What is being lost, and the means to say it

An oil painting of a dodo bird, a large, flightless bird with grey feathers and small yellow wings.
Image source: Julian Hume / Wikimedia, public domain.

(The following text is excepted from the article ‘Biodiversity and Sustainability Are Closely Linked to Language and Culture’ by Dady Chery. The article refers to a scientific paper, ‘Co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity in biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversity wilderness areas’ by L. J. Gorenfloa et al, PNAS, 2012.)

Like the amphibians that climb to ever tinier areas at higher altitudes to avoid being extinguished by global warming, most of the world’s species currently huddle in a tiny fraction of the Earth’s surface, and most human cultural diversity — as measured by the number of languages — occupies essentially the same tiny fraction of the planet.

We are dying.

A scientist would never say it quite this way. Instead, he would tell you that the world’s animal and plant species are disappearing 1,000 times faster than ever in recorded history. He might add that some areas of the world have lost 60 percent of their languages since the mid-1970’s, and 90 percent of the world’s languages are expected to vanish by the year 2099.

Ironically, the American researchers who did this study have become regarded as experts on biodiversity, although the only real experts on how to maintain biodiversity in places occupied by humans are the world’s indigenous. Modern science, with all its sophisticated technology, is completely trumped by the thousands of years of experimentation by the world’s indigenous, although their findings have been transmitted by oral tradition and other simple means.