While many of us are aware of accelerating plant and animal extinctions, few realize that human cultures are disappearing at an even faster pace. Anthropologists predict that 50% of the world’s spoken languages will disappear within our lifetime, 1 language lost every 2 weeks! Gone with the stories, songs and ways of life is tremendous knowledge of nature, and, in particular, agricultural and medicinal use of local plants beneficial for all of us.
The main threat to our ethnosphere is pressure to conform to modernity and the impacts of development on traditional cultures and their land. For one of many examples, Nigeria’s Ogoni people’s livelihoods are in danger, as the soils in their area are poisoned by waste from the petroleum industry.
But it is not all bad news. the Sťáťimc culture in B.C. Canada is protected through establishment of heritage learning and tourist centers; linguists across universities are collecting traditional stories and compiling dictionaries.
It is in our power to support culture preservation and give endangered peoples a voice in formulating development policies.
|Why should we care?
- Becoming aware about other people’s cultures helps us co-exist in respect and understanding of other ways of life.
- All indigenous cultures carry invaluable knowledge about nature which, if protected, could only do us and our planet good. If lost, we might lose many simple secrets of sustainable living as well as traditions, language and music.
- Every voice deserves to be heard and considered, everyone‘s humanity respected regardless of how it may or may not meet modern standards.
- It is predicted that by the next century nearly half of about 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will disappear, as native tongues are abandoned in favor of English, Spanish, and Chinese.
- Around 96% of the world’s languages are spoken by only 4% of the world’s population
- In the Amazon alone, over 90 tribes are thought to have disappeared during the 20th century; thousands were wiped out with diseases brought in with western settlers.
- Awa tribe of the Amazon forest in Brazil is currently one of the most threatened cultures in the world. With loggers destroying the forest to install a railway, the Awa are forced to leave their once harmonious home with nowhere to go.
- The culture of Yugur, an ethnic minority in northwest China, is on the verge of extinction. Out of 11,000 Yugur people, fewer than 100 (mostly seniors) maintain ethnic traditions while younger generations are summoned away by modern influences.
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