RDLS interview with Mary Hynes on CBC Tapestry – by Persephone Pearl

Photograph of Martha’s Flock 2014 memorial at the Life Cairn, Mount Caburn by Robin Taylor

The following transcript is taken from the CBC website:

Persephone Pearl is the director of ONCA, a environmental and social advocacy group based in Brighton, UK. She is one of the organizers that runs the Remembrance Day for Lost Species, an annual memorial dedicated to species and places forever lost to us.

“We will do something.  We will do something beautiful. We will act in defiance. We will try something ridiculous in the face of this kind of overwhelming sorrow. That’s kind of permission-giving and then tears can follow once laughter has been generated.”

It is a day of music, fire (they call it a pollinator pyre), poetry and performance, all themed around a sense of universal loss for the whole planet.

“Simply put, Earth is in the early stages of the sixth mass extinction and we’re losing biodiversity at a breakneck speed. And creatures and plants and all sorts of living things are disappearing at a rate that is hard to comprehend or keep up with. My friends and I, and a lot of people, had the sense that we need to make spaces to focus on, think about, reflect on these kinds of changes.”

Each year commemorates a different extinct species. In 2018, they’re mourning the loss of the Steller’s sea cow, a large marine mammal whose living relatives are the dugong and the manatee. Steller’s sea cow was last seen in 1768 in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. 2018 marks the 250th anniversary of its extinction, just a few years after it was first observed and named by Europeans.

Pearl knows the topic is overwhelming, discouraging and painful.  But she says it’s vital to approach it in a spirit of hope. And – yes – laughter is allowed.

“It’s absolutely ok to laugh, I think laughter is really important because it’s part of it, isn’t it? It’s part of feeling. And I don’t think any particular feelings are forbidden. All feelings are welcome and I think we just want to cut into a space where feelings are welcome and difficult emotions just being swept aside or just blocked out – because I think a lot of the time…there is so much terrible stuff happening all around us, all the time. It’s overwhelming. Tired of bad news that surrounds us. You have to be quite careful with your feelings. You can’t feel too much or you feel like you might be losing your mind.”

Listen to the full interview here: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/tapestry/segment/15551082


Hope interrupted – by Harriet & Rob Fraser

hope interrupted

Hope interrupted

South Cumbria, June 6, 2018

this is hope
this is hope

lying in my hand
perfect body
eyes tight shut
wings the tiniest of things
not ready to fly
limp blue legs
dinosaur ancestry

this is the heavy weight of hope

here in the meadow
among sorrel and buttercups
and the heat of a cloudless sky
hope, feathered and filched
flung to the ground
and left

hope  less

I do not know
if it was a crow
that took this curlew chick
or a fox

I do not know if the calls of the parent birds
that have been circling and calling
     circling and calling
     circling and calling
are calls of anger
or of sorrow
or warning

but in those haunting high-pitched cews
I hear no hope

hope lies here
at my feet
while the adults cry


Harriet Fraser

Rob and Harriet Fraser are www.somewhere-nowhere.com   



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A Life Cairn for Mauritius

The creation of the first Life Cairn memorial in Mauritius for the Dodo: policemen came in uniform, the two largest environmental groups on the Island were present, mixed with locals, school children and scouts. The youngest and the oldest laid their first stones. The Shankha was blown and we gathered, broken hearted, to lay the memorial for the Dodo and for all the iconic species of Mauritius driven to man-made extinctions.

Thank you especially the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, Eco-Sud Lagon Bleu and Pepper and Mas from Yaima for contributing your beautiful song “the Sacred.” Here is a clip to get a feeling of this extraordinary event.

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

By Andreas Kornevall, Earth Restoration Service

Getting to Know the Last Ground Sloths – by Matt Stanfield

The Americas lost most of their giant beasts when a wave of extinction swept them between the twelfth and the eighth millennia BC. Precisely what caused this cataclysm remains a source of controversy. That said, humans appear to have expanded their range of settlement in the Western Hemisphere around this time, so it is likely we had at least a hand in the matter.

