Why does it matter that we’re losing biocultural diversity?

Kayapo Woman, Brazil, photo, Cristina Mittermeier

Kayapo Woman, Brazil. For decades now, the Kayapo people, and others of the Amazonian Region have been struggling with the avalanche of invasion to their lands from illegal logging, mining, cattle ranching and now the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. Photo, Cristina Mittermeier

There are many vital reasons why we should care.

First, we are losing the unique ways of life, languages, and identities of the world’s diverse peoples. It’s a matter of human rights. For each one of these peoples, it’s their right to choose their own path for development while maintaining continuity with their own past. It’s their right to “walk toward the future in the footsteps of their ancestors”.

For humanity at large, the loss of cultural and linguistic diversity represents a drastic reduction of our collective human heritage: a profound diminishment of our understanding of what it means to be human—of the thousands of different ways in which we can say, “I am human”. Our horizon as a species becomes all the narrower for that.

Kayapo Boy, Brazil. Photo by Cristina Mittermeier

Kayapo Boy, Brazil. Photo by Cristina Mittermeier

Second, we are losing both the rich biodiversity that supports humanity and all other species, and the wealth of 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 about living sustainably on Earth.

More than half of humanity now lives in urban environments, largely cut off from direct contact with the natural environment and from awareness of our continued, inescapable interdependence with it. That’s why so many of us don’t seem to care. We cannot care for what we are not intimately involved with, what we don’t intimately know. Some talk of this as the “extinction of experience” of the natural environment. Others suggest that many city dwellers, and especially children, are suffering from “nature deficit disorder”.

That’s why we need biocultural diversity. We need to be reminded that we’ve become disconnected, and out of balance with the natural environment. We need to be reminded that there are other ways of being human that are more harmonious with nature. We need to hear the lessons of the many voices of humanity.

Losing biocultural diversity means a major weakening of the whole fabric of life—the web of interdependence that is absolutely vital to our common future. It means losing our options for life on Earth. It’s like losing our life insurance when we need it most.

It’s a self-destructive path. And we’re ALL affected, no matter where and how we live. But it’s not too late!

next:  What is Terralingua doing about the biocultural diversity crisis?>>