The mission of The Life Cairn Project is to promote and catalyze the creation of Life Cairns as memorials to species that have become extinct due to human impacts on the environment, and to sound urgent alerts about critically endangered species, cultures and island nations.
Welcome to the Life Cairn Project website. Here is where we balance grief for our Earth Community’s suffering and our deep need to know what to do about it.
In the words of one our founders, a Life Cairn and its ceremonies ‘Bring Love to Life.’ Through the establishment of Life Cairns, we add strong voices to the public discussions of the fate of Earth.
We’ll take all those voices - from the Life Cairn in your back yard to a Life Cairn in front of the White House, the House of Commons and other national capitals – to the United Nations in September, when heads of state from around the globe meet for the 2014 UN Climate Summit!
Much of this activity will be repeated in 2015, climaxing at the Paris, December 1 -11, 2015 global climate conference – which many say is the last chance for an agreement to avoid runaway global warming and catastrophe for the Earth Community.
(In 2011, the International Energy Agency stated: “…rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change...[and] in five years we sill lose forever the chance to avoid dangerous climate change.“)
Please read on, sign up for our newsletter, then build a Life Cairn in your city’s park, at your church, synagogue, temple or in front of your state legislature, and join our movement for a sane, heartfelt way forward!
The Life Cairn Project beginnings…
“For the past few years, witnessing the destruction of our amazing ecosystems, I often felt like I was a living in the second half of this new century and reading the story of the first half of this 21st century, when we humans were challenged to preserve the planet’s beautiful diversity, its abundance of life forms and many peoples, but that there was a page missing from the book, and the story didn’t make sense without whatever was on that missing page. When I found the story of the original Life Cairn in England – giving voice to the raw, unfiltered cry of the human heart for all the extinctions we have caused - I knew that this was the missing page. From that point on, offering to the world The Life Cairn Project’s way of reconciling with the Earth has become my life. Please join us on this journey .” Earl James, Director, The Life Cairn Project
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Throughout human history, cairns have been built as landmarks to help guide a journey, to memorialize fallen comrades, for spiritual or shamanistic practices, or simply to indicate a reverence for the natural world.
The Life Cairn is a powerful new version of this tradition established in England by Reverend Peter Owen-Jones and Andreas Kornevall and assisted by Vanessa Vine, to memorialize species rendered extinct by human activity.
The Life Cairn Project adapts this model to also include threats to human cultures, languages and island nations due to climate change and other human activities.
A Life Cairn is more than a static memorial; through repeat visits to add stones and express our grief when another species disappears forever, a Life Cairn becomes a crucial touchstone for our sacred interdependence.
From Wikipedia: “The first Life Cairn was raised on Mount Caburn in East Sussex, UK. The inaugural ceremony was held on 22 May 2011. A Life Cairn was dedicated to Lonesome George at Galapagos National Park on July 26, 2012 and an additional Life Cairn is being raised in Stockholm.”
The Life Cairn Project…
Brings attention to the escalation of extinction that is occurring as climate change takes place
Memorializes lost species (from 18,000 to 55,000 species of flora and fauna go extinct annually*)
Highlights the peril of critically endangered species, island nations and human cultures threatened by human activity, and
Celebrates diversity of species and cultures as crucial spiritual, psychological and ecological values
Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, Joanna Macy, 1983, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, PA
*Every hour, three species disappear. Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct,” Ahmed Djoghlaf, head of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
The Life Cairn Project Program
We encourage individuals and organizations across the globe to construct Life Cairns and create ceremonies honoring lost species and highlighting imperiled species, languages and cultures. We offer this website and our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Thelifecairn for communicating with each other, inspiring each other and honoring all.
We will work to convene public gatherings, building Life Cairns in high-profile public sites in 2014 and 2015, leading up to the 2014 and 2015 United Nations Climate Summits, which will perhaps be our last best opportunities to create a meaningful and enforceable global climate agreement to avert the very worst — and utterly devastating — impacts of climate change.
“Death is one thing, but the end of birth is something else.” Gary Snyder
Four events are in the planning stages for 2014.