At any rate, amongst the victims of the prehistoric American extinction pulse were the giant ground sloths, a highly successful group once found from Patagonia to the Great Lakes. Yet the ground sloths’ final curtain did not come down in the eighth millennium BC. Colossi such as Megatherium americanum might have vanished, but on a series of refugia, remnants persisted. The last ground sloths still wandered Caribbean forests around the time that Ancient Egypt’s first pyramids were raised. These animals were much smaller than their lost relatives. The biggest, such as Megalocnus rodens of Cuba, were comparable in size to a large sheep.

Detail of a Megatherium americanum skeleton cast, Natural History Museum, London. Image: Matt Stanfield, 2018

The Caribbean islands are thought to have lost at least seven sloth species in the last nine thousand years, with at least one within the last five thousand. It is believed the end of the ground sloths was precipitated by human settlement in the Caribbean, six thousand years or more ago. Certainly, few ground sloth remains have been carbon-dated to times much beyond the earliest evidence of humans on their islands.

The relative proximity of these creatures’ last days to our own time fascinates me. Compared to their continental kin, the Antillean sloths are obscure, with restorations of their life appearance hard to come by. Wanting to develop my understanding of these peculiar leftovers, I decided to try a life reconstruction of one such sloth. I selected Acratocnus ye, whose scientific name translates into English as “yesterday’s powerless sloth”. Taxonomists can be very cruel…

A. ye, though tiny compared to titans like Megatherium, was not as hapless as its name suggests. Standing on its hind legs, the solidly-built sloth reached a respectable metre or so in height. This is far in excess of the roughly guinea pig-sized Hispaniolan hutia, the biggest native mammal species remaining in A. ye’s former range.

The obscurity of Acratocnus ye meant I could only find a few pictures of subfossil bones and a medium-resolution image of a complete skeleton for reference. This limited supply of visual references suited me well. I prefer reconstructing obscure animals because not only does uncertainty give me more room for imagination, but, on a more prosaic note, the fewer total drawings of a species that exist, the fewer better drawings than mine there are likely to be! Below is a sketch of the skeletal photo which I used as the main reference for my piece (I think the original image is copyrighted, hence the reproduction).

Sketch of a reconstructed Acratocnus ye skeleton, Matt Stanfield, 2018

Reconstructions of recently-extinct species are not only a learning experience for me, but an emotive one. Working on these pieces forces close consideration of those anatomical details that define an animal’s appearance. This process, I find, infuses a personal notion of the organism’s essence into my memory. It actually has a vaguely devotional feel to it, since I usually feel more attached, in some way, to creatures which I have drawn, as opposed to those I have not.

In the case of ground sloths, the matter of the animals’ “essence” is a challenging one to address. If you wanted to reconstruct the life appearance of say, a sabre cat or mastodon, there are living creatures which provide a viable reference point. Less so for ground sloths. Contemporary tree sloths are highly adapted to an idiosyncratic lifestyle, meaning that even the smaller ground sloths had a markedly different external appearance to their arboreal relatives. Thus, I aimed to give my Acratocnus a “look” distinct from extant animals.

Acratocnus ye, Matt Stanfield, 2017

Ground sloths being tricky to pin down visually, I found that the Acratocnus ye on my page passed through various “looks”. Initially, the stocky legs and long tail gave the lost mammal taking shape on the page a kangaroo-like aspect. The addition of a barrel-shaped torso conjured up thoughts of a bear standing on its hind legs. When it came time to cap off the Acratocnus, it took some work to stop the head from (unexpectedly) resembling an otter’s.

After dozens of hours, the piece was complete. Sadly, due to the technique which I used, it doesn’t photograph brilliantly. Be assured though that thousands of individually-drawn hairs went into the pelt, not to mention the time taken on claws, eyes, muzzle and ears. Whilst I’m finally satisfied enough with my tribute to A. ye to make it public, there are various snags I was unable to fully rectify. Firstly, the limited reference material caused me some confusion regarding the sloth’s feet (which is why they aren’t shown). Second, not having a scale for the species, for most of the drawing process I envisaged A. ye as about double its actual size. Resultantly, my ground sloth has a bit more heft than it perhaps should. Lastly, I somewhat lazily portrayed Acratocnus ye in a very over-used pose for ground sloths: rearing up and leaning on a tree. There’s no excuse for my repeating of this tired trope. Nevertheless, I hope that you enjoy my visual salute to a virtually unknown animal that vanished on the very cusp of the historical era.

