When contacted by Cartography’s Paola Corini contacted for a quote for the magazine’s Omo feature, renowned anthropologist Wade Davis was kind enough to supply a whole essay.
Both lament and urgent call to action, Are All Brothers and Sisters champions the complex cultural tapestry – what he calls an ‘ethnosphere’ – that has for millennia enveloped the earth, that serves as the sum of everything we have felt and thought and imagined, and that is, as he says, humanity’s ‘great legacy’. It’s a legacy, he says, in crises, the most obvious sign of which is the imminent loss of half of the world’s 7,000 languages. For Davis, a language is the means ‘by which the soul of a culture reaches into the material world’. The loss of just one is a cultural catastrophe. The loss of 3,500 sees the ‘full complexity and diversity of the human experience’ fatally comprised, the loosening of cultural bonds resulting in a chaos of extreme thinking, of violence, and of meaninglessness. It is a chaos that threatens to be visited on the Omo, in Ethiopia.
A fascinating piece, it gets to the heart of what it means to respect the world’s many cultures, especially in terms of their contribution to society’s wellbeing – now and in the future.