The Formosan clouded leopard.
The atlas bear and the piopio.
The tarpan. The thylacine. The stout legged wren and the North Island snipe.
The Carpathian wisent and the sea mink. The Danish clouded Apollo butterfly.
The Chatham bellbird. The upland moa. The crested shell duck.
The polydamas swallowtail and the aurochs.
The Cebu warty pig.
The bushwren, the dusky seaside sparrow, and the Xerxes blue.
The quagga, and the Pyrenean Ibex.
The litany of their names is a kind of bitter poem. These and thousands more of our fellow creatures are gone.
The Center for Biological Diversity reports that in the past 500 years, approximately 1,000 species have gone extinct as a direct result of human activity. It’s of note that this number does not – it cannot – include those species that disappeared before science was able to discover and name them.
Through habitat loss, by over-hunting and over-fishing, by poisoning and poaching, we’ve increased the current extinction rate to up to 1,000 times than it would be without us.
We have wiped out species that teemed by their millions like the passenger pigeon. We have destroyed populations that were small, and special, and specialized, by erasing their homes. We have lusted after furs and feathers and used them indiscriminately for our personal adornment until the lovely creatures that were sacrificed for our vanity are gone.
We have greedily devoured animals that we found tasty, without even a passing thought that a wiser course might have been to conserve some for a future feast. We have poisoned wetlands and rivers and streams, causing untold numbers of deaths. We have marched across the landscape like behemoths, building our mills and mines and factories, laying our endless miles of road, destroying the perfection of the upland prairie to install monoculture crops that deplete the soil and provide no home or respite for the native birds that used to nest there.
The death toll is stunning. The loss is almost unbearable. Our heedless avarice and blind cupidity has swept them all away – and every day our plunder and pillage of what is left of the wild is wiping more species off the face of the Earth.
This blog will seek to memorialize those creatures in some small way, by telling just a bit of what is known about their stories.
I’m calling it The Anthropocene Book of the Dead.