Weather Woman

As part of Climate Generation’s #TeachClimate Network, we read Weather Woman by Cai Emmons. Devarati Bhattacharya, K-16 STEM Education Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Nebraska – Lincoln, reviewed the book. Although Weather Woman is not featured in our new Climate Change Reading Guide, you can find it on our Humanities Curriculum page. The TeachClimate Network is supported by Avangrid Foundation in partnership with Avangrid Renewables.

Weather Woman beautifully captured and described multiple complexities — such as a young woman’s growth and self-acceptance — and the convictions and actions of characters Diane and Matt, all within the context of various weather phenomena and the implications of a changing climate.

The first part of the book describes Bronwyn’s journey of becoming a weather influencer, her self-realization about her powers and abilities. Feminism being the navigating force in this fictional writing, the author Cai Simmons challenged a very common and socially-accepted norm of linearity in growth. Please allow me elaborate here. We see Bronwyn as a strong, hardworking, and knowledgeable character who has faced personal challenges early on. As readers, we expect her to complete graduate school and engage in future research. Diane, her mentor, is shown to have taken the same path — graduate school followed by a research-based profession, a marriage, and a house with a garden.

We all are familiar with this linearity, we all have been raised to think that this is how life should be — straight-forward — and if we are not moving in that direction, we are stuck or we are on a wrong path. However, not so for Bronwyn. Disrupting this idea of linearity, guided by her intuition, she stays true to herself. Whether it is by leaving graduate school and accepting a job as a meteorologist or by travelling to Kansas to experience the tornado alley and putting her powers to action, Bronwyn takes the uncharted path.

Diane thought that the job as a meteorologist was a brief detour before continuing on the expected (and logical) path of atmospheric research in graduate school. However, once she experiences her powers, Bronwyn’s path is neither linear nor logical to her. She finds that she can influence weather through interacting with the elements of nature. Recognizing this intuitive power, Bronwyn decides to stay truthful to herself and follow through this journey. Interestingly, she doesn’t consider her abilities as miraculous or religious. She considers them as an enhanced perceptive power, possibly as an extension to her passion, knowledge, and experience about weather and atmosphere. This part of the book was very interesting to me as a reader and as a researcher myself.

I wondered if I should be conflicted between Bronwyn’s identity as an atmospheric scientist and then as a weather influencer?

Where the atmospheric scientist is logical, numerical, and rooted in principles and rules of western science (which involve systematized observation, experimentation, and testing of hypotheses and conclusions), the latter is much more intuitive, entirely based on Bronwyn’s internal connection with the elements of nature. Surprisingly, I wasn’t conflicted. We read that her powers were not inherited, she developed them slowly over time. Also, as per the author’s description Bronwyn was indeed more in touch with the elements of nature even as a child, so maybe with her added knowledge and research, she did begin to perceive to the weather phenomena in an elemental form.

I also wondered if these powers were acquired by someone who wasn’t a climate expert, would they still be able to recognize them and then use them as much as she did? Would they know what elements to influence to make a significant change in climate? As the story progresses we see all the characters struggling — Bronwyn for accepting her new abilities, Diane for understanding intuitiveness as much as she grasps logic, Matt learning how to support and love Bronwyn. However, we also see that these inherently different characters accept their abilities and unite to do what was needed.

Thinking about how I would assimilate this literature into my teaching of the Earth’s climate and global climate change, I recognize two ways to do so.

Firstly, empowering and strengthening female leadership can be a critical way to find solutions for global climate change. This issue is complex, global, and requires multiple ideologies to come together for creating policies that are sustainable and equitable. Global studies have established that one of the most accessible ways to do so is to educate and strengthen girls (See previous discussions on Book Drawdown by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer). Here in Weather Woman, we see Bronwyn’s growth and coming to power in her knowledge and abilities. Maybe this is symbolic towards the idea of educating girls to combat global climate change. Not only do we need to support female leadership, but also we need to support men to recognize the ways they can be allies to females in their journey of becoming leaders.

Along with Bronwyn’s journey to become confident in who she is and what she can do, equally significant is the path people around her take to be finally able to support her. To some (those who are suffering from extreme weather), the acceptance of her powers comes quickly, without any questions. To others like Diane, the acceptance stays partial with an agreement to support and use the intuitive powers through data-based exploration. For Matt, the acceptance and how to support Bronwyn is ambiguous until Diane and him are sitting in a Siberian lab looking for data files. He then realizes that his role was to be a buffer, a bridge between these two ends of the continuum (the intuition — Bronwyn, and the logic — Diane). Therefore, acceptance of Bronwyn’s powers and proper use of her abilities takes time and effort both for her and for the people around her.

Secondly, the phenomenon of global climate change is an inherently complex topic. Few drivers — population and use of fossil-fuels — impact various atmospheric parameters in multiple ways. We know that these changes are happening globally, but the impacts are exacerbated over time and vary according to the place. Hence, maybe the whole idea of Bronwyn becoming a weather influencer can be presented as another symbol towards efforts to combat global climate change. By herself, Bronwyn could influence weather, but reversing the impacts of changing climate was overwhelming for her as well.

While as individuals, we certainly can make an impact, but for finding large scale solutions, we need to come together as a global community.

We also need to open our minds to various perspectives of knowing and doing. Maybe the current priority is not to emphasize on which way of knowing is more accurate and valid but to use our time in aligning these ways to create solutions for the complex climate-based issues that we face as humanity.

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