Why are we losing biocultural diversity?

Little Fish Lake, in the Tsilcot'in Region, BC. The First Nations community in the area is concerned about the potential mining impacts on the lake which continues to be used tradionally by the people. Voices of the Earth Project. photo:Luisa Maffi.

Little Fish Lake, in the Tsilhqot’in Region, BC. The First Nations community in the area is concerned about the potential mining impacts on the lake which continues to be used tradionally by the people. Voices of the Earth Project. Photo: Luisa Maffi.

As with biological species, human languages and cultures are not static. They naturally change and evolve over time. All human cultures are capable of adapting to new circumstances and creating solutions to new problems. And all human languages are capable of developing to accommodate new communication needs.

The  point is that, as with biological species, human languages and cultures need time to change and evolve organically. Normally, this process happens slowly, often almost imperceptibly, from one generation to the next, as people find new ways of responding to new challenges and opportunities, and new ways of talking about what’s new.

Tsilhqoti'n Region, BC. Voices of the Earth Project. Photo: Luisa Maffi, 2011.

Tsilhqoti’n Region, BC. Voices of the Earth Project. Photo: Luisa Maffi, 2011.

But increasingly, things are not happening this way anymore. The pace and scale of change have grown exponentially, and so has the intensity of the pressures that global economic, political, and social forces are placing on the “true web of life”. These forces, and the changes they are imposing the world over, are far outpacing the natural ability of natural and cultural systems to adapt. By promoting a dominant way of life that is entirely unsustainable, these forces are eroding the vitality and resilience of the world’s diverse ecosystems, languages, and cultures.

Sweeping global change is dispossessing indigenous peoples and local communities of their lands, resources, and lifestyles; forcing them to subsist in highly degraded environments; crushing their cultural traditions or hampering their ability to maintain them; and forcing them into linguistic assimilation and abandonment of their ancestral languages.

People who lose their linguistic and cultural identity lose an essential element in a social process that commonly teaches understanding of and respect for nature. The consequences are profound for both the well-being of people and the health of the natural environment. Forcing cultural and linguistic conversion on indigenous peoples and local communities not only violates human rights; it also undermines the goals of nature conservation.

“Monocultures of the mind” have the same end result as monocultures in nature: they make our planet more fragile and vulnerable to both natural disasters and human-made crises. But the dominant ideology today ignores this reality, and seeks easy-to-control uniformity instead of organic unity in diversity.

It’s the global “steamroller effect”.

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