Nov. 30: Grieving for Species, Hoping for Climate Results

The annual International Remembrance Day for Lost Species and the opening of the Paris Climate Change Conference both happen on Monday, November 30. How fitting that the days coincide! 

Species Remembrance Day Nov. 30

In 2011, a group of artists from Feral Theatre and the Life Cairn Project in the UK Unknown established November 30th as International Remembrance Day for Lost Species.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes essential connections about interrelationships and lost species, e.g.: Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. (par. 42) 

News about species’ extinctions is grim. For example, The Week (11.13.15) reports that by 4330102035 most African lion populations will be half their present population; two-thirds  of them are in decline. Bad news for lions, but notably bad news for all of us who are interconnected within ecosystems. Bad news because each species and each ecosystem has taken billions of years to evolve. Bad news because, as Pope Francis writes: thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. (par. 33)

With Teilhard de Chardin, we believe that “… the inner Reality … is the support common to all substances … .” The inner Reality living and acting in all creation also empowers us to participate in the on-going evolution of life and spirit and to make a difference for Our Common Home.

Since climate change is a major cause of the extinctions of species, positive results from the climate change talks will result in reprieves for many species. 

Climate Change Talks Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2015

The annual meeting of all countries that want to take action for the climate will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December. (It is also called the United Nations Climate Change Conference or Paris Climate Change Conference.)  “COP21,” so called because it is the 21st meeting of [deep breath] the Conference of Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet December 4 – 6.

logocop21-ppalThe objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. President Obama, about 80 other heads of state, and more than 40,000 others are expected to attend the climate change conference. “We’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” Obama said. The general secretary, Sharan Burrow, has repeated that there are “no jobs on a dead planet.”

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ was written, in part, to influence the conference. The encyclical calls for action against climate change. The International Trade Union Confederation has called for the goal to be “zero carbon, zero poverty.”

Grieving, Praying, Acting

I hope that when we grieve the loss of increasing numbers of species and their ruined habitats, and as we pray and act so that the Paris meetings will be effective in reducing emissions causing climate change and species extinction, we will also remember the millions of humans whose lives, homes, and livelihoods have already been lost as a result of extreme and changing weather patterns, ecosystem destruction, and species extinctions.

Pope Francis again: God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel … the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. (Joy of the Gospel, par. 215) Those of us who allow ourselves to feel the painful disfigurement may wish to use the following grieving prayer. You are free to adapt it in any way. For a copy of just the four-sided prayer below, click here: Extinction Grieving Prayer 11.15.

Extinction Grieving Prayer 2015

Use two candles; prepare suggested (or other) music and video. Adapt in any way that facilitates use.

Call to Prayer

. . .today, the dusky seaside sparrow             sparrow-dusky_seaside_sparrow-from-wikipedia
became extinct. It may never be as famous
as the pterodactyl [tera daktel] or the dodo,
but the last one died today . . . .
An excerpt from “Science” by Alison Hawthorne Deming

What you call resources, we call our relatives. Source unknown.

Light the first candle. It honors all the species that have gone extinct in our lifetimes.

All: Great Giver of Life, we pause to remember our place at the beginning of the Sixth Great Extinction on Planet Earth. For 13.8 billion years creation has been groaning: bringing to birth, becoming more complex, more organized, more conscious. Now, for the first time, our species is ruining whole ecosystems, aborting entire groups of interdependent species. We send blessings to the world’s nations, meeting in Paris to redress climate change, one of the major causes of extinctions.

Litany of Affirmation 

imagesWe affirm the Sacred Mystery that caused and continues Creation.

We affirm the 13.8 billion years of our Universe.

We affirm the billions of galaxies, each with its billions of solar systems and stars.

We affirm the multiple transformations during the 4.5 billion years of Mother Earth’s life so far, and the relentless evolution towards potentially ever-greater consciousness in the future.

We affirm the millions of species that have inhabited our planet in beautifully-webbed communities: microorganisms, plants, fish, birds, mammals . . . .

We affirm that we came from Earth and exist, like all species, in a communion of subjects.

We acknowledge that we play a part in violating this communion by our carelessness, ignorance, and indifference. Forgive us our part in the death of ecosystems and the resulting extinction of creatures in whom we believe divinity lives and acts.

Litany of Grief

We grieve humans’ lack of awareness of, and concern about, the destruction of interdependent communities that have taken billions of years to develop.

We grieve the climate disaster that is extinguishing habitats and the multiple species within them.

