Remembrance day for lost Species

The Remembrance day for Lost Species is held on the 30th of November and is a chance to explore the stories of extinct and critically endangered species, cultures, lifeways and ecological communities. It is also a day to renew commitments to change our lifestyles and be protectors of the Earth.

Extinction Rebellion Cape Town held a memorial to the lost Species on St James Beach.  The programme included poetry readings, a wreath laying ceremony and the launching of paper boats with commitments.

The Red Rebels used “artivision” (artistic activision) to bring home the powerful moment of mourning

Rev Rachel Mash from Green Anglicans brought the reflection. Here is her talk:

According to the WWF report, called the living planet – which should be called the dying planet,  in my lifetime alone  two thirds of the populations of  living wild creatures  have been extinguished.

 This flagship WWF publication of 2021  reveals an average decline of 68% in species populations since 1970. When I looked at the just released 2022 report it says that it has now declined by 69%- another one percent just in a year!

And not just mammals and birds and reptiles, As we come up to the holiday season you may remember when you were small how the windscreen would get covered with dead insects on long journeys – now it is rare to see insects on your screen. A recent report frm Germany said   flying insects had declined by 75 percent in weight in just 25 years.

A million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, we have lost half of the world’s corals and with all the focus on the World cup – consider this – we  lose forest areas the size of 27 football fields every minute.

Climate change, pollution, deforestation, landuse change,  our unsustainable food systems- The combined weight of cattle, chickens, and pigs exceeds the weight of all wild animals and humans combined.  22 billion chickens,  1,5 billion cattle

The oceans are becoming acidic, overfishing, invasive species

It is a litany of disasters.

The alarms bells are ringing

How do we respond – do we tune them out? Too much bad news?

They are not sirens warning us to evacuate , they are a call for the community to assemble, we mut run towards them, not away. They are a call to prayer to litanies of grief and solemn vows of commitment. They call us to an ecologically attentive  spiritual life, rich with beauty and pain, attuned to the groans of all creation.

They call us to action on behalf of the earth and the struggling people on it, especially those most impacted by toxic intersections of powerlessness and poverty. They call us to rise up and respond.

We have been doing things ‘for nature” picking up litter, saving water all those great and very important actions. But the crisis of extinction calls us to move one step deeper.

Nature is not out there – we are part of nature, we are part of the web of life on which we depend

Albert Einstein one of the smartest scientists ever  says this:

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

It is as we feel the pain of the suffering of all creatures that we will find our own healing

I remember once preparing some prayers with a Lutheran pastor who was from the Navajo people and she said when you say “Sing to God all people” you only think of human people, we think of the four legged peoples, the winged peoples, the crawling peoples  = all have their way to worship God all have their way to celebrate

They have done studies in the Amazon monitoring sounds of bird life and insect life and have heard a rapid drop in sounds

The great choir is being silenced. The voices are fading

So what must we do?

In Sunday school one day

They were reading the creation story

On the sixth day, God gave the gift of creatures that live on the land, those that walk on four legs, and those that walk on two. Those that walk on six or eight or a hundred.  And God made people in Gods own image and told them to take care of the world.

William aged 11 said”  Well that’s the day when God made a mistake.

We need to confess that we have failed, as individuals and as families and as communities and nations we were supposed to care for Mother Earth so that she would care for us and we have abused her. We were supposed to be keeper and caretakers of the earth and we are abusers.

There are many creatures that will never live again, there are many ecosytems that have been so degraded that they will not live again.

But we must  not lose hope. We should indeed  be very pessimistic about the future

“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The Hebrew Bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope.”

To Heal a Fractured World, p. 166 Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

It is personal change and action at the  local level – brings hope. Restoring a local eco-system, increasing pollinators.

But those actions are not enough, we also need to be part of global movements

Picture a mighty river that can cut through mountains. It starts with tiny droplets high on the mountain, our small individual acts. They come together to form tiny streams , a local movement or organisation, and as they join up into rivers they come together to form a mighty raging river that can move mountains.  Every drop counts

I want to end with a prophecy that was given to the Hopi Nation.


A Hopi Elder Speaks

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.  And there are things to be considered . . .

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

 What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”

    “There is a river flowing now very fast.  It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.  They will try to hold on to the shore.   They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.

    “Know the river has its destination.  The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.   And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.  At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves.  For the moment that we do,  our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

    “The time for the lone wolf is over.  Gather yourselves!  Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary.  All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

    “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

— attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder

Hopi Nation

Oraibi, Arizona



Photos Ciara Mash