In Defense of Difference

“That the Earth is becoming more homogeneous—less of a patchwork quilt and more of a melting pot—is only partly due to the extinction of regionally unique languages or life forms. The greater contributing factor is invasiveness. According to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, as rapidly as regionally unique species are dying out, rates of species introductions in most regions of the world actually far exceed current rates of extinction. Similarly, the spread of English, Spanish, and, to a lesser extent, Chinese, into all corners of the world easily dwarfs the rate of global language loss. This spread of opportunistic species and prodigal tongues thrives on today’s anthropogenic conduits of commerce and communications.

Bringing new organisms or new languages into a community nearly always results in an increase of global homogeneity. Its effect on diversity is, however, more complex, raising an important point about the very concept of diversity: It makes sense only as a matter of scale. If, for example, you introduce several weedy species to an African veldt, you will increase local biodiversity. Introduce English into a multidialect Alaskan community, and you will increase local linguistic diversity—you are, after all, just adding more to the mix. But gains in local diversity due to new introductions are likely to be short-lived. Just as languages often become overwhelmed by more dominant ones, invasive plants, animals, and microbes often eventually outcompete and replace native life. If even one native grass or one native dialect perishes as a result of these introductions—as is almost always the case—global biodiversity suffers. Thus, homogeneity, while not synonymous with extinction, reflects both extinctions in the past and ones likely to ensue.”

In Defense of Difference. Scientists offer new insight into what to protect of the world’s rapidly vanishing languages, cultures and species. Maywa Montenegro. Terry Glavin. Seed Magazine. 2008.

[http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/in_defense_of_difference/P1/]

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s