• The Life Cairn

    The figures sit blankly like names on a wall, somehow almost abstract to us in our cushioned lives. Cushioned from the elements outside our doors, even as they seem to threaten to go haywire, like they themselves were almost angry or in grief, or sick or in danger of dying. It has been estimated that 150 species are being lost to us every single day while life goes on and we commute and push our way through crowds in subways or push our pens or bits of paper round. How do we each of us measure a day? What value do we place upon a single week? And how then as the years fly by do we begin to comprehend the damage we are doing?

    Today is the first day in a declared ‘International Decade of Biodiversity,’ conceived at the Nagoya summit last year as part of an effort to raise awareness of the mass loss of life in the natural world now underway, where die off rates of species are 1,000 higher than natural levels of extinction. It has been said we cannot even start to comprehend these figures, we don’t know how to grieve, the scale is so vast that the easiest thing to do is to not take it in at all and continue helter skelter with the rush of modern life. But still we know that to look away is simply appalling.

    As an effort to counteract this trend, to raise some hope of clarified awareness, to help us begin to understand the full blown tragedy of the times we’re living in, a group of people gathered in Sussex yesterday to mark the beginning of the coming decade, to raise an actual beacon of consciousness in the form of a cairn that will stand as testimony to all the lives lost and as a point of potential hope that we can somehow turn around this terrible rate of attrition of our times.

    So, people came from all over, walking from their villages, up from the bridge on Lewes High Street, over from the places further east. People travelled from Exmoor and Lancashire as well as from all over Sussex itself, carrying flint and bits of chalk and quartz and even coral, echoed by others in other countries and other places who today were doing the same thing, like the community around the town of La Especia in Ecuador building a cairn in tribute to those species lost from the Ecuadorian Cloudforest.

    There was a fierce wind all the way, something that somehow served to remind us of the urgency involved in what’s at stake. But then we were there and sheltered in the lee of Caburn’s ancient hillfort. The ceremony was brief but also moving. Andreas Kornevall from the Earth Restoration Service spoke these words:

    “Where were we when the last Pyrenean Female endemic Brown Bear was shot down? Why was her dying place empty with no wreaths, no flowers, no poems, no songs, no church bells? She wanted to protect her young, and live and thrive on this Earth, just like us, now her hibernation caves are hollow and bare.

    Where were we when "the Goddess of the River" - the Yangtze dolphin vanished in China, never again to give birth to her young? Only empty radio static was heard; but there was no grief from humanity, no songs which to dedicate, no-one paid tribute - after millions of years of life?

    Why?

    Where were the great teachers, the spiritual leaders, the writers, the visionaries, the artists? Not even a moment's silence? Why have we not been able to grieve collectively to the ending of their birth?

    Has our inner emotional landscape to the natural world frozen to death? Like the cold statistics of science, which explains a great deal, but offers no meaning. Is the scientific statistic language the only language we possess? Today it seems a poor, limited and cold language. We need great poets now more than ever.

    We respectfully come to say goodbye and pay tribute to the Pyrenean Brown Bear in France, the Dolphin in China and all the species driven to extinction at human hands.

    We come to build the Life Cairn to speak a poetic, soulful language in remembrance to our other selves - our family which yesterday shared this planet with us.

    We face the ending of their birth. It will be a place of sadness, but also joy as we are finally building a Life Cairn - the first memorial for all the extinct species on the planet.

    All life to carry one life, one life to carry all life.”

    We do need poets, and songwriters, and speakers and writers and those called to activism and all of us with one fervent wish; that as humanity en masse we all wake up to what is happening in this world, that we learn to see again the effect of our every action large and small, and that we can cultivate the sense that there is still so much we can do as individuals and communities that can help ameliorate the worst of what is happening and steer our culture back to something more like sanity.

    On the hilltop yesterday it felt like a beginning, a clarion call to wake up, a hope of what can happen when we come together and renew our intent. The first point perhaps is to try and begin to comprehend the scale of what amounts to a holocaust of our own making of the natural world. Only then can we hope to understand the urgency that must inform our actions, only then can we hope to act with the critical mass that we need to find our way back to where we once were; with one foot at least in the world of what is wild and that which truly matters in this life. If we can find a greater perspective which states there is no separation ever from us and the world in which we live, however much we’ve turned our faces away, if we can root the sense of that in our day to day decisions and weight of every large and seemingly small action then there may well still be solid grounds for hope.

    A stated aim of the coming Decade of Biodiversity is that schoolchildren everywhere will have been made aware of the issues by 2020. But we need much more than that – ten years off is far too far away. We need to speak up and act now, and with everything we possess. If enough of us will it and with sufficient force of feeling - this could be the beginning of, or re-dedication towards, a response that might be in some way worthy of the monumental challenge we are faced with.

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branchlines

The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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