Matt Stanfield

With reference to Cooke, Dávalos, Mychajliw, Turvey & Upham, ‘Anthropogenic Extinction Dominates Holocene Decline of West Indian Mammals’, in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. August 23, 2017. 48:301-27. Consulted at https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-110316-022754

With thanks to Mo Hassan of https://www.mocoillustration.com for help with translation of A. ye’s binomial

Lost Species Day 2017 – some events

November 30th 2017 saw a range of participatory events happening across the UK, USA and other parts of the world. Here are the ones we know of:

Pembrokeshire, Wales: Permaculturist Debbie Rees and artist Emily Laurens hosted a pollinator procession through the polytunnels at Blaenffos Permaculture Market Garden.


Glasgow, Scotland: Galgael held a sharing circle at the weekly community meal, focusing on the meaning of remembrance for lost species and on the decline of pollinators with poetry, reflections and commitments. Organiser Svenja Meyerricks said, “At the end I chucked my tobacco on the table to publicly announce my intention to quit smoking for good, because of the adverse effects pesticide-heavy monocultures like tobacco crops have on pollinators. Wish me luck!”

Svenja also wrote about the RDLS on the Bella Caledonia blog here, and thanks to her awareness raising, a group of Glasgow school children learned about pollinators and will be planting pollinator friendly seeds in the spring.

Georgia, USA: A small group of homeschoolers focused their attention on RDLS for the whole week. Organiser Kim Cornelia Banton, writer and content manager at Solutions Spotlight explained: “At the start of the week, I introduced the meaning of the day and how different people have participated in the past. Then each day leading up to RDLS, we discussed how different kinds of extinctions are caused by human activity and spent some time each day learning about animals from different places across the globe that have become extinct within the last hundred years. In line with this year’s theme, we also spent some time exploring pollinators. The kids fell in love with the Xerces blue butterfly of the San Francisco peninsula and opted to memorialize this particular species with their art.”



Oakland, California, USA: Extinction Witness, Pollinator Posse and Giant Puppets Save the World collaborated to host the Lake Merritt Regenerative Memorial and Pollinator Procession. Lucille’s Regenerative Memorials are publicly accessible green spaces ranging from small plots in community gardens to verges, fields and groves in parks or forests. Their intention is to support the human grieving process within the context of life’s complete cycle of birth, decay, death, and birth.

Chicago, USA: Musician Rebecca Jasso and friends held a concert.

Sacramento, CA, USA: Erin Reschke and friends held a riverside ceremony and potluck, wit a talk about the ancient history of the river lands.


New York, USA: Ecological artist Jan Harrison created a new series of pastel pieces depicting bats. See the whole collection here.

Los Angeles, USA: Embroidery artist Sherrell Cuneo made this tribute to the Xerces blue butterfly:  

and continued to develop her long-term project, the Mourning Gown:

Melbourne, Australia: Artists Gabbee Stolp and Michelle Stewart ‘s RDLS exhibition To the Future Lost was ‘a space for reflection, a poignant reminder of our human relationship with nature and the destructive impact we humans continue to have on the Earth… a wunderkammer of objects characterising endangered species, as a tribute to Australia’s many critically endangered flora and fauna.’

Brighton, England: ONCA Gallery hosted Extinct Icons & Ritual Burials – an exhibition for RDLS. It featured works by artists Katie Tume, Hannah Battershell, Clare Whistler, Sol Howard, Susan Richardson, Megan Powell and OX Art. (Read an artist profile of Katie Tume by John Platt for RDLS on The Revelator here.)

Off site, ONCA outreach artist Ellie Liddell-Crewe ran projects with teenagers at St John’s SEN College and Brighton & Hove Pupil Referral Unit. After exploring artefacts at The Booth, Brighton’s natural history museum, participants made pollinator-inspired masks and art which formed part of the RDLS exhibition in the gallery.

ONCA also hosted a bat mask making workshop for children (and dogs) …


…and a Procession for Pollinators which took 45 participants on a route that ended at local organically-managed green space, The Level. The withy structure, which was burned at the end of the gathering, was made by the Hailsham-based Material Collective.