Saturday, May 17, a Life Cairn will be built and a ceremony held in a public park in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the major public launch of the Project. It will also celebrate the arrival of the Great March for Climate Action in Santa Fe.
Saturday, September 20, three days prior to the opening of the 2014 UN Climate Summit, a Life Cairn will be built in a prominent place in Washington, DC, ideally in Lafayette Square in front of the White House. We will hold a 24 hour vigils at the Life Cairn through the end of the Climate Summit.
Monday, September 22, a Life Cairn will be built in England in front of the House of Commons and a 24 hour vigil will be held through September 23.
Tuesday, September 23, when heads of state will attending the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, a Life Cairn will be built across the street from the UN and a vigil will be held from 6 AM to 10 PM.
“What we most need to do is to hear within us
the sound of the Earth crying.” Thich Nhat Hanh
While Life Cairns have been built in publicly accessible locations as permanent monuments, these Life Cairns will have to be temporary structures due to the nature of the sites. Their educational and inspirational values will be communicated through a vigorous public-relations campaign during their short life span and through video documentation. A similar set of events will take place in 2015.
The Life Cairn Invitation:
May every visitor to the Life Cairn be inspired to restore and celebrate the Earth without bias, for the benefit of all people from all walks of life.
May every visitor lay their stone with good intentions and reflections to offer a remembrance and pay tribute to all those species which we have lost at our own hands.
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“…the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, said something that spun my world around: ‘The situation is so desperately serious that any delay could push past the tipping point… One path leads to a comprehensive climate agreement, the other to oblivion.’… Then something amazing happened. The woman beside me from the Congo Basin started keening – moaning and crying and rocking back and forth. There she was, in the middle of the negotiations for the international climate agreement, and then I got it – hers was the only sane response.”
From This Crazy Life: Living our Environmental Challenge, by Tzeporah Berman, former Co-Director of Greenpeace International’s Climate and Energy Program.
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“Here’s the revolution: What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway? Grief and the love of life are twins, natural human skills that can be learned first by being on the receiving end and feeling worthy of them, later by practicing them when you run short of understanding. In a time like ours, grieving is a subversive act.” Stephen Jenkinson, Orphan Wisdom
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“This is a time of turning grief into beauty and the harsh confusion of these times into a possibility of a flowering earth.” Martin Prechtel
Ethics and Guidelines for the Life Cairn:
The Life Cairn is a memorial for extinct species, human cultures, island nations and those people who have already perished by climate change disasters. We all grieve for loss and celebrate for life differently so it is open for all religions, non-religions and occupations.
Some thoughts about the process…
1. Gather a group of 2-100 to reflect upon what you love that is now lost.
2. Invite people to bring stones from their yard, farm, village; from the local landscape.
3. Offer prayers, poems, songs, intentions.
4. Reflect why you have laid your stone.
5. Grieving and celebrating at the Life Cairn: Unexpressed grief is a barrier to compassion, to being able to find a new way of being in the world that honors all species, including human.
- When we grieve for lost species, for the pain and suffering of those humans and animals that have perished from climate change-related natural disasters, we open our hearts and minds to all members of the Sacred Community, even those who cannot yet understand our sense of loss.
- Open grief, songs, poems, and silence are all welcome at the Life Cairn. Always respect people’s own expressions.
- Try helping one another in grief counseling when in a group, especially if one feels an overwhelming emotion. Offer counsel and support afterwards if a person has been affected and needs guidance.
6. Offerings to the Life Cairn: Bring flowers from your garden, rather than picking wild ones around the Life Cairn, especially in a park. Think twice about laying offerings which are bought from a shop. Clean up unwanted materials surrounding the Life Cairn when found.
7. While it is alright to move stones around on the Life Cairn, don’t remove any stones from the Cairn, as each stone is a personal gift.
8. Don’t use the Life Cairn as a product and if any money is traded (sponsored walks, or others) please direct proceeds to the Life Cairn Project or a charity partner approved by the Life Cairn Council.
9. And, amid all the grief and sense of loss, don’t forget to celebrate the wild, the great mystery, the unknown forces of the universe that connect us all!
