Biological & Cultural Diversity
Biocultural diversity is the true web of life: the interlinked diversity of biological diversity, cultural diversity, and linguistic diversity. Biocultural diversity (BCD) is at the core of what’s at stake for us in our fight for ecological justice and it is also our best defense. Diversity assures resilience in living systems.
What humans contribute to biodiversity is a “co-evolved knowledge of place.” Wherever one finds richness in biodiversity, one can also expect to find a great number of distinct languages and, by implication, a great number of distinct cultures. That detailed knowledge of place has been culturally transmitted for millennia and in a few short centuries rapidly disrupted. Rapid erosion of biodiversity simultaneously leads to and is caused by the erosion of cultural diversity; this compromises our collective survival.
We are experiencing a converging extinction crisis of biological and cultural diversity. Many people are aware that the planet is in the midst of a crisis of biodiversity loss. The 6th Mass Extinction data is endless. These changes are happening at a scale & pace faster than organisms can respond evolutionarily. Concurrently, every 14 days a language disappears from the world. This is also a matter of the scale and pace of change. As with ecological processes, human languages and cultures require time to change and evolve organically. Again, all of this has happened in a few short centuries, and in some cases a few short decades.
Remember Our Way Forward
To protect and promote Biocultural Diversity, We Must “Remember Our Way Forward.” This means:
Following Indigenous Leadership
Indigenous Communities are on the frontlines of protecting, restoring and promoting Biocultural Diversity.The framework for BCD was introduced to us by our comrades at The Cultural Conservancy. Biodiversity is richest on Indigenous-managed lands. While Iindigenous peoples make up less than five percent of the total human population, they manage or hold tenure to about 25 percent of the world’s land surface and support about 80 percent of the global biodiversity. The evolved knowledge of place held by indigenous and local communities is key to our resilience in this era of ecological crises.
Queering our Understanding of the Vast Web of Llife We Call Home:
Ironically, the lineage of evolutionary thought that has shaped our dominant understandings of biodiversity are steeped in a history of suppressing and denying the true diversity of the planet. One way we reckon with that is through the lens of queer ecology. Queering ecology is about embracing the complexity and expansiveness of the web of life we’re a part of. For instance, did you know that fungi have 36,000 sexes? There are so many different forms of embodiment (size, appearance, ability) and kinship (care systems, bonding, affection, community) that hold lessons for us about adapting, surviving, and cooperation and that don’t fit into neat categories. In our dominant culture, we are pretty steeped in binary thinking – either/or oppositional ways of seeing – and discouraged in holding the complexity of our experiences, identity, ancestry, and geography. We want to distinguish BCD from ways the term diversity has been commodified and used to flatten our identities, histories, cultures and all our relations. We mean to propagate a very different understanding of diversity through the lens of BCD.
Healing our Disconnections from the Ecosystems we depend on:
For many of us, growing up on this side of the global economy has meant that our sources of sustenance are hidden behind industrial processes, rather than visible in the living world to us on a day to day basis. More than half of humanity now lives in urban environments, largely cut off from awareness of our continued, inescapable interdependence with living systems and the bioregions we’re nested in. Another way we can imagine remembering our way forward is about reshaping how we govern – based on flexible ecological boundaries like foodsheds, watersheds, fibersheds. As we work to return our labor back to the web of life and out of the chains of the market, we must develop a reflective, responsive relationship to place, as our ancestors and plantcestors have done for centuries.
Repairing and Depending
On the Web of Life
The sum of all biological and cultural diversity is supported by a web of different systems and processes, like the anchoring (or radial) strands of a spider’s web. The web is full of connections, and everything is dependent on everything else for the webs structure to be maintained. There are also certain key strands that keep the web attached and that are central to keeping the web from collapsing.