So scientists in the good old US of A have come up with a powder which can dry up rainclouds, preventing them from raining on us at the most inconvenient times, like during our well-earned summer holiday, or in the middle of that all-important golf tie; no longer will it be necessary to consult the weather forecasts before deciding whether to start up the lawnmower or fire up the barbecue.
That our big cousins across the Atlantic would wish to control the weather, as well as everything under it, should not come as a surprise from a nation which prides itself in the pursuit of perfection and the elimination of risk, whether it be in the surgical removal of half an arse, acquired through a lifetime of overeating the wrong things (no doubt the fault of McDonald’s, and therefore a perfectly legitimate target for litigation), or in the right to own a whole arsenal of weaponry, to protect oneself from the possibility of a passing stranger stopping by to ask for directions.
America does not have a monopoly on scientific discovery of course; we mustn’t forget that we were the ones responsible for penicillin, television and Dolly the sheep, the latter opening up the possibility of human cloning, a process whereby if you meet your likeness coming towards you in the street it is either your long-lost twin brother or yourself going back to where you just came from. But, as the distinguished Professor Zanussi acknowledged as long ago as the twentieth century,it is not the discovery itself which is the issue, but the appliance of the science, and the moral responsibility which goes with it. What price the power to alter the global climate, and with it the fragile economies based thereon?
Closer to home, the implications of this latest discovery, which consists of fine plastic grains, shaped like cornflakes and able to absorb up to two thousand times their weight in water, could spell disaster for Scotland’s tourism and related industries; sales of tasteless anoraks could plunge dramatically; foreign visitors would stay away in coachloads, no longer able to appreciate the finer aspects of the country’s natural beauty, described with stunning clarity by the drunk at the end of the bar as they shelter from the summer downpour. On the other hand it would be uplifting to think that more Scots would holiday at home, but human nature being what it is, the grass is always greener somewhere else. Even, it seems, if you live in Ayrhire.
And all this at a time when the Scottish Executive has announced a £7 million aid package for visitscotland to attract Americans back to their Scottish roots. Would you want to visit a country which is pushing back the frontiers of science, but whose captains of industry are still learning how to use basic punctuation? If you were an American, the answer is probably yes, provided it came with a family tree, was wrapped in tartan and shrouded in mist, which is exactly what it wouldn’t be if the mad scientists are allowed to get away with it. The romantic sweep of Loch Lomond would never be quite the same without a romantic,cloud-enveloped Ben Lomond in the background and a couple of dour locals,spitting and cursing the weather, in the foreground. There are some things in nature which just shouldn’t be tampered with.
3rd August, 2001