Yesterday there was an eclipse, in which the moon passed in front of the sun. I'm not sure if that's a lunar or solar eclipse, but I'm not going to take the time to look it up online. Anyway, you know all about the eclipse already, because the world went freaking nuts over it for months. I don't know a damn thing about celestial activity, but I was as aware of the eclipse as I was of my own appointments. In many ways, actually, it was like an appointment. "Don't forget to watch the eclipse!" everyone was saying. And I didn't. Don't worry, I saw the eclipse. From Durango, so only like 75% totality, but hey, it was pretty cool anyway.
What was most interesting to me was how excited everyone got about the eclipse. People who can't be bothered to recognize the changing seasons made a point to leave work in the middle of the day to watch it. I think that people are interested in eclipses because we see the sun and the moon nearly every day, and to see them cross is very rare. But I think that most of us were interested in the eclipse only because we thought we were supposed to be. We have a vague notion that the movements of celestial bodies is a spiritual thing. Though we often laugh at horoscopes, they are still in our newspapers every day. And there are other cultures that noted and valued the movements of the sun, moon, and stars too - for those of us in the southwest, the Chaco culture is a peripheral influence that gives us a sense of the importance of these sorts of things. So when I drove through town and saw hordes of people in the streets looking at the sun (through special glasses, hopefully), I was more interested in the psychology behind the movement than in the event itself.
Not that I know anything about psychology. But it was hard not to be cynical about the fact that this one celestial event could draw so much attention when we have overwhelming, near-daily evidence of environmental issues that are perennially ignored. That's the problem, though: the sheer weight of the facts about something like climate change dilutes the power of any one fact, and besides, watching the moon cross the sun is spectacular, whereas increasing temperature averages or decreasing snow and ice cover is gradual and hard to discern. But think about what we could do if people were willing to leave work to take action on climate change or to preserve wild spaces in the same way they did so for the eclipse! Think about what we could do if the news media covered those issues the way they covered the eclipse! Maybe then more people would be able to make the connection between environmental issues and the very uncertain future their children face.
Anyway, the eclipse sure was cool, and it made me want to learn more about the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. There is a lot going on up there that I don't take any note of, and I have a general desire to expand my worldview and my ability to observe the world, so this would be part of it. The eclipse also demonstrated a potential to mobilize people for environmental phenomena that could be very powerful if utilized fully. I've been fortunate enough to join forces with Protect Our Winters this year, and these sorts of things are often on my mind lately.
I still have a lot to learn though. Always a lot to learn.