only taming the territorial nature (like rice and horse).
The case of weather modification also offers a new opportunity to understand new politics in relation to taming the volumetric nature. For example, the way China unilaterally utilizing cloud water over their territory has triggered an anger by neighboring countries who complain China steals their rain. While Beijing of China made rainy cloud disappear through a scientific means in 2008, London of the United Kingdom artistically presents a “fake” cloud over the stadium sky in 2012. The comparison between two opening Olympics Games shows that the authoritarian regime likely mobilizes technology to change the nature for the state interests and the democratic state is more open minded to respect the dynamics of the nature into the everyday life.
Given that power competition and politics of representation is taking place not only in the areal scale but also three-dimensional space, more volume-related social science study is urgently needed. In addition, there is a call to watch out China, an authoritarian state with strong political will and powerful technological capacity, may even expand the weather modification to experiment controversial geoengineering projects in the name of saving the earth otherwise.
Prof. Chien, Shiuh-Shen
Department of Geography, National Taiwan University.
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, MOST