The explanations for the historically changing dynamics of weather conditions vary considerably, depending on when and where they were formulated. These differing views shall be examined and explained in terms of how they affected individuals and groups, how they reflect fundamental problems of philosophical understanding in their respective times, and how they contributed to an understanding of daily or long term weather phenomena. The history of explanations shows a play between the endeavour of catching the truth and getting a reliable weather forecast on the one hand and the probability typical for all weather phenomena on the other.
In the course of the six centuries and more considered here, the concept of the naturalist and of the work that he or she undertakes in the field gradually took form and continues to develop. The status of the practitioners involved is so widely disparate as to defy easy categorization. In these introductory remarks some of the principal communities – arbitrarily defined – contributing to this movement are reviewed: a number of the most significant figures emerged from within the academic milieu, conducting their work initially in the tradition of the classical authors whose tracts held sway until the late Renaissance, yet they were increasingly reliant on the ocular evidence on which the New Science was built; others came from outside this tradition but contributed invaluable personal experience, insight and knowledge, practically acquired. Both are celebrated here, and their mutually enriching relationships are explored. Other essays here adopt a more specific focus in order to chart the ways in which the field practice that lies at the heart of this volume was guided and influenced by those who commissioned collecting expeditions – initially the founders of collectors’ cabinets, later the owners of systematic collections and ultimately the curators of veritable natural history museums. All of these operated in the role of sponsors for the field naturalists and all were anxious that material should reach them not only in optimum condition but with appropriate contextual data. Their demands were communicated variously in the course of correspondence, in printed pamphlets and ultimately in book-length instructions published for the benefit of those in the field: some of these texts are reproduced verbatim as appendices at the end of the volume.
This chapter discusses some cornerstones of the current United States debate on climate change and the environment, its socio-cultural and historical backgrounds, and some potential perspectives. It provides a macro-typological—and thus necessarily in many ways reductive and incomplete—introduction into a complex and controversial topic currently in the midst of rapid development. This chapter does not claim to represent ‘the’ American mindset towards nature or ‘the’ US view on the question of whether man-made activities are the cause of global warming or not, but aims at providing a primary and generalistic framework for analysing cultural aspects of views on climate change and the environment in the US. It thereby touches on more specific issues and trajectories found in the following chapters of this book.