In the conversation menu for The School of Life dinner I attended earlier in the week there were a number of aphorisms and quotations to get people thinking, and a few rules too. One rule was based on Oscar Wilde’s famous quote:
Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
I actually think Wilde’s view is becoming increasingly wrong on this one.
Firstly, over dinner, another guest and I got to talking about our shared Scottish heritage, and the potential impact that climate has on our psyche. Are Scots dour because of the rain and long winters? Why does cloudy Northern Europe tend to be Protestant, Beer-Drinking and retentive, while sun-soaked Southern Europe is mainly Catholic, Wine-Drinking and confessional?
Secondly, with the release of the UK government’s detailed projections of the local impact of climate change, companies and individuals will now be able to discuss at regional and street-by-street level what the likely effects of certain global temperature rises will be.
In other words, conversation about the weather may still be the last refuge of the unimaginative, but it will be a primary port of call for those who take imagination seriously. Talk about the weather is going to be vital because it has a psychological and ethic dimension.
Our behaviour, how we act, is going to affect our climate. And our climate, perhaps more than we yet understand, impacts on our psychology.
Perhaps The School of Life should be running a short course on ‘metereoethics,’ improving our conversations and thinking about the weather. Hairdressers and taxi-drivers of Britain wouldn’t know what had hit them.