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Grief and Mourning Can Be Seen Not Simply as an Expression of Private and Personal loss, but as Part of a Spiritual Practice

Quote of the day: My neighbor Douglas Christie, author of the stunningly beautiful book Blue Sapphire of the Mind, has commented that “The ability to mourn for the loss of other species is, in a way, is an expression of our sense of participation in and responsibility for the whole fabric of life of which we are a part. Understood in this way, grief and mourning can be seen not simply as an expression of private and personal loss, but as part of a restorative spiritual practice that can rekindle an awareness of the bonds that connect all life-forms to one another and to the larger ecological whole.”

Commentary: Soon after the first Earth Day, scientists realized that over 189 stocks of finfish in the ocean had peaked, and most have remained in steep decline ever since. A decade or so later, herpetologists recognized that most amphibian populations were in steep decline. After that, we realized that many large mammalian predators needed larger breeding ranges than our national parks and wildlife ranges typically provide. Then we opened our eyes to rainforest fragmentation, then to the death of coral reefs. How can we believe that our Creator so loved the world, and still allow that drop-dead gorgeous, wildly diverse world come apart at the seams?

Suggested Action 39: Today, walk out to an open space and craft a shrine for a species lost from your landscape. Grieve its passing. Pledge to keep others alive and kicking. Know them by what they sing, what they eat, where they nest, and whom they live with. Pledge to keep the larger extinction—the extinction of ecological interactions–from further occurring near where you live.


Gary Paul Nabhan aka Brother Coyote is a professed member of the Ecumenical Order of Franciscans, a graduate of the Living School, a conservation biologist, orchard-keeper and story-teller.


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