The Cost of Rain

We were told it would come at some point. Every day, for the last month or so, we could see clouds in the distance. Aggressive clouds—the type that you look at and think, “those things are angry and will dump bucket loads on this dry and crusty land.” We had a small foretaste of what African clouds could do last week, but today the main event commenced.

The rainy season is here.

Before moving to Malawi, I had never lived in a place that relies so heavily on rain. Shoot, for most of my life, rain only meant I couldn’t surf for a week (due to pollution) and that my bike rides were going to be difficult and uncomfortable. But rain also meant mud football, reading in coffee shops and nights at the movies. And it came so infrequently that it didn’t infringe too much on normal life. I cherished the rain, as rare as it was, because it was a change of scenery and pace. I’m sure, had I grown up in a place like Seattle my sentiment would be very different.

I once heard a sermon by Rob Bell where he said that people who live in ‘seasonless’ places are robbed of fully experiencing the ebb and flow of God’s creation. Along with this, he argued, such people aren’t given a predetermined time of year for rest, working extra hard or celebration. As a native San Diegan I want to argue with him, but I can’t. He is right. Ecclesiastes is clear that there is a season for everything. The creation story reeks of a timely order. And one cannot read many of Jesus’ parables without having at least a small grasp on agrarian culture. It could be argued that human innovation and modernization has hindered our ability to live balanced and healthy lives.

Electricity, transportation and the Internet are wonderful inventions. Each has had a positive impact on the way in which our world functions—but at what price? Some may consider it a silly question and argue that progress is simply just that—moving forward in a logical manner. Fine. But does progression have a cost? I would say it does.

Take the Internet. I love it, use it daily and am in no way against further development of social media and web entrepreneurship. But the truth is, it can hurt just as much as it can help (in the past 5 years 81% of divorce cases used facebook/twitter as evidence—risky tools or neutral toys?). It spreads just as much misinformation as real information (ask your doc what s/he really thinks of WebMD). And much of the counter-productive functions of it take up more of our 168 weekly hours than we’d like to admit.

Years ago the rainy season in Malawi began in September and continued through March.

drippy leave

During the last few years the rainy season has started later and later (the last week of Nov. the last two years), while still ending in March. Two fewer months of rain is a big deal when your only export completely relies on it. Climate change is far from a political buzzword here—it is a harsh reality.

I don’t have any answers, just plenty of questions. Does further development have a cost? And if so what, how much can we really afford to spend? Should we make any attempt to slow things down? Why? Why not? What do you think?