Vintage illustration of dodo bird and guinea pig, 1750.

Dodo and Guinea Pig. From George Edwards, A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, London 1750.

"I once asked Leonard Cohen for his advice on how to talk with others about the prospect of humanity’s extinction. He replied, There are things we don’t tell the children.

"It is helpful to realize that most people are not ready for this conversation. They may never be ready, just as some people die after a long illness, still in denial that death was at their doorstep. 

"It is a mystery as to who can handle the truth of our situation and who runs from it as though their sanity depended on not seeing it.

"There is even a strange phenomenon that some of my extinction-aware friends and I have noticed: you might sometimes find relaxation in the company of those who don’t know and don’t want to know.  For a while you pretend that all is well or at least the same as it has been. You discuss politics, the latest drama series, new cafes. You visit the matrix for a little R & R.

"But this usually doesn’t last long as the messages coming from the catastrophe are unrelenting."

Catherine Ingram, 2019. Facing extinction. Long form essay originally published online at

Vintage, colour illustration of dodo head, 1844.

Dodo head. From Atlas de Zoologie, ou collection de figures d’Animaux nouveaux, ou peu connus avec une explication / Atlas of Zoology, or collection of figures of new or little-known Animals with an explanation, France 1844.

The dodo didus ineptus is an extinct flightless bird from Mauritius. Portuguese sailors were the first people to see a dodo when they arrived at Mauritius in 1507. By 1681, a combination of the activities of people and the animals they introduced onto the island had completely eradicated the birds.