Irreversible loss

October 14, 2021

Dr Kirsten Tripplett writes, “It’s a long leap conceptually to make, but if one accepts a premise that ‘language’ isn’t just spoken, and that knowledge is transmitted...

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Dr Kirsten Tripplett writes, “It’s a long leap conceptually to make, but if one accepts a premise that ‘language’ isn’t just spoken, and that knowledge is transmitted through actions and lifeways, then loss of biological species and their exploitation to serve human interests, is a critical loss, too, for the same reasons as those cited above...”

[Jairus] Grove has similar worries: “Irreversible catastrophic changes are certain but extinction is unlikely. What we stand to lose as a species in this current apocalypse of homogenization is unimaginable, not because of the loss of life but because of the loss of difference. Who and what will be left on Earth to inspire and ally with us in our creative advance is uncertain. If the future is dominated by those who seek to establish the survival of the human species at all costs through technological mastery then whatever ‘we’ manages to persist will likely live on or near a mean and lonely planet.”

Why this loss of cultural diversity? There is first the reductionist tendency to treat cultural diversity and biodiversity as separate issues rather than as continuously interacting. Zanon further quotes Jordi Bascompte: “We can’t ignore this network now and think only about the plants or only about the culture … We humans are very good at homogenizing culture and nature so that nature seems to be more or less the same everywhere.”

This homogenization process includes reduction of human labor to cogs in a corporate machine, to cookie cutter development to the planned obsolescence and corporate-dominated consumer culture. Most important is a neoliberal financial system fostering increasing wealth gaps within and among nations. In this context it is especially important to preserve alternative ways of being in the world and their origins and history. Despite efforts to homogenize many indigenous cultures some retain their vitality. But their survival will depend on bottom-up activism and rules, laws, and practices negotiated across race, ethnicity, religion, and class.

As Subhankar Banerjee argues, saving elephants in different states presents complex problems. More broadly biodiversity conservation is contextual. What works for one place and in a particular culture may not work for another place and in another culture. This is not, however, cultural relativism. Biodiversity advocates value most those cultures that seek space for difference and for a politics that celebrates that end.

Excerpted: ‘Our Health Depends onIndigenous Botanical Knowledge and Plants That Are Rapidly Being Destroyed’

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