“Protecting biocultural diversity —
the true web of life.”

Terralingua n 1: the languages of the Earth, the many voices of the world’s diverse peoples. 2: the language of the Earth, the voice of Mother Nature. 3: an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to sustain the biocultural diversity of life a precious heritage to be cherished, protected, and nurtured for generations to come. ¶ From Italian terra ‘earth’ and lingua ‘language’.

Photo: David Rapport, Sierra Terrahumara, Mexico

What is biocultural diversity?

It’s the true web of life: diversity in both nature and culture. It’s a living network made up of the millions of species of plants and animals that have evolved on Earth, and of the thousands of human cultures and languages that have developed over time. Languages, cultures, and ecosystems are interdependent. They’re bound together through the myriad ways in which people have interacted with the natural environment. Through a diversity of cultural traditions and practices, in a great variety of natural environments, human communities have acquired invaluable knowledge of how to achieve harmony with nature. Biocultural diversity is both the source and the expression of all the beauty and potential of life on Earth.

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Why does it matter?

Both biological diversity and cultural diversity are in steep decline. It’s a “converging extinction crisis” of the diversity of life in all its forms. We are losing the unique ways of life and identities of the world’s diverse peoples. We are losing both the rich biodiversity that supports humanity and all other species, and the traditional knowledge that helps sustain biodiversity. It’s a matter of survival. In a time of crisis, we not only desperately need healthy ecosystems. We also desperately need all the voices of the planet and the ancestral wisdom that they express. Losing biocultural diversity is like losing our life insurance when we need it most.

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Terralingua News

Langscape V.3 Issue 11Terralingua Langscape Volume 3, Issue 1
Biocultural Approaches to Education. With Guest Editor: Yvonne Vizina

We are pleased to bring you the first issue of Langscape’s new series. In this issue, guest-edited by Yvonne Vizina, we explore how both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal philosophies rooted in the interconnection between language, culture, and nature can inspire and shape new and integrative approaches to education, within and outside the school, and how they can contribute to the problem-solving skills, growth, and resilience of humanity in this rapidly changing world. Join us as we explore Biocultural Diversity as an emerging paradigm in a changing world.

New issues of Langscape are now a benefit of Terralingua membership. Join our Membership to receive Langscape, or purchase individual copies or subscriptions through our Market. We hope you will enjoy journeying with us through this special volume of Langscape, and that you too will share what you learn with others.

Terralingua Langscape Volume 2, Issue 13
Weaving Tradition and Innovation. With Guest Editor: Kierin Mackenzie

The challenge we put out in this issue of Langscape is how we can weave tradition and innovation together to actively transform our current global paradigm. How can the linguistic, cultural, and biological treasures handed down to us be utilized in order to ensure their and our continuing existence? How do we draw on ancestral knowledge, practices, and arts to devise new solutions for our global predicament? How do we adapt the gifts, values and teachings of the past to create a brighter future? What new ideas harmonize well with these gifts to reinvigorate their usage where they have declined? How do they strengthen us and the generations to come? Join us as we continue to explore Biocultural Diversity as an emerging paradigm in a changing world. We hope you will enjoy journeying with us through this special volume of Langscape, and that you too will share what you learn with others. read more >>

Langscape Volume 2, Issue 12. Emerging Paradigms in a Changing World.

This Langscape issue provides a platform for some of these alternatives to reach a wider public and make us realize that there ARE other ways of being in and engaging with the world—alternative paradigms founded on values that are not totally foreign to any of us, but that we have either forgotten, or have been led to believe no longer have a place in this world. These examples reveal that these alternative paradigms DO indeed exist and offer options to strive for a better world that includes the many peoples and life forms that share this earth. Join us as we explore Biocultural Diversity as an emerging paradigm in a changing world. We hope you will enjoy journeying with us through this special volume of Langscape, and that you too will share what you learn with others.” read more >>

Terralingua Ubuntu

We created Terralingua Ubuntu as a space for Terralingua members and friends to come together as a community, connect, and work together to sustain the biocultural diversity of life. Ubuntu is a word in the isiXhosa and isiZulu languages of South Africa, meaning: 1. Humanity or personhood, achieved through interconnectedness with other people and community. 2. An African philosophy of humanism, grounded in the notion that human identity and dignity arise out of respect, concern, compassion, generosity, and reciprocity toward others–family, neighbors, ancestors, community, and the human race at large. Terralingua Ubuntu expands the idea of humanness from “what makes us human in relation to other humans” to “what makes all of us human in relation to one another and to nature, of which we are a part”. True to our mandate of actively supporting biocultural diversity, we developed a new website platform offering … read more >>

