What is Terralingua doing about the biocultural diversity crisis?

The “biocultural” approach to conservation, as coined by linguist and anthropologist Luisa Maffi, is not a romantic notion of a mythical noble savage. It is based on a reality that ethnographers, ethnohistorians, political ecologists have long documented: The peoples who depend on biodiversity most immediately preserve it most effectively.
by Dennis Martinez, National Geographic Newswatch

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Since 1996, we in Terralingua have devoted our work to sustaining the biocultural diversity of life. We’ve blazed trails, pushed the envelope, and filled a glaring gap across disciplines and between the realms of knowledge and action. By following an unconventional path, we’ve become recognized leaders in promoting an innovative, integrative approach to conservation.

We firmly believe that the best way to “conserve” the diversity of life on Earth is to ensure that it does not get depleted in the first place—that is, to ensure that cultures, languages, and ecosystems can continue to thrive while they are still vital and resilient!

This philosophy has consistently guided our work. Through this work, we’re fostering a paradigm shift that will make protecting all of life, in both nature and culture, a fundamental societal value.

Over the years, we’ve been active on many interconnected fronts:

Through our pioneering research and publications, we’ve put forth synthetic ideas, opened up an entirely new field of study, and raised global awareness of biocultural diversity and its importance for human futures.

Our Work  >>      Publications >>

We’ve literally put biocultural diversity on the world map, showing for the first time that there is a global overlap between biodiversity and cultural diversity.

Mapping Biocultural Diversity >>

We’ve developed unique, first-ever tools to track what’s happening over time with the vitality of the world’s languages and traditional knowledge systems—two key aspects of the biocultural diversity of life.

VITEK – Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge >>
ILD – Index of Linguistic Diversity >>

We’ve spearheaded an integrated approach to the conservation of nature and culture that is being taken up by major conservation organizations.

IUCN Biocultural Diversity Programme >>
Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook >>

We’ve been in the forefront of fostering international policy in support of biocultural diversity, working with United Nations agencies and other international organizations.

Our Policy work >>

We’ve established a “community of practice” of people interested in biocultural diversity action, so that we can exchange ideas and experiences and strengthen our collective capacity to shift the way in which conservation of nature and culture is done.

Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Community of Practice >>

We provide ongoing advocacy support and advice to indigenous communities and organizations striving to protect their lands, languages, and ways of life.

Documenting and Revitalizing Indigenous Oral Traditions >>

But the struggle to sustain diversity and resilience in both nature and culture is far from over. Urgent action is needed to change the destructive course that has led to the current predicament. Terralingua is still leading the way in this effort.

Now we’ve taken on the next challenge in educating the public: we want to help raise a new generation of caring citizens who will take action to support biocultural diversity. We’re working with grade schools to educate young minds about biocultural diversity and inspire them to care about the true web of life and to protect it for present and future generations.

Biocultural Diversity Education

We are thought leaders, working to reorient global society and its institutions toward embracing life in all its forms.

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