IT’S OFFICIAL, warmer weather is finally here. Like the opening of a heavy curtain between the dark days of winter and the optimism of everyday thereafter Bostonians are awaking to remember why they like living here.
On Jamaica Pond recently, runners pounced onto the pathway with vigor, breathing in the warm spring air. A golden retriever tumbled down the north slope of Larz Anderson Park, nuzzling into the soft turf, still cool from winter’s thaw. Parkway Little Leaguers marched down Centre Street, West Roxbury’s main thoroughfare, toward the opening day of their new season. And in Washington Park the basketball courts were in full use as old-timers looked on.
Yes, spring is here, but I would argue that for all the bellyaching we do about our long, frigid winters, our changing seasons are actually part of the special sauce that makes this region hum. Our weather is the unsung hero that contributes to the region’s adaptiveness, competitiveness, and even its safety.
It’s those long dark nights of winter that force us to trudge forward. We’re a hardy bunch — gathering in pubs amid the first snowfall, watching hockey games outside in the cold, and engaging in winter activities like skiing, sledding, and snowball fights that some only read about.
The cold of winter also keeps us safer. There are numerous studies that link climate to conflict. Indeed, higher crime rates prevail in hotter, Southern cities, and also at the warmest times during the year nationwide. A review of shootings for a given year in Boston showed plummeting violence during the winter months and spikes amid the summer. As the thermometer rises, so do public gatherings as well as individuals’ adrenaline, resulting in an increase in violence.
Our constantly changing seasons allow us to appreciate what we have, when we have it. A friend once thought that he had found an escape from long New England winters, when a business opportunity moved him to Miami. Within less than two years he was ready to return home — the hot, humid days slowly wore him down. It might work for a winter sojourn, but it was too much of a good thing for the long haul.
So, yes, we love the changing of the seasons, but the more pertinent question is, how does this work for our economy? I reached out to some technology and new economy workers who actually chose to move here from warmer climates.
Kara Shurmantine came here from Napa Valley to manage international partnerships for the startup accelerator MassChallenge, and she never looked back. “We’re tougher out here,” she told me. “Out here we don’t take things for granted. From startup funding to nice weather we have to work harder to get attention.”
Eben Pingree grew up in Boston, but moved to San Francisco for work. He quickly noticed the lighter hours his co-workers kept, perhaps due to the year-round mild weather always beckoning. When he returned home to launch his startup Syft, a new social-media platform to connect close friends and family, he remembered what winters were for: “I think it’s a lot easier to buckle down and grind out code 12 or more hours a day when you’re not tempted by beautiful weather outside.”
Adam Dingle, whose startup Ongoing Inc. is launching a personalized event directory later this summer, spent 14 years in San Francisco. He tells me that they gripe about weather out there almost as much as we do. It turns out that their summers don’t get nearly as hot, and their nights are always cold, antithetical to our hot summer night treks toward ice cream.
Not everyone agrees that our weather contributes toward our success.
Shannon Quirk lives in Malibu and is editor-in-chief for cable television’s Surf Channel. She’s convinced that endless summers on the West Coast allow for far more productive people. “When I can surf everyday, I tend to work a lot harder,” she said. “When there is no swell for a few weeks, then everyone gets tense and you can have a bad vibe in general.”
In some ways she is making my point. If Californians get apoplectic over no surf, then just how sturdy are they? No, I prefer the hardscrabble existence of winter, and the enduring renewal of spring, an endless cycle of rebirth, and a reminder that makes us all live like we are lucky to be alive, at least until it gets cold again.