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November 30th is the international day of Remembering Lost Species. Around the world, the day is a chance to learn and tell the stories of species that have become extinct due largely to the human involvement in our rapidly changing climate, and to call us to renew our commitments to those remaining endangered species.
Today, the loss of species is up to 10,000 times the natural extinction rate we've seen in the past. A few years ago WWF reported that earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years, and without urgent action we will lose two thirds of wild animals by as soon as 2020.
As Christians, we hold that all of God's creation is precious. In Genesis 1:25 we read that:
The goodness of God was revealed in his creation, in the biodiversity of the various kinds of wild animals he created. Then just a few chapters later, in Genesis 6:19-20, we see God calling Noah to preserve the animals he had created in the midst of the flood:
As we continue on through the Psalms we see the Psalmists marvel at God's wonder revealed in all creation, acknowledging his preservation of and provision for the wild animals (Psalm 36:6, Psalm 104:14). Then in the New Testament, Jesus' own words remind us that God not only provides for the humble sparrow (Matthew 6:26) but that not even one sparrow's death goes unnoticed by God (Matthew 10:29).
And so, today, we too notice and pause to remember these wild animals we've lost in our lifetime:
The Pinta Island Tortoise which was declared extinct just four years ago, on June 24, 2012.
The Western Black Rhinoceros that was officially declared extinct in 2011—due largely to poaching—while the three other remaining subspecies of black rhinos are still critically endangered.
The Alaotra Grebe became extinct in 2010 due to introduced non-native predators and habitat loss.
The Poʻouli or Black-faced Honeycreeper which became extinct in 2004.
The Caribbean Monk Seal which was declared extinct in 2008, but hadn't been seen alive since 1952.
The Yangtze River Dolphin which was declared extinct in 2006.
The Pyrenean Ibex which has been extinct since 2000.
The Canarian Oystercatcher which was starved to extinction in 1994 due to overfishing of their only food source.
The Javan Tiger which became extinct in 1994 after loss of habitat due to farming.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker which died out in 1994 after the loss of its swamp-land habitat.
The Dusky Seaside Sparrow which was lost in 1987 due to pesticides and urban development on their habitat. "What is the price of two sparrow—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it." Matthew 10:29 (NLT)
The Golden Toad which lost its habitat by 1989 due to global warming, increased pollution and unprecedented weather patterns.
The Conondale Gastric-brooding Frog, which became extinct in 1983.
The Mariana Mallard which became extinct in 1981 after loss of habitat due to agriculture and war.
The Japanese Sea Lion which was hunted to extinction in 1974.
The Mexican Grizzly Bear which by 1964 was hunted to extinction.
The Tasmanian Tiger became extinct in 1936 due to excessive hunting, combined with factors such as habitat destruction and introduced disease.
Lord of all Creation, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Good Provider,
Today we come before you in grief, in shame, to lament the loss of beautiful creatures.
We grieve the more than one-in-four flowering plants, the one-in-five mammals, the nearly one-in-three amphibians, and the one-in-eight birds that are vulnerable to being wiped out completely.
We acknowledge that we play a part in this dying by our carelessness, ignorance, and indifference. Forgive us our part in the death of healthy ecosystems and the resulting extinction of your creatures.
Refresh our love for all you have made. Renew our resolve to advocate, fight, nurture and defend our fellow creatures. Thank you for those who care for the earth - the gardeners, the activists, the scientists, the zoologists - sustain them and protect their hearts as they strive and grieve.
We thank you for the magnificent world which you have bestowed upon us. We thank you that you can do more than all we ask or imagine and so we ask for your help - restrain human evil, energise us for service, fill us with courage and hope.
May your world ever be very very good.
If you're in Sydney on Nov 30th, you can join our friends at Paddington Anglican Church for an evening to gather, reflect and lament all that has been lost and will be lost, and a chance to renew our love and commitment to save what we can.
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