In light of our shared Charter commitment to “create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings,” please allow me to share some reflections on Endangered Species Day today (May 18th).
I’ll never forget the first time I learned of the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species that is underway on our planet. It was at a conference I attended some ten years ago in San Francisco titled “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream”. The speaker was David Ulansey.
As we learned at that time, our planet is in the midst of the sixth massive die-off of species in Earth’s history and the first one that is caused by human activity.
Later, when I had returned home, I sat at my computer and wept as I scanned Mr. Ulansey’s website, Mass Extinction Underway:
www.mysterium.com/extinction.html. I remember that moment many years ago like it was yesterday. This was the awakening that changed my life.
Up until that time, I had worked for more than 20 years in international conflict resolution, mainly peacemaking carried out by religious figures. That was how I first met URI, in its earliest days.
But in light of what I was learning, I realized that I needed to embrace the entire community of life as my constituency. I reasoned that if I only worked on peacebuilding among humans, that would serve to keep more people alive and thereby hasten the Earth’s inability to sustain human life. I realized I needed to embrace the entire community of life — all living beings — if I was to contribute to bringing peace, justice and healing to the Earth and its human peoples.
Here is a bit of text from David Ulansey’s website:
The Current Mass Extinction:
Human beings are currently causing the greatest
mass extinction of species since the extinction of
the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends
continue one half of all species of life on earth will
be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of
habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species,
and climate change. (For details see links below.)
Scroll Down For Hundreds Of Links:
This website began on April 22, 1998 with the posting
of the article below. (The article is still here to provide
historical context.) Following the article are more than
300 links to recent authoritative reports and updates
about the current mass extinction. New articles are
added regularly. (Most recent update December 20, 2017.) >>
A few years later, I developed a course curriculum on “Religion, Environment, and International Relations,” for the University of Denver (2010, https://www.du.edu/korbel/sie/media/documents/religion_materials/religion_environment_international_relations.pdf). The assignment for the second week of the course (in addition to some assigned readings, not included here) was:
<<Week 2: Environment in the Twenty-first Century: A Crisis of Life
Assignment: Read the entire home page at the website The Current Mass Extinction,
including the article reprinted there, “Mass Extinction Underway, Majority of Biologists Say.”
Then, follow the instruction to “scroll slowly down this page and read just the titles of all
the links.” When you finish, go back and click on at least five links to read at least five
of the sources (scholarly studies, intergovernmental reports, press accounts, etc.)
on topics that matter the most to you–that most nearly touch what gives inspiration,
meaning, purpose, or pleasure to your life–be they specific animal or plant species
(e.g., birds, butterflies, primates, other charismatic mammals, fish, medicinal flora,
wild food or flower species, etc.) or ecosystems (e.g., the oceans, fresh water systems,
forests, rainforests, wilderness, urban habitats, etc.). Now, revisit your personal
religious-spiritual-cosmological-ethical statement written at the beginning of
this course. Does it fully accommodate the import and magnitude of what you
have just read? If not, what is lacking and how might you adjust it accordingly?
Write your reflections and/or revise your statement. >>
Two recent posts to this Contacts list give information on what we can do in our daily lives to address this crisis of life on Earth. Stefan Howard wrote about the impact of our food choices on the natural environment: “Earth Day 2018!” (from firstname.lastname@example.org, April 20, 2018). And I wrote a Mothers Day message about what great moms animals are: “Honoring All Mothers this Mothers Day” (from email@example.com, May 11, 2018). I won’t repeat the ground covered in those two messages. But I commend them to your attention in light of what we also know about the mass extinction of species threatening the diversity of life on Earth. And I’d note that the largest impact we as global and local citizens can have on addressing this is in the food choices we make every meal of every day.
Let me close by commending to you a leading group working to protect the fullness and richness of life on Earth: the Center for Biological Diversity (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/about/), whose headquarters are in Tuscon, Arizona. You can sign up to receive their regular online posts here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/.
Best regards, Cynthia Sampson, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Compassion for All Living Beings CC,