Tahoe Pine Nuts: Piers Sellers, you’re my hero! | SierraSun.com

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Tahoe Pine Nuts: Piers Sellers, you’re my hero!

Born in Jolly Old England in 1955, Piers Sellers knew when first he looked heavenward that he wanted to be up there looking down.

He wanted to be an astronaut. Me, I wanted to be a snowplow driver. Some guys set the bar higher than others.

When Piers confided this ambition to his teacher in elementary school, that he wanted to explore space, his teacher told him he must first learn mathematics.

That would have let me out right there; it takes me twenty minutes to figure a 20% tip.

But Piers dived headlong into analytical geometry and calculus and all of those mystical formulas that have enabled us to travel into space and understand climate.

Along the way Piers developed a keen interest in climate change. Me? I was majoring in underwater basket weaving at the University of Oregon, convinced the big flood was coming and we were all going to drown again, except those lucky few to make it onto the Arc, and those of us who could survive underwater in a basket.

Piers, meanwhile, graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in ecological science before earning a doctorate in biometeorology from Leeds University, and then he went to work…

Immigrating to America, Piers devoted his life to examining the challenges posed by global warming. Joining NASA's Astronaut Corps he conducted field studies on climate change world-wide, and took half a dozen walks in space, while I was catching snowflakes on my tongue.

Piers Sellers was nowhere near finishing his research when he died last week of pancreatic cancer at 61 years of age. But he left us this…

"I've no complaints. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God's-eye-view I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is."

You're my hero, Piers. I wish I had been more like you and had set my moral compass toward saving the planet.

I wish I could have known you, and had a chance to encourage you to continue with your research and do the things I didn't have the stuff to do.

More than that, I wish you could have met our president elect, and that the two of you could have become friends and shared ideas, though I don't suppose that could have happened, as the two of you moved in different circles.

Well, where you are now, Piers, there is climate control, and your view of Earth must be even better than that from the International Space Station, and too, I suspect, better than the view of Earth from a tower on 5th Avenue.

This past June, Piers Sellers was awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal, the agency's highest honor. RIP…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.