We grieve the more than one-in-four flowering plants, the one-in-five mammals, the nearly one-in-three amphibians, and the one-in-eight birds that are vulnerable to being wiped out completely. (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)   img_18-tm

We grieve the Golden Toad, native to Costa Rica. It has not been seen  since 1989, when a single male was found, the last of its species.

ibex1-tmWe grieve the Pyrenean Ibex. The last of this species naturally born was a female, Celia, who  died in 2000.

We grieve the St. Helena Olive, a small spreading tree, the last of which perished in 2003 primarily due to deforestation and images-1invasive plants.

We grieve all our extinct brother and sister species, the amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, plants and trees, and their diminished habitats.

We grieve the humans whose sustenance and livelihoods are threatened by this disruption in the food web.

We grieve the deaths of ecological martyrs: Sister Dorothy Stang, Dian Fossey, Chico Mendes, and the over 900 other activists slain since 2004. (Global Witness)

* Add as you wish.

Listen to and/or Sing: While listening to or singing this song, note the interconnections: war, bees, climate, soil. ”Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Kingston Trio:

Quiet reflection

Extinguish first candle. Light second candle. It represents all threatened species and our desire to protect them.

images-2Watch “
How Wolves Change Rivers” (4:33 min.):

Litany of Gratitude and Hope 

We are grateful that 90% of species under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (U.S.) are recovering at the rate specified by their federal recovery plan.

We are grateful that British oil company Soco International agreed (June 2014) to 0611.Rugendo_in_bukima.150suspend exploration in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas (pictured here) and thousands of other species. We thank the over 750,000 people who signed a petition to stop the oil drilling.

We are grateful that the Zoological Society of London released its list of birds most at risk of extinction based on evolutionary distinctness and global endangerment (EDGE) in April 2014. This information will help conservationists decide where efforts should focus first.

whale-83211b46cbd3936dfe91f263f0faaaaddfc556b7-s6-c30We are grateful that the California blue whales, nearly hunted to extinction at the turn of the 20th century, are slowly rebounding after the global hunting ban in 1986.

We are grateful for all of the habitats that have been saved so the interdependent species within them can escape extinction.

We are grateful for the many people throughout the world who dedicate their time and efforts to keeping habitats and species alive so they can give praise to their creator by their distinct lineages, attributes, and contributions to the web of life.

Add as you wish.

Action Suggestions

Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations.  Pope Francis

To save species, we must save ecosystems.  To save ecosystems, we must reduce climate change, pollution, poaching, invasive species, and over-consumption. Mentally check the list that follows for actions that you already take. There might be something there that you would also want to do.

Read quietly:

Consciously deepen appreciation of the glory of creation, its long story, the place of Divine Mystery in it, and humans’ dependence upon it.      Pray for the healing of creation.

Reduce all energy use.                        Transition to renewable energy sources.

Encourage institutions to invest in renewable energy and to divest from fossil fuels.

Drive less and/or reduce gas use by not exceeding 60 mph on the highways (and by other ways).

Avoid produce, meat, and poultry from factory farms.             Buy recycled products.

Reduce use of plastic. Carry water in a thermos (not bottled water).      Buy local.

Avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs).       Lobby for laws to protect habitats and species.

Include climate change and other Earth-care concerns when choosing legislators.

Join (or cooperate with) a group working to conserve, restore, and protect habitats and species.

Share on any one of these topics:

What are the most meaningful things we can do to co-create a better world?
What are your hopes for the Paris Climate Change Conference?
What kind of Earth “could be”?

Sending Forth:

Leader: Great Giver of Life, we come from, and we dwell in, the magnificent world in which you live and act. Our species is causing extinctions; our species can prevent them. Let us not be thwarted by the immensity of the challenge, for the Power working within us can do more than we could ask or imagine. May the flame of this candle continue burning in our hearts, reminding us to help “our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” (St. Francis) Send forth your Spirit and we shall be empowered.  All: And you will renew the face of the Earth. Amen.

Extinguish second candle.

Share a blessing of hope with one another. Celebrate possibilities!



MTE1ODA0OTcyMDMzNTQxNjQ1In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis presents “an educational challenge” (par. 209) that requires “educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.” (par. 210)

The goal of this education is described throughout the Encyclical. For example:

– “awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.” This basic awareness, he predicts, “would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life.” (par. 202)

– “It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be  considered in isolation.” (par. 138)

What follows is a model of such a program. I am indebted to orla_w_cosmic_story_and_earthDr. Orla OReilly Hazra, PhD, and to her students, for the following information and quotes.

