I’ll tell you what day it is.
On this day, 98 years ago, at 1pm local time, 6pm (I think) UK time, there was a dull thud in Cincinnati. The last passenger pigeon in the world, called Martha by her keepers in Cincinnati Zoo, had died and fallen off her perch. It was the end of the line for a species that had been the commonest bird on Earth a mere 50 years earlier.
Last weekend Neil Armstrong died in Cincinnati. 43 years earlier he had been the first man on the Moon.
I remember looking up at the moon, as a child, and marvelling at the fact that there were, at that very time, men up there on that shining circle in our sky. Only 12 men have walked on the Moon – and none since 1972. There are still thousands of people whose lives have overlapped with that of the last passenger pigeon although no-one can remember a few years earlier when huge flocks of millions of birds darkened the skies of Ohio and many other central and eastern states of the USA.
43 years ago we put a man on the Moon and 98 years ago we wiped out a once-abundant species from this planet. The first stands as a shining example of our ability to harness our scientific understanding to achieve a hugely symbolic success whereas the latter represents a symbolic failure of our collective ability to occupy this planet in ways that preserve its ecology and natural beauty.
1 September ought, always, to be a day when we remember the once-commonest bird on the planet.