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COLUMN

Abominable Snow, Man

Philip Burrowes

Snow wafted through the air Saturday evening, leaving a light blanket to greet Cantabridgians upon the next sunrise. Days of unseasonably warm weather had come to an end, as if intended to coincide with the last week of classes. No doubt some welcomed this change, having eagerly anticipated an explicit reemergence of the annual Winter Wonderland. Others unaccustomed to “temperate” climates would have experienced their first contact with the phenomenal singularity of snow crystals. Many would even hope for a greater spectacle than the one before them, unaware that the sterility they viewed was the most benign form of a both useless and dangerous affront by Nature against Man.

Rain is clearly a necessary part of life. Without it, there are eventually no crops, let alone anything in which to dissolve already harvested camomile. So we put up with (maybe even enjoy) being soaked or driving slowly, knowing that it is the price to pay for life. Ice, however, aggravates all the disadvantages of rain while diminishing its benefits; along with being soaked one is cold, and the solvency of solid water is much less than that of the liquid. After all, what is snow but less heralded hail?

Hail is obviously a danger. Pedestrians, even when bundled up, may need hours to recover from mere minutes in a hailstorm. Vehicles have drastically limited maneuverability on the slick roads. When combined with low visibility and the general ignorance of most drivers, traffic becomes all the more dangerous. Nor are those waiting the weather out from the confines of their homes, safe, as any outside emergency services they depend on are slowed. Those without homes are the worst off of all, often simply left to await white death.

Why, then, all this talk of letting it snow? Nothing is truly more fun about throwing snowballs and building snowmen than a trip to the beach that is rendered impossible by snow (especially once one accounts for the relative potential to do either over a certain period of time), so the hedonistic argument is untenable. It restricts human life more than it could ever open up new possibilities; other animals are wise enough to choose migration or hibernation rather than brave treacherously snowy terrain.

Those people that do derive any gain from the snowy succubus are little more than wolves in sheep's’ clothing. Like the Siberian tiger or polar bear, the shovels-for-hire and snowed-in Wellesley students use the snow to camouflage their true intentions. In the end, they either leave their market spent, or exhaust themselves beforehand.

More dangerously, some are led to believe they are benefitting from snow when in fact they would be better off without it. Aside from the recreational activities which are generally inferior substitutes for events requiring higher temperatures, there are those deluded into believing ice is indeed the optimal condition for action. Ice hockey, bottled water derived from snowcaps, and “conventional” expectations of Yuletide are especially misguided creations. These all place themselves in more precarious positions by relying so deeply and so irrationally on weather conditions when other options exist. What of the less expensive field hockey, good old fashioned Gatorade, and the fact that Christmas’ pastoral backdrop doesn’t at all mesh with winter?

Apologies are in order to those for whom snow is truly a novel sight. Surely the notion of frozen water manifesting itself in a crystalline white form is a flight of fancy. Whatever joy taken from witnessing such an otherwise fantastic occurrence is to be relished from a merely philosophical standpoint. To those who have lived their entire lives with snow, do not let its current mundanity misconstrue these words as jest. Imagine instead being thrust for the first time into monsoon rains and you will understand that you have not seen every mannerism of water. Yet even those, in all their destructive power, can be utilized by human ingenuity to our advantage.

Even the aesthetic argument for snow -- which is subjective -- can be countered simply by noting that it’s hard to keep anything white clean. Pity those who will catch their first sight of snow as brown sludge on a street corner. That sets aside the naturally harmful visual characteristics it gains when of a large quantity, such as the way it redistributes light or obscures depth. In the end, snow simply has no distinctly beneficial component.