Douglas Adams, who died 10 years ago today, was the best writer of humorous science fiction who ever lived. (Note that I did not say "arguably," all objective-journalist style. I will hear no argument. The best.) If, like me, you can recognize and recite parts of the passage on the towel he's draped himself with in the above video, you don't need me to say any more about that. But he was also a committed environmentalist who devoted a chunk of his post-Hitchhiker's Guide career to increasing awareness about endangered species.
Try this on for activism: He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in a rhinoceros suit to raise money to save the black rhino. What did YOU climb in a rhinoceros suit to save endangered animals? I THOUGHT SO. (Okay, to be fair he wore the suit before the climb actually started, but still.) And for his radio series Last Chance to See, Adams traveled the world having encounters with near-extinct species like the mountain gorilla and the manatee, creatures his audience might never have heard of but suddenly found themselves wanting to preserve.
Last Chance to See and the book of the same name introduced a lot of nerds (okay, me) to the beauty, weirdness, and fragility of the natural world, and the way humanity can both benefit from and destroy it (often both at the same time). Unfortunately the BBC has posted the radio shows in a format that's not available in the U.S., but if you're lucky enough to live across the pond, you can listen to them here. The rest of us will have to content ourselves with things like Adams' lecture on "Parrots, the Universe, and Everything" at U.C. Santa Barbara. (And of course, if you haven't already, you can see Last Chance to See collaborator Mark Cawardine get humped in the head by a kakapo on Stephen Fry's 20-years-later reboot of the series.)
- So long, Douglas Adams, and thanks for all the books, The Guardian