“Joy is the gem of experience
from which sorrow grows.
It is joy that sorrow protects.”
            Meg Hollingsworth, writer & creative director

Extinction Witness is a global arts project of Empowerment WORKS, Inc. that supports the human grieving process and the revival of compassionate lifeways.

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Writer and creative director Megan Hollingsworth initiated Extinction Witness in 2012 with recognition of the naturally complicated and conflicted human emotional and spiritual response to species extinction resulting from human activity.

The project celebrates and amplifies the range of compassionate responses to global loss, including community grief ritual and regenerative memorials, toward cultural and biological revival.

‘Witness’ in Extinction Witness originates from the Quaker witness practice.

Extinction Witness - November 2013 Interview

Extinction Witness project work has included an eighteen-month (February 2014 – September 2015) creative witness with the critically endangered and extinct, including languages.

Featuring the work of a few other writers and several visual artists, including Bryan Holland, Chris Jordan, Denise Monaghan, Jeff Cain, and Tom Murphy, the 2014 – 2015 witness revolved on a monthly basis from one group to the next and was offered in posts via MailChimp. The edited and archived posts will be available via the Extinction Witness website in 2018.


Joy is sorrow. In every birth celebrated there’s a death grieved.

“When grief is allowed to surface, and the reasons for grief
are not denied, a healthy process unfolds that can lead
to new depths of insight and feeling, major shifts in values,
and subtler and nuanced decision-making.”

– Allen Kanner in ‘Why Extinction Matters at Least as Much as Climate Change’
Tikkun Online, December 12, 2011

Just as with family members, humans naturally grieve the passing of community members, individuals and whole groups. Feeling and processing pain associated with past, present, and anticipated loss and expressing our grief peacefully, if fiercely, clears the mind-body of the pain, prevents apathy and depression, and helps to clarify actions that are truly helpful in response to the loss, whatever the loss may be.

Extinction and biodiversity loss are of concern not simply as a matter of human subsistence but of an intelligence born and lived uniquely through diverse individuals, each unique in the fold. Humans are as vital an expression of this greater intelligence as any group and human children can be raised to exist harmoniously in their ecological communities. When we attempt to control others, humans make life harder and ultimately fruitless for everyone.

As with water shortages and all physiological dysfunction, warning signals, when heeded, prevent crisis and catastrophe. Since the early signals were not heeded, the response now must be on par with the present crisis and catastrophe. It’s late. And yet worth seeing whether carefulness can revive cultural and biological diversity enough to allay extinction and avoid the full-blown mass extinction near term.

With each body's birth, the profound joy of living and sorrow of dying. With each body's presence, an essence uniquely expressed and experienced. With each body's pleasure and pain, suffering's greatest potential.

Happiness in living is a matter of being alive with care. Though physical death is inevitable, essence carries on. Peace is ever present and accessible always. There is non-dual reality. Death is and is not real. The real loss, we grieve.



Extinction Witness is one in a growing coalition of artists, educators, museum curators, scientists and writers forwarding Remembrance Day for Lost Species, November 30th (RDLS). 

RDLS offers a chance each year to explore the stories of extinct and critically endangered species, cultures, lifeways, and ecological communities. RDLS is an opportunity to make or renew commitments to all who remain and to collaborate in creative, practical means of ecological regeneration. 

This growing practice of creative mourning rituals for lost and endangered species and cultures is a vital response to awareness of mass species extinction. Embodied grieving, including through the arts, relieves the emotions associated with past, present, and anticipated loss so as to maintain spiritual vitality, clarify right response, and avoid suffering despair and the consequences of revenge.

Extinction Witness first formally participated in RDLS 2014 for the centennial anniversary of the last passenger pigeon’s death. And has since practiced Bell Ringing for Joy Giving in 2015 and 2016, and initiated Lucille’s Memorials in 2017. Lucille’s Memorials weave the grief process with the absolutely necessary hands-on labor to revive biological diversity. A team effort of Extinction Witness, Pollinator Posse, and Earth Restoration Service, these regenerative memorials honor mothers of all walks and support open display of chronic grief in service to personal and ecological vitality for everyone’s benefit. Learn more at Lucille’s Memorials.

Mass Extinction Grief & Creativity Forum

Online Mass Extinction Grief & Creativity Forum provides a sure and safe container for sharing works, including visual art and poetry, produced as part of the grieving process.

Aside from this being a forum for compassionate witness of the losses and one another's original works, group sharing is unstructured. Members are free to share what is their personal focus at any time and are not required to participate in the revolving witness practice.

For 2018, Mass Extinction Grief & Creativity Forum participants are invited and supported to practice the monthly revolving creative witness. April 2018, Grief & Creativity forum is moving to a new online social platform. Please check back for an update or register above to receive notice via email.

©2018 Extinction Witness
a project of Empowerment WORKS, a 501c3 for-impact organization

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