Finally, ONCA hosted a panel discussion called ‘Daring To Hope’ with three extraordinary artists and campaigners who all explore approaches to art and ways to sustain activism and hope in the Anthropocene: Clare Whistler, artist and co-founder of WATERWEEK, Louise Lily Gibson, creative communication/ BSL specialist and photographic artist, and Josie Cohen, campaigner for Pesticide Action Network – UK.

Brighton, England: Artist Adrian Ventura did a series of daily sketches in the lead-up to November 30. See the full collection here

Brighton, England: Artist Miranda Ellis invited passersby to her studio and offered warming memorial mead, seed bombs containing bee-friendly flowering plants, and an opportunity to learn about bees.

Brighton: University of Sussex researchers  held a symposium, ‘Memory Beyond the Human’ on deep time and extinction alongside artists and researcher RDLS researcher Matt Stanfield.

Brighton: RDLS stickers appeared around the town overnight…

Galway, Republic of Ireland: Transition Tunes Galway hosted a Sing for Our Planet event.

Oxford, England: Helen Jukes wrote a piece for the Dark Mountain blog.

Malvern, Worcestershire: Buddhist temple gathering.

Dublin, Republic of Ireland: Artist and creative entomologist Nessa Darcy held a solo exhibition of works called Bugonia.

Heidelberg, Germany: Council of All Beings. Inspired by Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects.

Madrid, Spain: Bionic Dance Festival‘s lost species- themed dance competition was won by a Brazilian dancer whose piece embodied Amazon deforestation.

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: The Good Grief Network held a candle-lit vigil in the Salt Lake CIty Peace Garden, with poetry and reflection.

Montreal, Canada: Artist Katrine Claasens collaborated with staff at Redpath Museum to run a workshop with children learning about extinct and endangered species through the museum’s collection. As Katrine explains, “We started out by listening to rainforest sounds and then investigating the history of species lost to human activity. The museum curator gave a tour of the extinct species. We then removed some of the specimens from the museum display, with the children carrying them in a solemn procession through the museum to a room where we painted them. It was a very moving experience.”


Dorset, England: Movement artist  Sandra Reeve hosted a vigil and performance.

Frome, Somerset: End of life doula Mike Grenville led a procession up Cley Hill to read Bestiary by Joanna Macy.

Winchester, England: Giraffe Social Enterprise hosted a performance of Andrew Boyd’s ‘Twelve Characters in Search of An Apocalypse’.

Fiji, South Pacific: NatureFiji and Anniemalsartist held a day for the Kulawai bird and invited people locally and around the world to make and wear kulawai masks  in support of the beautiful critically endangered pollinator.

Skagway, Alaska: Artist Kim Burnham made this piece about the monarch butterfly:

London, England: Illustrator Louis T Fowler made a new piece called Return to Splendour.

Telegraph Hill, London: Bridget McKenzie organised a simple action of a winged bench which people could sit on to become an insect and hold a message. Some bees (Emma Garofolo from Mischief Makers, and Stephanie Patient) also came along to amaze and inform. Many conversations and connections were made. Everybody that passed by expressed support, and a wish to green the area and make it pollinator-friendly.

Kings Cross, London: Collaborative storytelling Bee Wreath. Ecological artist Beckie Leach led a workshop to create a giant wreath made of bees. Participants each made a paper bee from paper, wrote a story on it and added it to the wreath.

London: Comic performer Luke Rollason did a special performance of his acclaimed clown show Planet Earth III at Leicester Square Theatre for RDLS. Planet Earth III is a low-budget one-man nature documentary, set in a future where our worst predictions came true – following ecological collapse, thousands of endangered species are extinct, including the BBC. But one plucky intern isn’t giving up…

Planet Earth 3 – Luke Rollason Trailer from Alex Wood on Vimeo.

London: Artist/ activist Liam Geary Baulch made this poster, inspired not only by the  RDLS 2017 pollinator theme but by the speculative storytelling of interspecies feminist academic Donna Haraway and others.

Hastings, England: Artist Daniela Othieno made tiny pollinator memorials.

Hastings: Jilliene Sellner made a sound piece on insect population collapse, inspired by Silent Spring

Online: Hapi & The Lost Species made a track for RDLS.

Extinction Symbol