Friday, July 24, 2015

The Anthropocene Book of the Dead

So what exactly have we killed? What havoc have we wrought? What damage have we done that cannot be undone? What has the Anthropocene meant to our fellow travelers – the animals we’ve driven to the brink (or over the edge of) extinction, the ecosystems we’ve destroyed or rendered unrecognizable, and the communities, traditions, and ways of human life that have been cut down by the scythe of progress?

This blog is my small attempt to tell some of the stories of the creatures and things we have lost.  Already it’s proving difficult.  

I’ve started researching. I’ve begun looking up the names of the dead that were written down, and finding that not only are they gone, but for many the trail is already going cold.  A stub of a Wiki entry here, a short paper from the 1930s there, a mention in popular culture. There’s so much we’ll never know about what we’ve devastated.

As for what cannot be researched – the countless extinct beetles, nematodes, and fungi… the myriad ruined vernal ponds and drained wetlands… the clear-cut mountaintops that once were islands of stupendous diversity… the close-knit bands of nomads who walked out of what remained of the forest and into annihilation… the long lost tribes of folk with ancient, unique stories, their songs now silent – all those things brutally blotted out on our 8,000 year long path of destruction and not recorded? Most will surely remain nameless forever.

Why is it important? I’m not sure yet. Perhaps this is an attempt at atonement. Perhaps it’s an exercise in silly mawkishness. Maybe it’s something else.

I want it to be interesting and science-y and full of intriguing bits and bobs about the amazing forms life takes, and has taken, on this planet. I want it to make you holler, "How could we do that?!"

But I also want it to be a tone poem, and a history. A bearing of witness, and a warning. A shot across the bow to those in power who still believe they can pretend that nothing is happening, and that they will not be held accountable.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll start with the story of the last thylacine. It’s better known than most, easy to research, and there’s a recent viral internet hook to get me started. Please stay tuned – and let me know in the comments if you think I am off the mark.

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