A pair of Thylacines. Photo by Baker; E.J. Keller. Report of the Smithsonian Institution. 1904
I'm grieving. And I'm cold. So cold in fact that I can't feel my feet.
In the end the cold gets the better of me and I have to leave. The desire to get warm wins out over my desire to stay and grieve some more, sharing tears with the others round the dwindling fire.
It's night and I've been standing on the pebbles of Brighton beach in a circle with a motley crowd of twenty or so others. We're here to remember lost species, to hold a posthumous funeral ceremony to commemorate them, in particular the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) which was pronounced extinct in 1936.
Some of the artists and students from ONCA, the Brighton gallery who’ve organised this event, have made a willow and paper statue of the Thylacine and we've carried it here through the streets. Ringing the bell of extinction as we process down the Old Steine.
"Wake up," shouts flautist Andreas at the head of the procession. "It’s time to wake up!"
The few passersby look bemused. Cars speed past. Can they all be oblivious to what’s going on?
It really is cold. Freezing it says on my app. Despite this, all the way here I've felt moved and sad.
As I listen to others in the circle name species that have gone, I feel the profound power of this simple gathering, of the act of remembering.
"Northern white rhino, lost in January of this year."
A particular frog, "extinct last month."
"The wolves and bears of this land."
The red gazelle.
The galapagos mouse.
The list goes on. I'm shocked most by recent losses. Species gone forever through hunting, habitat loss, a warming planet. Because of us.
"There's no precedent for funerals for lost species,” says ONCA director Persephone Pearl.
I feel this shuffling, improvised ceremony is fitting enough.
Though I’m wishing hundreds more were here, to bear witness and share in what must surely be a common grief, if only we stopped cutting ourselves off and started feeling into it.
If we saw it in front of us. Like the scientists who cried into their masks when they saw what’d happened to the reef.
Here in this ceremony we remember the lost, and give thanks for things that remain. That have individual meaning, upon which we depend. The soil. Plankton. Worms. The forest ecosystem...
It's cold. At last we set fire to the Thylacine. It goes up quickly, and a few souls huddle down beside it.
I'm grieving. And I’m cold. And I go.
Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.