Photo: David Rapport, Sierra Terrahumara, Mexico
Photo: David Rapport, Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico

Protecting biocultural diversity — the true web of life.

Terralingua n 1: the languages of the Earth, the many voices of the world’s diverse peoples. 2: the language of the Earth, the voice of Mother Nature. 3: an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to sustain the biocultural diversity of life – a precious heritage to be cherished, protected, and nurtured for generations to come. ¶ From Italian terra ‘earth’ and lingua ‘language’.

sunWhat is biocultural diversity?

It’s the true web of life: diversity in both nature and culture. It’s a living network made up of the millions of species of plants and animals that have evolved on Earth, and of the thousands of human cultures and languages that have developed over time. Languages, cultures, and ecosystems are interdependent. They’re bound together through the myriad ways in which people have interacted with the natural environment. Through a diversity of cultural traditions and practices, in a great variety of natural environments, human communities have acquired invaluable knowledge of how to achieve harmony with nature. Biocultural diversity is both the source and the expression of all the beauty and potential of life on Earth.


sunWhy does it matter?

First, we are losing the unique ways of life, languages, and identities of the world’s diverse peoples. It’s a matter of human rights. For each one of these peoples, it’s their right to choose their own path for development while maintaining continuity with their own past. It’s their right to “walk toward the future in the footsteps of their ancestors”.

For humanity at large, the loss of cultural and linguistic diversity represents a drastic reduction of our collective human heritage: a profound diminishment of our understanding of what it means to be human—of the thousands of different ways in which we can say, “I am human”. Our horizon as a species becomes all the narrower for that.