Diversity is the natural state of the world (Harmon 2001). It is the quintessence of the evolutionary process as found in the natural world in its multiplicity of flora and fauna called biological diversity and in the constructed world in its multiplicity of cultures called cultural diversity. Language diversity is part of the co-evolution of humans with ecological diversity and it is comparable with the evolution of diversification of species. Languages are the core component of the ecologically evolved cultural diversity, which enable representation and transmission of the core aspects of cultures for acquisition by succeeding generations of the community and for interaction with other contemporary communities. It is natural for cultural diversity to emerge and sustain itself through language diversity. It is established empirically (Harmon 2002) that the diversity in nature and culture are integrally related and they are connected with the development of ecosystems and with their sustainability. This has given rise to the concept of biocultural diversity as a unified phenomenon. Most of the specialists in the respective fields of study of nature and of culture and the common people seem not to be aware of the connection between diversity in nature and culture. The awareness of the common people about the connection between culture and language is more socio-political and psychological and less philosophical in nature. One piece of evidence is that an increasing number of minority linguistic communities transplanted in the midst of a dominant linguistic community ask seriously the question whether they can maintain their culture without their language.
It is a natural assumption that international development programs lead to direct improvements in lives around the world. Decreasing rates of under-five mortality from malaria? Absolutely. Improving lives in the wake of unimaginable destruction from natural disasters? Without question. It was under these obvious assumptions that I worked for years on various development programs as part of a large government agency. However, I quickly realized that this dominant model of development – one that often takes a Western approach to what progress looks like and applies it to people in all parts of the world regardless of their own values – does not fare so well in empowering cultures, languages or local solutions. With time I saw clearly that in addition to building health clinics, schools, and green revolutions, I was in some cases unknowingly contributing to the creation of a Western monoculture and the destruction of beautifully diverse cultures and languages that hold immeasurable value.
Interview with Felipe Montoya Greenheck by Ortixia Dilts
This article blossomed from my continuing delightful conversations with Felipe Montoya Greenheck. Initiated as an inquiry over the MILPA seed project as presented in Terralinguna’s publication, Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook (Earthscan, 2010), we soon diverged from our original subject and into the intent and thinking behind the MILPA projects, concluding with an inspiring model for community revitalization.
…..tell me a little about Milpa.
I began MILPA as a project to revitalize the living connection between Costa Rican rural communities and the traditional seeds they cultivated. Among the most memorable and enduring activities was a simple seed exchange among small farmers. Paying respects to the local seeds, traditional crops, and land races the participants brought to exchange was very important to tear down the ideology of the supremacy of “improved varieties” that had been introduced and officially promoted, displacing the traditional varieties. Their worth was restored and from that time on (since 1997), traditional seed exchanges have continued to take place in Costa Rica, mostly linked to organic farmers markets. MILPA also organized a conference on Cultivated Biodiversity which was declared of “national interest”. So MILPA pushed the issue among peasant farmers, NGOs and the academia, as well.
The authors of this article are Kabir Bavikatte and Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) and was originally published in Endogenous Development Magazine 6: ''Bio-cultural Community Protocols enforce Biodiversity Benefits'', pg 4-6. It can be found online
Víctor M. Toledo, Eckart Boege and Narciso Barrera-Bassols Introduction Studies from different disciplinary backgrounds are revealing the inextricable links between cultural, biological and agricultural diversity at global, national, regional and local scales (Maffi, 2005). These
What do we need to do to further promote biocultural diversity conservation? Since the existence of an “inextricable link” between cultural and biological diversity was affirmed in the pioneering 1988 Declaration of Belém, the field