The Effect of Snow on Human Society

A seasonable element for many around the world, snow brings both challenges and rewards to mankind

The effects of snow are varied, depending on what region of the world you reside in. I’m sure for those who live closer to the poles that it’s frequency is uneventful in comparison to those who live closer to the equator. For someone like me who lives in the warmer climes of the U.S. South, snow is an uncommon occurrence. It’s magical and amazing in the ways it lays as a white blanket upon the earth and it’s crystal-like mat sparkles under the sun once the clouds have disappeared. The temporary reprieve from a grey winter’s day lifts the heart of old and young alike. Snow draws children out of their lethargic patterns and to the outdoors to generate a recreation that seldom occurs on other cold days with makeshift sleds and snowball fights

The anticipation of snow excites many during the fall and winter holiday season. Western cultures have been inspired by snow in their music and other art forms. Without snow there would be no sleigh bells ringing, Crosby crooning “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”  or creative snow characters on front lawns. Snowfall also generates an entire industry for skiers, ice skating, snow-boarders and for more enduring souls there is the torturing Iditarod® that challenge some in the annual dog sled event in Alaska.

However, joy eventually turns to a degree of gloom as snow out-stays it’s welcome. The bitter cold it represents chills a body to the bone and physical activity is reduced. People become more immobile and health factors begin to take their toll. Poorly ventilated and insulated homes can create factors that raise cold and flu rates. Elderly people tend to suffer more under colder climates and their bodily defenses are weaker to fend off the effects a damp snow can create. Confined to the quarters we call home long periods of heavy snowfall fray the nerves with family members who are forced to interact with one another on a frequency they are unaccustomed to. Many an argument will ensue and linger long after the white magic has melted.

Beyond the immediate family are the effects of the icy precipitation on the larger socio-economic world we are a part of. The right kinds and amounts of snow can bring our economic production to a grinding halt for days or even weeks in some locales. Traffic is encumbered where goods and services are reduced that can ultimately create shortages of essential supplies in some communities for lengthy periods; especially in difficult to reach rural areas. It’s amazing how the almost weightless property of a snowflake can hinder the largest means of transport when enough of it gathers on the highways, roads, airport runways, railways and ports that connect us all.   Recent heavy snows in parts of the U.S. and Europewill attest to this.  And then there is the damage done to the automobile or truck and human body alike by all, experienced or not, who brave the icy conditions that usually accommodate snowfalls.  Fire departments and para-medics will be busier than usual.

On the other side of the economic coin are the jobs that are created, albeit temporary in a lot of cases, to keep the wheels of production rolling under snows disruptive influence. People will be have to drive the snow plows and spread the salt/sand mixtures across bridges and over passes to keep traffic flowing as best can be accomplished under these conditions.   Tow truck profits will increase and new AAA memberships will see an upswing.  Rock salt and space heaters are usually bought up at local hardware stores and their bigger competitors like Lowe’s and Home Depot. The cold impact of snow may inspire a winter wardrobe update to accommodate the weather or even those other accouterments like shovels, windows scrapers and de-icers, tire chains and door & window weather-stripping. Greater profits can be found with the sale of new gas powered walkway plows and generators.

 The human species is the only adaptive animal that can live in any climate. Snow is but one of the climate conditions that require people to adjust to their environment. Whether it be to overcome snows obstructionist effects or using it to generate news forms of recreation, snow impacts society in ways that no other species anticipates or reacts to.