NOTE: JR died March 2nd. This very moving tribute was written by Meteor Blades, a frontpager at Daily Kos, and is reposted with his permission.
His real name was Steven Kimball. But here at Daily Kos and on his own blog, Climaticide Chronicles, he was known as JohnnyRook. After a two-and-a-half-year fight against acute myeloid leukemia, he died Monday at his home in Port Townsend, Washington. He was 53. (The photo shows him in the Canadian Rockies last September, with Mount Robson in the background.)
It’s no easy matter to write about the passing of someone you’ve come to know and feel is a kindred spirit, even if only via the Internet. It’s all the more difficult when that person was himself so good with words.
Steven’s first career was as a college instructor of language and history. He subsequently became a federal court interpreter of Spanish and, sometimes, Russian. He was fascinated by the world and had an amazing ability to make complicated topics knowable, which made him the best kind of teacher. A hiker and sea kayaker, he loved the outdoors.
It was just a few months after he was first diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2006 that he became JohnnyRook online. All his Diaries were written during the time he was undergoing treatment after treatment, from chemotherapy to two stem-cell transplants, many of them requiring long hospital stays, a great strain on him and his wife, Becci, who became his 24/7 caregiver, dealing with all the physical and emotional difficulties such a job entails. Twice, in November 2007 and on February 5 this year, he told us “My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today.”
But mostly he told us about his fears and hopes – not for himself but for the earth and coming generations – about how he came to support Barack Obama because of global warming, and about the global warming deniers he detested. One of my favorites was EcoNoticiarios, his series highlighting articles from the Spanish-language press about environmental issues.
His third Diary, in October 2007, took on the subject that became his signature, what he would come to call “climaticide.” Not just what it is, but what to do to stop it. In June 2008, he began his own blog, whose essays he regularly cross-posted here.
He was fiercely passionate about it, in great part because he felt too many people — especially politicians — weren’t listening. He often pondered aloud what it would take to make them pay attention. When Al Gore and the onetime Cassandra of global warming, James Hansen, separately noted that they thought maybe civil disobedience would be required to force a change in policy — particularly the use of coal for generating electricity — he found it persuasive.
It was in that third Diary – Who’s a Leader? National Day of Climate Action – that Steven showed just how passionate he was:
I think we need a movement, a real movement, one with passion and cojones. Last weekend I took my 17-year old son to see a movie about the trial of protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention called “Chicago 10”. I wanted him to see what a real protest march looks like, one where people are truly pissed and refuse to be ignored by their elected officials, even when they use police-state tactics against them. I think Al Gore understands this need for a real movement when he says: “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” And it shouldn’t be just young people. Why aren’t we all doing this?
Last weekend, his son, now 19, was in Washington, D.C., as part of the Capitol Climate Action pressing for a shutdown of the coal-burning plant that provides Congress with heat and air-conditioning. It goes without saying that Steven was proud of him for that. When he still had some hope for recovery, Steven told a friend that “one of the things I’m most looking forward to about getting well, if only for a while, is the opportunity to chain myself to the gate of a coal-fired power plant or to some energy CEO’s desk.”
His final Diary here, showing once again what a selfless guy he was, came on February 8: Support President Obama by Joining Daily Kos Environmentalists. At his own blog, the final post appeared February 18: Alert: Wilkins Ice Shelf Collapses According to Spanish Scienitists. He said he would update when he received more information. He never got the chance.
A week before Steven died, A Siegel wrote an homage to him. The day before he died, Joe Romm, a former assistant secretary in the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, wrote his own homage at Climate Progress. Others have had their say, too.
But Steven’s own words said it best:
I understand that such news can depress. At times it depresses me but, more than anything else, it has filled my life with meaning. I have a mission. Before I die, I want to have some sense that this beautiful planet that has provided the context for my life, will have some chance of enduring. I want to die with hope, believing that my teenage son and his children and your children and their children will live in a world that is reasonably hospitable to human beings.
I don’t know how that can happen if people will not face the reality of what is taking place in the world. So, I continue to sound the alarm, even though I know that most of what I write is discounted as alarmist or simply ignored as too uncomfortable to deal with.
Hope becomes reality through action. Obviously Steven taught his son well. Both father and son are examples for the rest of us.
Steven’s family has asked that anyone who wishes to make a remembrance in his name can contribute to 350 org at this link. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate place. Goodbye, Steven. We miss you already.