This process provides a ritual structure for recalling what the Industrial Growth Society is doing to our fellow species. It serves to honor the unique and irreplaceable forms that are passing from us. It arose in 1981, at a midnight gathering of several hundred people in Minnesota, in the form of a simple reading from the list of threatened and endangered species. At its close, people were invited to call out the names of other endangered aspects of our common life on Earth; then they expressed their sorrow by the ancient act of keening. Joanna’s poem, the Bestiary, grew out of that experience, although it only names other animals, and does not include trees or plants.
As the names are read, it is easy to feel guilty as a human. So, before the reading, the guide makes clear that this is not the point of the exercise. Guilt tends to close us down. Instead, as each name is read, let people take the opportunity silently to honor the beauty and wisdom of that unique, irreplaceable species. This approach helps people to open to the grief that is in them.
The group sits in a circle and listens as the Bestiary (see Appendix B), is read aloud. Use several voices (four is a good number) spaced around the circle; the pace should be unhurried as befits a funeral and the voices strong. After the naming of each species, a clacker or a drum is struck in one strong beat. The drum has a funereal connotation; the clacker (two pieces of wood struck sharply together as in a zendo) has the finality of a guillotine. In the Bestiary, the reader who names the species immediately before a paragraph reads that reflective paragraph as well.
At the conclusion of the poem, the guide invites people to name things disappearing from the world. The intent remains the same as with the endangered species: to publicly name the loss, and to keep its memory. After each naming– “clean beaches”, “bird song”, “safe food”, “stars over cities”, “hope”– the clacker or drum sounds. Again the pace is slow and measured. The guide concludes with words that honor the losses that have been spoken, and the honesty and solidarity that their naming brings us now for our work in the Great Turning.