The problem: we’re losing touch with the changing seasons

In CALENDARS, we think that climate change might be undermining the ideas or representations of seasons that we all use for understanding and living according to seasonal rhythms.

Reinsfelt, Anne-Lise, Norsk folkemuseum

Main content

Seasonal representations are important cues for helping us anticipate and plan for ‘normal’ weather and natural conditions in periods of the year. These representations can take many forms; stories, images, experiences, scientific forecasts, natural signs, proverbs or practices for instance. All our institutions - from schools to hospitals, local government or sports clubs - organise their activities based on different seasonal representations.  

But in some places, rapid climatic, natural and social changes mean that communities’ representations of seasons are out of sync with the weather they experience now. The idea of a ‘white Christmas’ is undone in some parts of England that haven’t seen December snow for decades. At the same time, in our increasingly urbanised and modern society, we are losing contact with local and traditional ways of knowing nature. We see growing studies about people being left without reliable ways to decide how to act in each season; whether for planning crops or flu vaccinations. Climate and meteorological science are trying to measure and predict these changes to our seasons, but face important barriers to forecasting at seasonal timescales, specific to the places where we live.  

We argue that as long as people are living according to out-dated and inaccurate ideas of seasons, they are not adapting well to the changing seasons they actually face. We ask, what seasonal representations are shaping the different institutions in our society, and how do these ideas of seasons help (or hinder) these institutions to successfully adapt to seasonal change? 

To explore these questions, we have assembled a four-person research team to closely study institutions in two places; Bergen city in Norway, and the townships on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Our researchers will embed themselves in some key institutions, working with the people of these institutions to reflect on the ways they think about seasons, and co-create new seasonal ideas for the future.