Within the framework of the Ted Talks program anthropologist and journalist of National Geographic Wade Davis explains what “ethnosphere” is, tells about disappearing cultures and languages and demystifies why this process is a disaster for all mankind.
According to scientists, humanity exists about 200,000 years, while the familiar industrial world was created only 300 years ago. Undoubtedly, the real progress in the history of mankind is connected with these last three centuries: significant scientific achievements, advancement of high technology and virtual reality. In this sense, it seems obvious that the Western culture is superior to all others, and the assimilation of other cultures is an undeniable fact and reality. However, according to Wade Davis our epoch will go down in the history of mankind not with its scientific and technological breakthroughs, but with the biological and cultural diversity of the planet – the ethnosphere. He states that the ethnosphere is the richness of humankind, which teaches us that it is possible to exist differently, to think differently and to orientate differently on the Earth.
To focus on the problems of the ethnosphere, Davis provided some statistics that over the past few decades the number of languages in the world has decreased by half. In this regard, he defines language as the cultural heritage of every nation. In addition to this, talking about the diversity of cultures and the changes that are taking place today in the world, he offers his listeners to go on a journey through the ethnosphere – to make a short excursion into ethnography to understand how great the loss is due to the constant disappearance of ancient cultures. He provides dozens of examples that make us think that perhaps the western myth of prosperity and progress is not the greatest achievement for those who live on our planet. For instance, he claims that when the population of a large panda or Amur tiger is threatened with extinction, people begin to support all campaigns to conserve these species, since it affects population diversity and, consequently, successful evolution of the biosphere. However, despite the fact that the reduction of cultures is no less a tragedy, it does not cause us such feelings and impulses. Meanwhile, he states that the civilization is the sum of the cultures existing on Earth: kogi cultivars, voodoo rituals and European traditions are equally important. Accordingly, the extinction of cultures leads to the loss of diversity.
Overall, the speech of Wade Davis on the importance of cultural diversity is a window to another world, the world of the etnosphere, which is, unfortunately, being neglected. Personally, I totally support his views on the significance and challenges of the ethnosphere, however, I am against on the idea of placing prioritization on the ethnosphere towards the biosphere. In my point of view, both of the issues need equal attention.