Dance, sing, howl with the moon!
Cairns found around the world have been dated as far back as 14,000 years ago. Something about stones collected and arranged meaningfully taps into the human need to feel connected with the timeless, for an expression of continuity. Knowing that human hands and hearts made this or that particular stack of stones fifty, one hundred or even 14,000 years ago makes us feel our common humanity, and casts into relief the short span of time each of us has on this spinning planet.
Building Life Cairns in the years 2014 and 2105 as a prelude to – and a message for – the two UN Climate Summits lays down a marker not only for world leaders who will attend the UN Climate Summits, but also for future generations.
So the message of 2014 and 2015 Life Cairns is both urgent – “We humans must commit to meaningfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 or impose the worst impacts of runaway climate warming on all future generations,” and it is timeless – “We were here then, we spoke for all species.”
“…Everywhere there are Indigenous people, there are sacred sites, there are ways of knowing, there are relationships. The people, the rivers, the mountains, the lakes, the animals, and the fish are all related.” Winona LaDuke
Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth… A Spiritual Response to our Present Ecological Crisis. A Collection of Essays edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Published by The Golden Sufi Center, Point Reyes Station, California.
- Also see: http://www.spiritualecology.org/
Cairns: Messengers in Stone, by David B. Williams. 2012, The Mountaineers Books, Seattle, WA
2014 and 2015 — The two most crucial years for our planet in human history?
But our community of life is endangered and dying.
Climate change and unprecedented carbon emissions for which humans are partly responsible threaten the beauty and life around us.
Climate scientists worldwide warn that unless we humans reach a global agreement by 2015 to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will face runaway climate warming that will have devastatingly destructive impacts upon our planet.
Will we be able to reach this global agreement?
At present, the odds seem stacked against achieving that goal. Vested interests, denial, fear, a sense of helplessness all mitigate against our species being able to rise above itself and make the shift. However – committed, caring and acting people and communities could help shift even this most dire prediction.
The first step toward breaking out of our paralysis is to acknowledge the truth of where we are today: we are losing species at an alarming rate, a sure sign of things to come if we don’t change our ways.
Building Life Cairns and holding ceremonies to memorialize those beautiful creatures, human cultures, nations and people that are no more – and expressing our grief at these irreversible losses – can help melt our resistance to change, and help us shoulder our responsibility as the one species able to either erase, or protect and care for, all life in our Sacred Earth Community.
It’s a huge responsibility. We need all our emotional, spiritual and intellectual energies to work together in order to be able to take this on with humility and hope.
This is the path of the Life Cairn Project, to offer one small opening for our hearts and minds to whatever we must do next.
Fortunately, the world is not oblivious to our dilemma, nor is it shrugging it off. World leaders are more aware of the threat than they dare let on publicly, for fear of triggering panic and chaos. But as we know, it is always up to the grassroots of nations to prepare the path for major socio-economic changes.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is providing us with a vehicle for change, making a call for UN Climate Summits in 2014 and 2015. Will our world leaders be able to respond with meaningful and achievable plans? The real question is “Will we the people make it possible for them to do so?”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon
“I will convene a Climate Summit in New York on 23 September (2014) one day before the opening of the UN General Assembly debate. I have invited all Heads of State and Government, along with leaders from business and finance, local government and civil society.
“Our planet and scientists are sending a clear message as we will once again…when the International Panel on Climate Change issues its latest assessment. There is opportunity amidst this peril, a chance to change the way we do business… fuel our homes… A low-carbon path beckons, a path that can create jobs and improve human health while safeguarding the environment.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, September 24, 2013.
- Follow 2014 Climate Summit developments at: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit2014/
- Follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at: http://www.ipcc.ch/
- Follow 350.org’s Bill McKibben’s reasoning on why we must move away from continued fossil fuel consumption with a 10 minute video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofodxNPwOHM, or
- read his definitive “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” article at: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719
∞ ∞ ∞
We can do it! We can turn to a new, sustainable, respectful way of living together with all the earth’s creatures, and with ourselves.