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Adam Cloete: Blyde River Canyon, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

And, you know, we hear so much about the erosion of biological diversity but even the most discouraged biologists would never suggest that 50 per cent of all animal and plant life is moribund, and yet that the most apocalyptic scenario in the realm of biological diversity scarcely approaches what we know to be the most optimistic scenario in the realm of cultural diversity.

And the key indicator of that of course is language loss. I mean the fact that when all of us were born there were 7,000 languages spoken on the planet, and by absolute academic consensus half of those aren’t being whispered today into the ears of infants, which means we’re literally living through an era in which by definition half of humanity’s intellectual, social, ecological, spiritual knowledge is at risk. And that doesn’t have to happen.

Anthropology is the antidote to nativism. It’s the antidote to Trump. You know, the real central lesson of anthropology is that every culture has something to say. Each deserves to be heard just as none has a monopoly on the route to the divine. The other peoples of the world are not failed attempts at being new, they’re not failed attempts at being modern.

Every culture has a unique answer to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? And when the people of the world answer that question they do so in those 7,000 different voices of humanity. And those voices and those answers collectively become our human repertoire for dealing with the challenges we’ll confront in the coming centuries…

We in the West, with our way of thinking of the natural world, we are not the norm — we’re the anomaly. Most societies around the planet have these extraordinarily rich relationships where they never see people as part of the problem, but part of the essential solution — because it’s only people that can maintain the cosmic balance of the world. — Wade Davis

We members of a dangerous Western culture need this idea. We live with the horrifying destruction our way of living and thinking unleashes upon the natural world every day. We need to see how we could play a role in the restoration of the world. We already know where we’ve gone wrong. We don’t lack for information of our blind heartlessness in relation to every living thing. That’s not news. What’s news is that we’re no different from any other culture. We have something to offer.

Wade Davis is saying that we all have a partial but necessary piece of the puzzle. Our paradigm became a cancer when it started killing off other visions and repositories of understanding, thinking we had the one true answer to life’s conundrum.

Languages hold the understanding of any world view, a world view that evolved over a millennia. Losing that intelligence is a tragedy for the world. How much farther can we go with the systems we have in place before it’s too late to repair the balance of nature?

The hiatus forced upon the world right now comes just in the nick of time, I think. Yes, of course there will be people of no imagination calling us back to the smoking ruins in hopes of saving it before it croaks and makes them poor. But I’m looking for people with new ideas, with a broader vision, with an intelligent mind and a good quantum of wisdom of the heart.

Those are the souls who will see a way forward. They exist. In fact, we ourselves may be members of this tribe.

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