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Cultures of Climate

First Edition

January 2017 | 200 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Climate is an enduring idea of the human mind and also a powerful one.  Today, the idea of climate is most commonly associated with the discourse of climate-change and its scientific, political, economic, social, religious and ethical dimensions.  However, to understand adequately the cultural politics of climate-change it is important to establish the different origins of the idea of climate itself and the range of historical, political and cultural work that the idea of climate accomplishes.

In Weathered: Cultures of Climate, distinguished professor Mike Hulme opens up the many ways in which the idea of climate is given shape and meaning in different human cultures – how climates are historicized, known, changed, lived with, blamed, feared, represented, predicted, governed and, at least putatively, re-designed.

What is Climate?
Part 1: Knowledges of Climate
Historicising Climate
Knowing Climate
Changing Climates
Part 2: The Powers of Climate
Living with Climate
Blaming Climate
Fearing Climate
Representing Climate
Part 3: The Futures of Climate
Predicting Climate
Redesigning Climate
Governing Climate
Reading Future Climates

Mike Hulme’s wise and well-crafted book encircles the idea of climate from a series of perspectives, showing its elusive nature from a welter of examples. As the argument develops, we see how climate is embedded in multiple cultures, histories, and knowledges about nature. We are shown how our views of climate depend on personal experiences, scientific models, inherited tropes, and political interest. Each chapter reflects a turn of the kaleidoscope, gradually making the reader see both the complexity and the singularity of each image. Hulme’s remarkable achievement is to humanise climate, without losing sight of the larger challenges; this is where the book cannot but affect the reader.

Kirsten Hastrup
Professor of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen

Everybody may be talking about the weather, but how do we experience climate? While climate has mostly been left to the natural sciences, Mike Hulme’s book shows how climate is much more than the „average weather“. It is a cultural relationship between humans and the weathers they dwell in. How do cultures live with the weather? How does the experience of climate structure our sense of space and time? This book is the first to offer a systematic overview of the many forms of knowledge, cultural practices and personal attitudes that helped humans in different epochs and locations deal with their meteorological environment. Its importance lies not just in the wealth of material and its brilliantly clear structure but also in the way Hulme links a humanities-based approach to climate with the current state of climate science. This is a milestone for interdisciplinary climate research and a must-read for all scholars and students trying to understand how a human being-in-the-world is a being-in-climate.

Eva Horn
Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna

We desperately need a book like this one, a book that reorients our thinking about climate change from temperature and precipitation to culture, values, emotions, and social justice.  Mike Hulme has delivered beautifully in this highly accessible, boldly insightful, and elegant book. Weathered divulges quite clearly the complex ways we think about weather and climate. And it also shows us that when we define or explain, study or represent, fear or blame, engineer or predict the climate, we are ultimately empowering some people while disempowering others. Anyone who cares about climate—from climate scientists and policymakers to journalists, geographers, historians, students, and activists—should read this book.

Mark Carey
Author of In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society

In his bracing new book, Mike Hulme throws open cultural windows on climate, illuminating its history and geography as a powerful form of human experience and imagination.  Through a series of frameworks, concerning knowledge, narrative, livelihood and policy, and a rich range of examples, from scientific modelling to impressionist painting, statistical mapping to song and dance, Hulme guides his readers, clearly and accessibly, through the cultural worlds of climate. Weathered introduces students from many subjects to the many meanings and functions of climate, and its relations to such matters as commerce and creativity.  The book also challenges scholars in many fields of science and the humanities to see beyond their specialisms, in such a pressing field of inquiry and concern.      

Stephen Daniels
Professor of Cultural Geography, University of Nottingham

Sample Materials & Chapters

Weathered: What is Climate?

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