THE PAST WEEK represents a triumph of weather policy that cannot be allowed to go unnoticed. You will recall the uproar in late September when the Weather Bureau declared an autumnal equinox. It was to be followed by a coordinated program of declining temperatures, overcast skies and progressively shorter days to save solar energy. The country has been through this kind of a program many times in the past and the public benefits have rarely been commensurate with the discomfort imposed on all segments of society. The Weather Bureau was immediately, and properly, sued by a broad alliance of enviromental organizations.
The suit argued forcefully that the National Environmental Policy Act requires an environmental policy statement and public hearings before the nation embarks on a weather change with these far-reaching implications. The courts wisely stayed the weather while the case was heard. That is why the weather has been like the first week of October for all of the past month.
The public hearings demonstrated a strong majority in favor of leaving the weather exactly the way it was. It's another example of the conservative tide now sweeping the country. We deplore as much as anyone the unfortunate incident in which stones were thrown at several cars with "I'd Rather Be Skiing" bumper stickers. But it is evidence of the strong emotions that the issue can evoke.
We utterly reject the argument that periodic winters are necessary to sustain the moral rigor and stamina of the nation. It is frequently claimed that without a winter from time to time, the country would sink into a sybaritic torpor - the moral equivalent of Florida, so to speak. There are those, mainly in New England, who seem to equate being virtuous with being cold. We have never found it ennobling to have a running nose and chapped hands. But, of course, there is another side to the question. If there were to be a succession of weekends like the last one, the political pressure for three-day weekends would rapidly become irresistible - followed by demands for four-day weekends.
In the end, the case apparently turned on the astronomers' testimony about the consequences in terms of celestial mechanics of inhibiting the precession of the earth's axis. No doubt they are right in a narrow mathematical sense. But it is unfortunate to have public policy of such wide significance decided on such highly technical reasoning, which few of the public can understand and many will consider hocus-pocus.In any event, the court has dissolved the stay with a memorable opinion establishing the harsh but just principle that into each life some rain shall fall-followed, in due course, by some sleet. Winter, it seems, is coming. But we are grateful for the stay.