As I’m sure you all know by now, Neil Armstrong, he of The Footprint and The Quote on the moon, has died.
This news hit me particularly hard this afternoon, as not only was I very tired, both physically and emotionally, but Armstrong was one of the people I most admired for a variety of reasons. Yes, the whole “strapping your ass on top of a 360-foot-tall rocket and getting blasted into space and then on to the moon and coming back” was a big part of it, and yes, the stories we’ve all heard about how he manually landed the LEM and came perilously close to running out of fuel added a steaming dollop of Right Stuffness to the whole shebang.
And yes, the fact that I was (nearly) 12 at the time and was going through a very difficult time — my father was very sick with cancer and would be dead within a year — elevated my obsessive love for all things related to the space program to a likely unhealthy level.
But there’s another reason Armstrong’s passing feels like so much more than the closing of an historical chapter: It’s a pointed reminder of how seldom we individually and personally express our appreciation of those who genuinely deserve it, at least until they die. Did Neil Armstrong know that a lot of people loved and admired him? Of course he did. But how many of us took the time and expended the trivial effort needed to send him a letter or e-mail to say so explicitly? As much as I worshiped the various NASA manned spaceflight programs, I never did it. Which leaves me sitting here tonight, pondering the world illuminated by the icy light of an LCD panel and feeling as if my soul is as thin as a playing card, to borrow yet again that haunting phrase from Joyce Carol Oates.
What to do about all this? And, more to the point, what to do about it in the context of climate change?
First, I will continue to contact various climate scientists directly and thank them for their contributions our understanding of how the environment works and what the ramifications are of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Second, I will write a series of posts, likely on a wildly intermittent basis, in which I name names and point to those climate scientists and climate communicators and activists who deserve our thanks. It’s a virtual certainty that I’ll screw this up, most obviously by accidental omission; I’m counting on you, dear readers, to help me fill in the gaps.
Is that “enough”? Surely not. But it’s far better than doing nothing. And who knows, perhaps as I stumble my way through the process I’ll manage to turn a few of you on to scientists and others who are worthy of your attention. I would consider that a bargain.
T-minus 201 days