Review 2006

Melissa of frizzworld asks:
What's the next new thing that's being talked as something that's going to 'revolutionize' our lives in say 6 - 10 years time? It can be in any sphere you like.

The reason the answer to this question has not quickly been forthcoming is that every time I've begun writing about something I think is either radical or interesting but logical, it becomes apparent that its already happening and has already created a revolution. I even wrote four paragraphs about how television channels will cease to exist and programmes will simply be selected not unlike people clicking through links on the internet when I remembered the adverts for Sky+ that seem to be on everywhere.

The problem I've inevitably been having is that I'm attempting to select something that's consciously the result of human achievement, scientific, artistic, whatever - the attempt to produce something life changing. What I should have been looking at is the inadvertent, something which is happening all around us which is a direct result of human achievement, but in a bad way. I'm sorry folks, but I'm going to be talking about the weather.

Of course, the weather isn't a new thing and I'm not sure it's what Melissa was really thinking about, but the new thing in this context is what the weather on Earth is going to become. Obviously, since I'm not a globe trotter (yet) I can't really talk about what's happening anywhere else. I'm not a scientist and I'm not going to pretend to be simply because I know that some of you are. It's simply that I was watching the rolling news channels a few days ago and saw that a tornado had hit parts of North London. In Britain, England, this seems very wrong to me.

Then this morning when we went out to buy a Christmas tree we passed through a part and already noted the appearance of daffodil bugs through the grass apparently two months earlier than normal. At the tree shop we were commenting on how tall the trees were but also how they lacked girth. The tree seller explained that because of the unusually warm weather the tree are growing higher than normal because they're not being held back by the branches that usually spread to capture what sunlight they can during the cold weather. The Christmas trees are wrong this year too.

The seasons are becoming increasingly -- flexible. In a few years, because of climate change, Spring and sadly Autumn or Fall will lose their particular identities. Somewhere in April or May the really cold weather will give way to really hot weather and it'll be mild right through to November when the temperature will drop and we'll wonder what hit us until the following April. This year, Autumn seemed to last about a fortnight.

The flat were I live overlooks the park and for the decade and half that I've been living here, in September the trees have gone the lovely various shades of brown and orange that I love. This year I think the process began as late as mid-November and they only fell from the trees in one night of particular bracing wind at the beginning of December. What was once a gradual process took a matter of weeks. As I was walking back from a night out, the whole pavement and road were covered in a mass of leaves and I actually had to wade through them.

I'm willing to concede that this might be perceptual - that it only looks that way and next year everything will be back to normal. But I really don't think so, unless everything levels itself out and environmental initiatives actually work. But the question asks how this will revolutionise our daily lives.

The word implies a positive change, at least that's the sense in which it's used by politicians in relation to the health service and by newspapers when reporting some new medical breakthrough. But actually it can relate to any complete change and unfortunately that's what we're seeing. Rather than talk about how nature will alter, though, I'm going to concentrate on how I think it'll effect us people.

The change could be as simple as not knowing what to wear when you go out. It used to be that pretty much everyone shopping or going about their daily lives in a city centre would be wearing similar clothing - warm coats in the winter, t-shirts in the summer. Now everything is mixed up, because put simply, getting dressed in the morning has become such a random process.

I might have found a magic jumper which somehow manages to be warm or let the air out whatever the weather but that didn't stop me from putting on a coat the other day as well and absolutely baking. I'm not saying this kind of thing didn't go on before it just seems to be happening with increasing regularity. BBC Radio Four's weekday lunchtime programme You & Yours in waggish mood the other week did a whole entire slot on this and called it SCD or Seasonal Clothing Disorder.

In the long term it could see cultural shifts - along with the increase in available home entertainment - people will begin to spend more time at home rather than going out during the winter. Again I can see this happening now - during the winter, especially when students have flooded the city, the city centre used to be at breaking point in the evening. Now as I pass through on my way home, I'll persistently be told by taxi drivers in small talk that 'It's been quiet in town tonight. It hasn't been chocker in weeks.' It's too bloody cold.

The flop of this is the summer, when I suspect it'll start to get busier as people who would have flown abroad for holidays, with new environmental policy led price increases on low cost airlines, will stay in the uk, and there will be a renaissance in British holidays. People will still travel but it'll be far more of a special occasion than the ten trips a year I've heard of some people and even families taking. But they'll stay in cities, with destinations such as Newcastle, Manchester and Glasgow making the biggest gains.

Again, you could equally say that this behaviour is already in place - that the city centres are empty in the winter because people aren't staying at home but going on holiday. And that the summer nights will be busy because it's warmer. But I think they're just the opening shifts. In time it'll become much clearer. And because these are social changes affecting the young, they will become habit and as those youngsters become older it'll become ingrained.

Counter to Gil Scott Heron's expectations, the revolution will be televised, especially during weather forecasts.

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