Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Michael Crichton - wish you were here.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Michael Crichton - wish you were here.

The last episode of ER airing in UK this week brings to mind its creator Michael Crichton, who died early and unexpectedly late last year and - surprisingly perhaps - I want to recognise him as a conservation leader. I can hear the howls of electronic protest. In the latter years of his life, Crichton stirred up a hornet's nest with vocal challenges to what he saw as flawed science - see some of the reactions to his life and work on Science Blogs immediately after his death from cancer. But Crichton's success as a writer came from a thorough understanding of scientific process, combined with an ability to challenge preconception and an intuitive take on human behaviour. He listened , explored, observed - then projected ideas forwards or backwards in time, and drew us in to his speculation about what might change and how we might react.

My personal recollection of Michael Crichton derives from his exploration of the fringes of medical science as documented in "Travels". He was travelling to overcome writers block and it seemed to work as a host of bestsellers followed. One was "Congo", but his encounter with mountain gorillas in the Virunga volcanoes was 180 degrees away from the paddle-swinging grey gorillas of that book and subsequent film. We found them high up above Lake Ngezi, amidst the luxuriant greenery covering the slopes of Visoke volcano. The group was resting, belching, peering at the 6' 9" charmer in their midst, who sank down automatically to their level. He was fascinated, trying out the vocalisations, spotting the different characters, drinking in the moment. He didn't forget either. Some years later, when gorillas were surrounded by war and disturbance, he pitched in behind the IGCP in Virunga and the gorilla organisation at Tshiaberimu.

I find myself wanting to know how he would have reacted as the evidence mounts for what we are doing to our planet and what future scenarios we might anticipate or prepare for. I would have liked him to write a guest post for Future Earth, and wish he was here to ask.

1 comment:

Princess said...

It is always a pleasure and surprise to read Crichton.. I do wish he was here to write more inspiring books.