Offering an Integrated Cosmic Vision

Orla and Prashant Olalekar, PhD, S.J. co-taught an honors course titled “Be the Dream: Awaken to Cosmic Compassion” at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. (For information about the course, see
IGNATIAN PEDAGOGY in an Evolutionary Universe: Report on Honours Course, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India)

Their students included the age group of 18-22, a variety of academic majors, and an even wider range of faith traditions, plus two teachers. These students learned the story of our 13.8 billion-year-old Universe. They absorbed the reality that our bodies and the bodies of all we see around us are part of everything that emerged from this evolution. The Universe Story — unknown for so long — conveys the wonder and awe that overwhelms many scientists as they face the stupendous creative power animating our journey together.

bighistoryunits The big history of our lives was outlined through its 8 threshold moments: big bang, formation of galaxies, elements, solar system, life, humans, agricultural era, industrial era (and end of Cenozoic era from which we emerged) — and now our emerging 9th moment – the ‘ecozoic era’.

With this solid foundation, these students proved that “if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.” (par. 11)


The following quotes show that these students, confirmed in their place in the Universe Story, accept their responsibility for co-creating and fostering the flourishing for all. Their common response after listening to and meditating on their integral origin story was one of deep awe, wonder and reverence. Their journal entries reveal that they are now able to see their bodies and themselves and all around them as part of an integral co-creative process:

“We are such an amazing and significant part of this universe, evolving together with all species and forces of nature. I am mother earth and mother earth is me. Knowing about this cosmos has been the first step towards unraveling the purpose of my life. Having understood this, I wonder, won’t it solve our issues of inequality for we are cutting down separation/discrimination from its basic root” (Shweta)2224010451

The Big Bang theory has never affected me the way it did today. We are all interrelated, we have emerged from the same stars. Thus my view has changed dramatically when it comes to looking at the problems of the world. The meditation did help us to delve deeper. I did notice that I should listen to myself and nature even more.” (Renisha)

“The immediate change on the surface level is to become sustainable: reduce use of plastics, eliminate shopping cravings, make homemade food and beauty products, a deep acknowledgement and compassion for my skin, my organs, my body that has been supporting me … maybe ever since 13.8 billion years … at moments like these I realize that I cannot continue my speech of ‘them’ and ‘us’ because we really are one, and we need to fight not only for the marginalized but also for Mother Earth. If I sit cross legged [in Indian meditation prayer] and decide that there is nothing I can do for Mother Earth, whose metals, atoms, chemicals are that which sustain and have made me, isn’t it rather a bit selfish and foolish to be doing?” (Kala)

Ecological Conversion

Awareness of the integral existence of the Mystery in all things is the metanoia necessary. We currently struggle with a mindset that denies, rejects, or is simply unaware of our unity with all creation. As stated by Bernard Lonergan, SJ: “How indeed, is a mind to become conscious of its own bias when that bias springs from a communal flight from understanding and is supported by the whole texture of a civilization? (Lonergan, 1958, xv)

Healing the dualist mindset bias which is causing the problems in the first place is essential for the education advocated by Pope Francis. As ecotheologian Diarmuid O’Murchu rightly points out: “Reconnecting with the Earth – with the whole Earth — is the single greatest challenge now facing us as a human species.” Our primary context of the Cosmos is the basis of any ‘religious’ story and is the commons from which we all emerged.

The course described here, and experiences like it in schools, families, parishes, religious congregations, and organizations of all types, prove that from understanding our common heritage and common ground, a common reverence and responsible action can emerge globally — and with joy!

Call for More Examples

Please add, in comments, other examples of ways parents, teachers, authors and artists are enabling others to place our lives and our religious stories within the unity of all creation.



Paths to Peace

Someone kindly alerted me that the link to my Advent reflection, “Paths to Peace,” advent_grwas not working. In case others have had the misfortune of clicking it only to find nothing, I assure readers that you can now click and connect with this four-session resource.

Although the Scripture readings come from Advent liturgies, and the sessions refer to Advent, the timeliness of reflecting on peace is always current. Adapt these pages for use at any time, for we always need to deepen our sense of shalom within and in relation to others, to creation, and to divinity. “Paths to Peace” includes additional information for U.S. participants that relates to today’s weapons, especially nuclear ones.

Hiroshima atomic bomb damageU.S. taxpayers, according to the National Catholic Reporter (Sept. 25-October 8, 2015), will have to pay “nearly $1 trillion over the next quarter century” for weapons like those on a Trident submarine, each with destructive force some 30 times greater than the destructive force of either of the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Do imagine that!

Rather than repeat the full description of “Paths to Peace” here, I suggest you click on my Advent page:

Peace be with you — now, during Advent, and always!