The Clock is Ticking: Disappearing Cultures & Languages in the 21st Century

Above: In a remote region of the Brazilian rainforest, one of the world’s last uncontacted tribes points bows and arrows at an over-flying airplane. Tribes such as these are in danger of becoming extinct unless their land is protected from logging and disease. Photo by Gleison Miranda, Funai. (Read full article here)

Of approximately 6,000 languages currently spoken on Earth, many are not yet recorded, and less than half are being taught by elders to children of the next generation. Every two weeks or so an elder dies, and with them another language vanishes from the face of the planet. In Africa, 80% of the continent’s 2,000 languages are still unnamed, unwritten, and disappearing faster than they can be traced. At this rate, over half of the world’s languages may disappear within the 21st Century, taking along with them an immeasurable “wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain” (National Geographic: Enduring Voices).

Above: National Geographic’s map of endangered languages. Click to enlarge.

This loss of languages has tremendous implications for our future as the human race; the speakers of these unique modes of communication carry with them a different way of being, seeing and processing life in this world that we can all learn from. As modern culture becomes further alienated from the natural world, we must work even harder to respect and learn from these cultures who believe “the earth itself can only exist because it is being breathed into being by human consciousness” (Wade Davis, anthropologist and ethnobotanist). If we are not to destroy our natural world, we must try to better understand our impact upon it. If these marginalized cultures become extinct, we will lose a tremendously valuable record of humanity’s evolution and evidence of all that the human mind is capable of:

A language is not just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules; A language is a flash of the human spirit, it is a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an eco-system of spiritual possibilities.
– Wade Davis

Watch Davis’ excellent lecture on this subject below:

Learn more at the National Geographic: Enduring Voices campaign website.

Read a great NY Times article on recording endangered languages here.

Today's Autonomedia Jubilee Saint – STEPHEN J. GOULD

American Marxist paleontologist, writer,
theorist of “punctuated equilibrium” evolution.


1676 — British Digger leader Gerrard Winstanley dies, London, England.
1797 — Anarchist, feminist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin dies, London, England.
1895 — Melville Herskovits, pioneer of African-American studies, born.
1897 — French critic, philosopher Georges Bataille born, Billom, Puy-de-Dôme.
1901 — Emma Goldman arrested in alleged link to McKinley assassin.
1928 —Extraordinary folksinger Yma Sumac born, Ichocan, Peru.
1941 — American Marxist paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould born, New York City.

FWAF 2009 – 'CHILDREN OF THE CLONE' by Superbrothers

The 3rd annual Floating World Animation Fest features senses shattering video art and psychedelic animation from the secret world of motionography. 3+ hours of mind melting, soul loving psychedelicanimation… this summer’s ultimate videocation!
Rustic 21st century minimalism by Superbrothers.

Floating World Animation Fest 2009 – Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison, Portland OR – June 25th

‘You should not do this because it is having effects even you might not like,’

the process of weeding out

Natural selection is being run, more or less, by the gentleman hunter we have up top there with the classy antique deer rifle. He does not believe in evolution, yet he and his ilk are currently sort of in charge of it because they are the ones culling the herds of bighorn sheep, clearing the hills of ginseng and emptying the rivers of salmon. The findings of this horrific new study — “Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild” — more or less clarify that traditional conservation efforts and hunting/fishing regulations encourage the killing of the largest, healthiest adults, leaving the weakest members of the community to breed. This, of course, fucks things up on an evolutionary scale. From the New York Times:

The new findings are more sweeping. Based on an analysis of earlier studies of 29 species — mostly fish, but also a few animals and plants like bighorn sheep and ginseng — researchers from several Canadian and American universities found that rates of evolutionary change were three times higher in species subject to “harvest selection” than in other species. Writing in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers say the data they analyzed suggested that size at reproductive maturity in the species under pressure had shrunk in 30 years or so by 20 percent, and that organisms were reaching reproductive age about 25 percent sooner.

In Alberta, Canada, for example, where regulations limit hunters of bighorn sheep to large animals, average horn length and body mass have dropped, said Paul Paquet, a biologist at the University of Calgary who participated in the research. And as people collect ginseng in the wild, “the robustness and size of the plant is declining,” he said.

The researchers said that reproducing at a younger age and smaller size allowed organisms to leave offspring before they were caught or killed. But some evidence suggests that they may not reproduce as well, said Chris Darimont, a postdoctoral fellow in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the work. The fish they studied that are reproducing earlier “on average have far, far, far fewer eggs than those who wait an additional year and grow a few more centimeters,” he said in an interview.

Dr. Darimont said it was unknown whether traits would change back if harvesting were reduced, or how long that might take.

The researchers also noted that the pattern of loss to human predation like hunting or harvesting is opposite to what occurs in nature or even in agriculture.

Predators typically take “the newly born or the nearly dead,” Dr. Darimont said. For predators, targeting healthy adults can be dangerous, and some predator fish cannot even open their mouths wide enough to eat adult prey. Animals raised as livestock are typically slaughtered relatively young, he said, and farmers and breeders retain the most robust and fertile adults to grow their herds or flocks.

“Targeting large, reproducing adults and taking so many of them in a population in a given year — that creates this ideal recipe for rapid trait change,” Dr. Darimont said.

Some fisheries scientists have said their studies of fish stock had not shown a correlation between fishing intensity and growth rates. And some wildlife conservationists question the idea that hunting can have harmful effects on species.

Dr. Paquet said that although he had confidence in the new findings, he knew there would be questions about the analytical methods he and his fellow researchers used. “That’s expected,” he said. “That’s how science proceeds.”

He said he had anticipated that the work would be “contentious” among trophy hunters. “Essentially, we are saying, ‘You should not do this because it is having effects even you might not like,’ ” he said.

(via Reeves).