The Intrinsic Value of Cloudspotting
“Clouds are not something to moan about,” Gavin Pretor-Pinney says in a 2013 TED talk. “Far from it. They are, in fact, the most diverse, evocative, poetic aspect of nature.” Pretor-Pinney, a British author who co-founded The Idler, a magazine that extols the virtues of slowness, became fascinated with clouds after noticing them in the skies depicted in religious artworks he encountered in Rome. Upon returning to his home in London, he taught himself the scientific names of clouds and about the meteorological conditions that create them. In 2004, after giving a mock-serious talk in defense of clouds to a standing-room-only audience at a Cornwall literary festival, he realized that other people cared about clouds, too—or at least believed that looking up at them provided a useful form of meditation.