Blog #39: Saying Thanks

October 7, 2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
Last Sunday, here in Christchurch, we celebrated our very own Harvest Festival - Erntedank for our Austrian Host Country German - Thanksgiving for others. Creating a moment of gratitude for the food that was harvested, and considering that it was not just  hard labor, farmers’ ingenuity, and various forms of technology (and chemistry) that created them, is an age old tradition around the world. Whether its Lammas Day in the UK, the Pongal Festival in Sri Lanka, the Argungu Festival in Northern Nigeria - the list of harvest festivals around the world is very very long, varying in dates, depending on harvest times. Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up this Sunday, October 11, and while not technically part of the church year, the the Church of England creates space for celebrating harvests according to the agricultural year in one’s location. Everywhere around the world, it seems, people feel the same, wanting to say thanks - to God, deities, higher powers. What we have harvested, we seem to feel, we have been given, gained not entirely on our own merit, a grace from God.  And everywhere this thanks is related to the weather, the rains, the sun, the winds, and so many other things in nature that are out of our direct control!
And yet, it is the weather that we have been influencing so unexpectedly dramatically ourselves over the past century. This week’s the Nobel Committee told us that they awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex systems, with one half going jointly to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming, and the other half to Giorgio Parisi for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.


Picture: This shot from the Nobel Prize committee's website introduces the three Physicians that won this yea'rs prize for Physics - for researching the causes of climate change.

While I found the Nobel Committee’s statement somewhat difficult to comprehend, in searching what their work means, I found great explanations in the Nature Magazine who interviewed climate scientist Bjorn Stevens, at the Hamburg Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.  Stevens summed up the award by saying:  Manabe showed us how and why increasing CO2 leads to global warming. Hasselmann showed that it is happening.  Reading further on the Nobel Committee’s Popular Information site (a worthwhile read), I found an even more catching explanation, noting that Hasselmann developed methods for identifying specific signals, fingerprints, that both natural phenomena and human activities imprint in the climate.  So here it is, scientifically proven: Our - humanity’s - fingerprints are on how the climate changes.
So, yes, on Harvest Day we do say thanks for the fruits and grains and veggies we have harvested and have been given. At the same time, we also want to think about the unpredictability that our and our recent forefathers’ behaviors have brought to our climate, causing havoc to harvests in so many ways and so many places. Harvest Day for me has become a festival of gratitude and a call for action. Many centuries of custom and tradition have made it a beautiful and inspiring day! And so I am also grateful for my church, and for people like Melinda and the kids in her group, who make sure that we actually do say thanks - for the food we have, and for what we learn about how we need to live so that we may keep harvesting also in the years to come!
Inspired? Thoughts or reactions? Or ideas for forthcoming blogs?  We look forward to hearing from you - best via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..