Extinction Remembrance Day

November 30th is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. I believe commemorations like this can be channels for the grief that any authentic living in this time must confront. Definitely a good day to mark for those with an animist bent.

More information can be found at this website.

https://www.lostspeciesday.org/

I’ve also found valuable thoughts from Lo (Keen) on extinction on this blog: https://rotwork.wordpress.com/

I’ve written a couple of poems and tributes to the lost birds of the Big Island of Hawai’i for this day.

A distinctively human consciousness arose in Paleolithic

linguistics and painted its wrestle with abyssal animal mind,

staving guilt of hunt and anxiety separation

with ritual’s diplomacy:

ochre and feathers

and sorcerers dancing on the edge of worlds,

occasionally falling off into the pit of bones.

now centuries of the rites cast aside,

suppressed volcanoes of grief wait unaddressed

and sedimentary layers of numbness press on our continents—

a society looks for the forgotten

who peek occasionally from sedated dreams,

in pixar and pokemon-alert smartphones

(the children were out in August—I hadn’t known there were any,

but there they’d gathered near where the stream gushes by the supermarket unseen)

while outside barely known

the Sixth Extinction rages on.

We the truly lost species as tectonic plates grind on.

Here on the island of Hawai’i there are at least ten species of bird that have gone extinct since the arrival of whites in the late 18th century. There are many more if the entire archipelago is included. Hawaii has suffered more extinctions and more endangered species than any other US state. The majority of these lost species are of a group of birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers that underwent diverse speciation as they adapted to a multitude of island environments much like the finches that led Darwin to theorizing evolution. In many cases their habitat was destroyed by sugar plantations and cattle ranching; also the introduction of rats, mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit (there were none before the Europeans came), mongooses and cats have led to the demise of others.

The Hawaii mamo, Drepanis pacifica, last seen in 1898.

220px-drepanis_pacifica-keulemans-1

The greater Koa finch, Rhodocanthis palmeri. Last confirmed sighting in 1896.

170px-zzzgreaterkoafinch

The lesser Koa finch, R. flaviceps, 1891.

220px-telespiza_flaviceps3

The Kona grosbeak, Chloridops kona. 1894.

220px-chloridops_kona

The Hawai’i o’o, Moho nobilis, last seen in 1934.

170px-moho_nobilis-keulemans

The ula-‘ai-hawene, Ciridops anna, extinct at the latest by 1937.

220px-ciridops_anna

The greater ‘amakini, Viridonia sagittirostris, last seen in1901. Lost to sugar plantations destroying its habitat.

220px-zzzgreateramakihi

The lesser ‘akialoa, Akialoa obscura. Last seen in 1940.

220px-akialoa_obscura

The Hawaiian rail, Porzana sandwichensis. 1884 or maybe 1893.

250px-hawaiirail

The kioea, Chaetoptila angustipluma, 1859.

250px-chaetoptila_angustipluma

All images Wikipedia, public domain.

 

An Elegy

before the cattle, before the sugar,

before the mosquitoes and rats

brought by whalers’ ships,

before the plantations

how much richer the island life—

when the lost birds could be heard cracking

the naio fruits, flitting in gold epaulettes and black dress

among the ohia trees,

opening the seed pods in the koa groves,

sheltering from fierce noon sun and plundering

nectar with long curved beaks. Your flights

haunt, a lost net of sorrow.

.

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2 thoughts on “Extinction Remembrance Day

  1. Thanks for sharing this tribute to the extinct birds of Hawai’i. I think the Remembrance Day for Lost Species is a great idea. I only found out about it quite recently. Next year I’d like to hold some kind of ritual, hopefully with costumes based around species lost from Lancashire.

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