Claire Datnow Blog Posts

Endangered species

Natsilane's Lament

By Alysie Muckpa


We are ancient. We are weathered. We appeared 50 million years ago, long before the first humans. We live in the world’s oceans from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical seas around the equator. We are many times larger than any human. They call us mammals, like them. To them we are also monsters of the deep. A few of us have lived for 200 hundred years. Our bodies are scared with messages for humans to decipher. We conserve life on this planet by capturing carbon from the atmosphere. We are beacons of hope for the future.
But something has gone wrong. Dead whales have begun washing ashore. I, Natsilane, one of the dead, will speak on their behalf. We mourn the deaths of each member of our family struck by ships, tangled in fishing nets, suffocated by oil and chemical spills, chocked by plastic pollution, and starved because of climate change. Some humans enjoy whale watching. They take photos of whales, ignoring our scars, our thinning sides, the spine bones sticking out on our backs. When humans do pause to look at us—really look at us—it is with wonder or pity.
Humans are ignoring the wisdom of their ancestors. There are fewer of us now, but we will keep singing to them, begging them to listen. To see the warning signs. Do not be misled by our gigantic strength. We do not have the power to fight the damage humans have caused. The grief of the world touches us. The blazing sun, the wild storms, the frigid air, the roaring gales, the rising seas. We have felt the ice melting, seen the plankton and the krill dying, leaving us starving.
It is hard to talk about what is happening or what could happen next. Though it is frightening to see humans destroy themselves and the planet without mercy, it is heartening to know some humans are fighting to save whales, to save life in the oceans and on land.
We are have many obstacles to overcome, but will keep on striving. It’s great to be an ancient species, to be alive, to feel hope.