In more primitive societies, there is a special orientation toward nature and toward the environmental forces which form the basis for on-going life. Whereas in more sophisticated, urbanized societies, people seem to have forgotten the importance of the natural phenomena which support their very existence. In this paper, the relationship of man to the four seasons-- whether in the Western World or in the Third World -- will be discussed in some detail. Hopefully, insight will be gained into the various elements which support life and allow mankind to prosper and thrive. If we begin by examining a country which is both urban and rural, many revealing aspects of man's relationship to nature can be readily seen.
The nation of Canada is a country which is truly vast. In fact, it is the world's second largest nation in size. The four seasons in Canada literally rule the lives of its population. So important is the relationship of the Canadian people to the seasons, nature and the environment that, in Manitoba, a special exhibit has been created to publicize the significance of the seasons in the lives of the population of the Prairie Provinces. According to the organizers of the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature Traveling Exhibition, the interrelationship -- in all seasons -- of man and his surroundings determines the survivability of an entire community. Their exhibit underscores the ways in which life is sustained under often harsh conditions.
In fact, this Canadian exhibit
Most cultures seem to acknowledge that the first season of the year is Spring. The Vernal Equinox, when the earth is tipped at 23.5 degrees on its axis, occurs on March 21st annually in the Northern Hemisphere. During this season in Canada, as in the United States and Europe, the world turns brilliant green. Vegetation flourishes and whole populations move from indoors to outdoors. There is a sense of vigor, growth, renewal and regeneration. The season of Spring is celebrated, not so much in March and April, but especially on May First by many countries of the world. They do so not for political reasons, but for reasons of joyousness, health and happiness. In Canada, school ends during May and children emerge from their homes and classrooms to enjoy the new feeling of freedom which the warmer weather and increased mobility afford them.
As Spring draws to a close, the months of the next season, Summer, begin. In the Northern Hemisphere this season officially starts on June 21st and ends on September 21st, with each date indicating, respectively, the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. During summer, the world often plays as much as it works. People build their strength, and seek vigor and health for the arduous seasons ahead. Vacations are typically taken during the summer months. Adults and children alike relax and soak up the sun's rays, providing them with a sense of contentment, satisfaction and well-being. All throughout Europe and North America, productivity continues, but people relax as well. In Canada, the summer season seems much shorter than the dates indicated because the entire nation is located above the 38th parallel. Therefore, there is a sense of urgency during summer, because the cold and dark winter is so long and dreary.
Finally, in the third week of September, Autumn arrives in Canada. People scurry about nervously to prepare, almost like squirrels gathering acorns, for the life-threatening winter. Unlike Africa, autumn in Canada does not simply mean the arrival of rainy weather; it's a precursor of the harsh weather to come. Many days are blustery and wind-chilled, others are relatively balmy. But this season serves as a warning and Canadian families, men, women and children, prepare, by working diligently at their tasks, for the arrival of winter.
As the Northern Hemisphere tips dramatically away from the sun and the Winter Solstice impinges on the Canadian population, the population of this hard-working nation, and of much of the United States as well, "digs in" and spends most of their days inside -- at work, school or enjoying indoor sports, many of which, such as table tennis, are quite popular in Canada.
The seasonal cycle repeats itself with the arrival once again on March 21st of Spring. How the people of the Northern Hemisphere survive the entire year, relating properly and effectively to their seasonal pattern, is truly an integral part of the mystery of life on this planet.
While North America's patterns have proven of interest to us for purposes of this essay, attention should also be turned to The Third World, for example Africa, where man has also adapted suitably and even courageously to his environment.
Just as in North America, there are a number of scientific organizations which study the seasonal changes and precipitation patterns of Africa. These organizations point out in their reports and publications that, in most African nations there are not four distinct seasons as in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. There are generally only two discernable seasons, the Wet and the Dry in Sahahan and Equatorial zones. So, a climatic report from an Agency such as PRESAO, might well look as follows:
"There are enhanced probabilities of above-normal West African rainfall for the period July- September 1998 over the Gulf of Guinea coast region, especially west of central Nigeria, and over northwestern Senegal and southwestern Mauritania. Across the Sahel there are enhanced probabilities of near-normal rainfall in those months." Source: First Forum on Climate Prediction and its Application in the Early Warning System for Food Security in West Africa (PRESAO), Abidjan, May 1998.
In East Africa, the seasonal patterns sustain life just as in North America. The presence of water is the all-important factor, however, in the well-being of African societies. Without this vital life-giving commodity, no life can exist. Location of cities and villages, migration patterns, lifestyles and even political events depend on the seasonal rainfall patterns. Agriculturally based societies, such as those in Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia are especially attuned to seasonal variations in precipitation. The destabilizing effects of drought and famine are crucial factors with which the populations of these countries have been struggling for several decades now. How important, therefore, is the normal rainfall which the sun-baked nations of the Sahel and East Africa expect each year! Just as in Canada, where the severity of winter is feared, so, too, in Africa is a shortage of rainfall considered potentially disastrous.
Although the characteristics of the seasons are certainly different in various parts of our fragile planet, mankind has made adjustments in lifestyle in order to accommodate the shifts and changes in climate and in living conditions. Whether we are residents of Manitoba in Canada where we must prepare for the harsh winters, or are nomadic peoples of the Sahel, we are truly bound by the laws of nature and the environment. Survival of humankind is dependent on the degree of flexibility and intelligence we demonstrate in relation to the four seasons of the Northern Hemisphere and the two distinct seasons of Equatorial and Sahelian Regions.