Biocultural Diversity Education Initiative (BCDEI) The goal of the BCDEI is to introduce the idea and relevance of biocultural diversity to high school students (and their teachers). So far we have prepared an overview and other introductory materials for teachers, and are completing three initial curriculum lessons: an introduction to biocultural diversity and two case studies. Keep checking in--we are posting the materials on the BCDEI pages of the Terralingua website as they become available. . [...]
Fri, Dec 12, 2014, Continue reading at the source
Biocultural Diversity Toolkit The Toolkit consists of a series of short volumes aiming to introduce biocultural diversity and relevant approaches and tools to a broad audience of researchers, practitioners, and the general public. Each volume includes introductory articles, conceptual and methodological pieces, and case studies, presented in a handsome and user-friendly format. The material was based both on Terralingua's own work and on collaborations with colleagues from all over the world. The volumes are now available for you on our Biocultural Diversity Conservation Portal. [...]
Fri, Dec 12, 2014, Continue reading at the source
Voices of the Earth As a part of our Voices of the Earth project, we continued to support the Tsilhqot'in First Nation of British Columbia, Canada, in their efforts to document their oral traditions related to their relationship with the land. This material contributed to testimony in an environmental assessment of a gold mining project that was threatening Tsilhqot'in lands, and that was turned down earlier this year. A subsequent historic victory in Canada's Supreme Court affirmed Tsilhqot'in title to a portion of their traditional territory. To celebrate these successes, last month the Tsilhqot'in held a ceremony at the site where the now defunct mining project would have taken place, [...]
Fri, Dec 12, 2014, Continue reading at the source
An inspiring article on biocultural diversity education efforts in various parts of the world, titled Biocultural Education: Connecting Nature and Culture, was recently posted on the website of The Christensen Fund (a long-term Terralingua supporter). One of the education projects featured in this article is the Language Apprentices program of the Saanich people of British Columbia, with whom Terralingua has collaborated in the production of illustrated storybooks of traditional stories in their native language. Terralingua Director Luisa Maffi is also quoted in this story. She describes a biocultural approach to education as “much deeper than the cultural or linguistic content [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
Our Index of Linguistic Diversity (ILD), developed by David Harmon and Jonathan Loh, and Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (VITEK), developed by Stanford Zent, are both featured on the website of the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP). The ILD is also featured in the second edition of the BIP's “Aichi Targets Passport”, a Smartphone app that provides annual updates on the global biodiversity indicators relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)'s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets for addressing the global loss of biodiversity. The BIP is a global initiative mandated by the CBD to promote [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
Last July, Language Apprentices and Elders from the Saanich First Nation held a historic visioning retreat and language boot camp on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. The purpose was three-fold: to review and celebrate the accomplishments of their 5-year-old language revitalization program (now including a pre-school language nest and an immersion kindergarten with a “nature immersion” component); to envision the future of the program five years and 25 years from now; and to carry out their first full-language-immersion bootcamp, during which all participants expressed themselves in their language only for the whole day. Terralingua was thrilled to be able to [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
With support from the Swift Foundation, we have been working on a Biocultural Diversity Toolkit. The Toolkit is a coordinated set of publications that introduces students, researchers, professionals, policy makers, and the general public to the concept of biocultural diversity (BCD) and some of the tools and approaches that are relevant to the maintenance and revitalization of BCD and to BCD-friendly environmental conservation and human development. The Toolkit is comprised of five booklets: Introduction to Biocultural Diversity Assessing the State of Linguistic Diversity Assessing the Vitality of Traditional Environmental Knowledge [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
We are delighted to report some great news about the Tsilhqot'in people of south-central British Columbia, with whom Terralingua has been working as a part of our Voices of the Earth project. The Tsilhqot'in's have been waging a longstanding battle against a proposed major gold-copper mine that would destroy an ecologically and culturally significant part of their territory, known as Nabas. A federal Canadian Review Panel in charge of the environmental assessment of this mining proposal has just delivered its report. It concludes that the project would result in “significant adverse environmental effects” for lakes and streams in the area, [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
View a preview of the video. The links between language, traditional knowledge, and the environment are the topic of one of the units in Terralingua's emerging biocultural diversity education curriculum for high schools (a project supported by the Berman Foundation). This unit reviews the basic concepts and issues, and presents real-world examples drawn from indigenous and local communities from different parts of the world. With support from Lush Cosmetics Charitable Giving, a special video focusing on Xhosa high school students from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa is has just been completed for this curriculum unit. The Xhosa students are enrolled [...]
Tue, Nov 05, 2013, Continue reading at the source
The subject of the global economy is passionately debated, and it is going to take a diversity of voices to begin to envision what our next steps might be. In the most recent issue of our magazine Langscape, Vol. 2:12, we conducted a lively panel discussion on a biocultural perspective on Economic Paradigms and Transitions. Why is the global economic system collapsing? What solutions can we begin to implement to address this crisis? What is the role of biocultural diversity in moving us forward in a different, life-affirming direction? Read the Langscape panel discussion below, then continue the conversation and share your perspective on this issue in our membership forum. If [...]
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, Continue reading at the source