from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Remembrance Day for Lost Species: 30 November

One of the things that keeps me awake at nights (and I'm sure I'm not alone with this) is the thought of what we are doing to each other (the whole community of sentient beings) and the planet. It's a guilt and a dread like no other, as the scale of it is too big to encompass, let alone know how to approach and address.

Three species are lost as a result of human actions FOREVER each hour.* (Another estimate puts it at five an hour.)

You might like to reread that.

The cause? Human greed, ignorance, complacency, convenience, materialism, disconnection and – most of all – anthropocentrism. And those of us who realise the vast scale of it can do nothing about it other than cycling and recycling, maybe, which makes us feel better; and is merely a plaster on the symptoms – after all, what can we do in the face of such enormity of loss? 

This is so big I can barely even write about it from sorrow and my inability to get my head and heart around it all without going under.

Mostly, my views on speciesism and our unconscious assumption that because we have a reasoning mind, can articulate our reason, and are capable of exploiting the rest of the natural world, we are therefore somehow superior, top of the heap in a hierarchical world, are implicit in all the work I do, and generally I don't shout about them as although I'm passionate I don't like polemic. Sometimes, though, they are explicit, as in this post.

Thing is, we don't have the luxury of time to ignore all this. Our air is not fit to breathe; our water either too plentiful or too scarce, and in any case often not fit to drink; crops are failing; pollinators are being killed off; glaciers are melting, seas rising; topsoil being eroded by the million tons; deforestation proceeding in the Amazon alone at the rate of an area the size of Wales every couple of months; and that's without starting on the species loss which is occurring as a result of all this. And of course you can't more than double the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, as has happened since the Industrial Revolution, and not see an impact.

A view that is often put forward to me is James Lovelock's original Gaia Hypothesis (plenty on the net if you search): that the planet is a self-regulating organism and will if necessary simply shuck us off and survive herself.

I understand this argument, but in a less obvious way it's still anthropocentric. What it's easy to lose in the arguments and debates on anthropogenic climate change is the moral aspect: that we are taking the other species along with us in our destructiveness.

And there's the fact that even Lovelock has more recently suggested that the Gaia theory is a time-limited option, and we're running out of time. (He has since also said that climate change, and our demise, is now an inevitability. See The Vanishing Face of Gaia.) 

If you didn't read George Monbiot in the Guardian the other day, here's a link. (Warning: it's depressing.)

So what can we do? Keep talking about it. And yes, signing petitions – so many of us now do that it is in fact having an impact on policy.

And perhaps all we can do in addition is to pay attention; not turn our backs; add something heartful, positive; light a candle by not forgetting. 

Perhaps you might like to take a little time out today, Remembrance Day for Lost Species, as I have been doing, to acknowledge these fellow beings, in whatever way seems appropriate – a quiet walk in the woods; a few minutes' silent acknowledgement and contemplation between supper and bed; a meditation/reflection; writing a poem; joining an event (if it's not too late), feeding a sparrow.


To close, here are three things: a link to W S Merwin's moving poem 'Notes for a Coming Extinction':

A link to Buddhist and eco-philospher Joanna Macy's wonderful terrible 'Bestiary' poem:

('...Your tracks are grown fainter. Wait. Wait. This is a hard time. Don’t leave
us alone in a world we have wrecked.')

And some words by Henry Beston from The Outermost House, about 85 years ago:

‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.’

* This statistic, as far as I'm aware, includes plant, insect and marine life as well as birds and mammals


  1. I read the George Monbiot article yesterday and it seriously frightened me. I feel helpless. I, like you, will do what I can but it's not enough and there is so little time left. Joanne Macy's poem makes me cry. Lots of things make me cry at the moment and there seems little to laugh and rejoice at.

  2. Angie, I'm touched that you wrote those words. Me too, crying at so many things these days. It's easy to forget we're part of a collective, and there is a lot of fear and anxiety around at the moment – of course we pick it up and add it to our own.

    Does it help to remember that we're really not alone in this? Many many of us know how much we need a shift in consciousness, and many many of us are trying. We are a community. That's something at least to remember... Love to you.


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