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Homage to a hero: Climaticide Johnny Rook

February 27th, 2009 · 3 Comments

The reality of the web: anyone with access to a computer and a web link can become a near universally available resource. In many, even most, cases that click can end up being a waste of ones time. And, sometimes that click can end up eating up a tremendous amount of one’s time due to the strength and value of the discoveries that that click brings.

This is a challenge and a benefit of the web, but that benefit opens new horizons, creates new communities, and helps friendships / acquaintances that might (no, would) not have occurred otherwise.

For me, one of those clicks ended up with Johnny Rook’s Climaticide. In a variety of blogging environments, Johnny Rook has become an increasingly powerful voice in the domain of global warming moving from science to policy to, well, impressive passion about the issues and challenges we face.

What raises Johnny Rook to an even higher level, one that puts in a pantheon of heroes for me, is his personal circumstances. One might call his passion a death bed conversion as he was already ill with terminal cancer when he begin his voyage of discovery and writing on climate-change issues.

Several weeks ago, Johnny put out My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today–Updated (see comments here). From that discussion

Before I came down with [my illness] I’d never been in a hospital except to visit ill family members and friends. I spent hours in the gym working out, went on long hikes in the mountains and desert, bicycled and kayaked and ate a mostly organic, vegetarian diet. To say that I was surprised to discover that I had cancer would be the grossest of understatements.

My initial response to learning that my life was likely to be shorter than I had expected was, not surprisingly, rather selfish. I thought about the time that I would lose with my family and friends, of the traveling that I would not get to do, of the books that I would not get to read.

But something else happened too: the world became more poignant to me. I’d always thought of myself as a caring, empathetic, compassionate person, but now I found suffering, cruelty, and abuse to be intolerable regardless of the form it took. Debeaked hens crammed into tiny cages and stacked in factory-farm warehouses, infants shaken to death by their parents because they wouldn’t stop crying, genocide in Darfur, my countrymen in Appalachia and on the Gulf Coast treated as if they lived in a Third World Country, Iraqis bombed by us and by Al Qaeda… It was all too much. I was feeling the world’s pain.

And I realized, pardon my presumption here, that I didn’t want to die with the world in such terrible shape, which, finally, brings me to global warming. Of all the insanities that bedevil human beings on this planet none is greater than global warming. Only all out nuclear war poses as grave a danger to the planet and human civilization. Ironically, the former, if we fail to check it, may lead to the latter–a two-for-one sale at the Armageddon store, if you like.

I’m not confident that we are going to survive this. I’m positive that we won’t survive unscathed because the harm has already begun and we still haven’t done anything to reduce CO2 emissions. And here’s the question that keeps haunting me: If we won’t stop genocide in Darfur or provide universal health coverage in the United States, two horrible but much simpler cruelties, why should any one think that we will deal adequately with global warming?

I hear from mutual friends that Johnny Rook’s doctor might not think this today … that he might not survive the weekend.

Johnny Rook had wanted to be in Washington, DC, for Powershift 2009, to see the power of 10,000+ young people impassioned about helping bring about change in American (and global) policies on Global Warming. He has been thrilled to see that there is political change, that the Obama Administration is filling with people filled with understanding of global warming science and the need to act seriously even as he has serious concerns that President Obama will not (be able to) do enough to turn the tide on Global Warming’s rising seas. And, Johnny Rook had hoped to go to the Capitol Climate Action, to participate in a mass civil disobedience to end Congress’ use of coal to power itself. (Johnny, take a small solace, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi ordered yesterday that the plant be shifted to natural gas ASAP.) Johnny Rook will not be there … while it is going on, rather than being buoyed by the passion of 10,000 around him, he might quite literally be on his dying bed. His teenage son will be in Washington, DC, in honor of his father who asked him to go, losing the opportunity for any last precious minutes with him but strengthened by knowing his son cares about humanity’s future as well.

Johnny Rook has become my friend and an inspiration. We will never meet in person but we have met through the web. He is a person well worth knowing. To honor him, to honor his passion, to honor his commitment, take a few moments to click to Climaticide Chronicles … Perhaps to begin with his first post at this site that he started just last June: Why call it climaticide? The power of calling things by their true names.

I use the term Climaticide because it is the true name of the crisis that threatens us. As the poet Thich Nhat Hanh has shown, calling things by their true names makes us aware of their complexity and wary of simplistic solutions.

NOTE: Johnny Rook: Apologies if this embarrasses you my friend. I much prefer, even at this last moment, to write a homage rather than obituary. And, as you wish, I would much prefer the honor of be able to use your real name rather than pseudonym.

Tags: Global Warming · climate change

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow « Greenfyre’s // Mar 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    [...] was only when I read Andrew Siegel’s , moving “Homage to a hero: Climaticide Johnny Rook” that I became aware that Johnny was dying; indeed had been dying the entire time I knew of [...]

  • 2 Tributes to Johnny Rook & Climaticide Chronicles // Mar 2, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    [...] posts about Johnny Rook’s and the Climaticide Chronicles following Friday’s posting of Homage to a hero: Climaticide Johnny Rook In a variety of blogging environments, Johnny Rook has become an increasingly powerful voice in [...]

  • 3 Energy Bookshelf: Telling it Straight Up! // Apr 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    [...] Johnny Rook: I am glad that Joe included his homage to a friend of mine, Johnny Rook, the now-deceased founder of Climaticide Chronicles.  Johnny Rook’s real name: Steven [...]

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