Bearing Witness to Extinction

Kenn Orphan describes our current situation and how grief can hold the answer to moving from denial to action. As of late I’ve been struggling with this. A feeling I keep pushing down, saving it for later. This feeling of immeasurable sadness, unbearable perhaps. I think about the 2060’s, when I’m my dad’s age. What will be left of the world? I feel as if I’m waiting on everyone else, that the only way to grieve for something so immense is to do it together.

“To argue that the current extinction event could be averted if people just cared more and were willing to make more sacrifices is not wrong, exactly; still, it misses the point. It doesn’t much matter whether people care or don’t care. What matters is that people change the world. This capacity predates modernity.”

Each of us is a witness to this Great Dying, the sixth mass extinction, the last one being 65 million years ago which wiped out the dinosaurs.Yet despite overwhelming evidence of a rapidly crashing biosphere many leaders, if not most, in the privileged global north seem oblivious or apathetic to the carnage.

Standing in a cemetery crowded with the bones of countless species I am left with little room to marvel at our cleverness.

But to deny the ecocide unfolding before us today is a feat of astounding absurdity. And it should be clear to anyone paying attention that this is not a natural event. Human beings have become a force of nature. And an extraction and exploitation economy, that benefits fewer and fewer people each year, has created the conditions that are leading toward the collapse of the biosphere on which we all depend.

Biodiverse forests are scraped away for more profitable monocropslike palm oil with the result being a catastrophic loss of habitat for scores of species like the endangered orangutan.

The choice, however, is ultimately ours. We can continue to avert our gaze from the looming chaos and believe the lie fed to us that we are separate or even superior to the lifeweb that envelopes this planet. We can sleepwalk toward extinction with a shopping bag in one hand and the latest smartphone in the other. Or we can acknowledge sorrow as a natural response to catastrophe.

realize we too are subject to extinction.

Stepping into our grief is indeed bearing witness to the monstrous crime of ecocide. It is a bold act of defiance to a culture of denial, distraction and death. Grief is the beginning of transformation.





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