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Friday, October 5, 2012

Vanishing Human Cultures

One of the globe's vanishing cultures: A woman and children of the Batek peoples of the Taman Negara jungle in Malaysia.
Photo by Mix Hart, 2010

I attended a talk on Thursday night by Wade Davis. He is an Ethnobotanist and National Geographic's Explorer in Residence. His talk was about the vanishing human cultures around the globe. His  photographs  were stunning and fascinating portraits of cultures at risk around the globe.We understand the rate at which cultures vanish by the vanishing languages. Much like the vanishing wildlife, cultures come into extinction not by technological advances but by the destruction of their habitat.
 Davis' opening comment was about an aboriginal culture that believed they had failed at life, as they thought they were not fully human because never fully assimilated into the modern world.  For a human being to doubt one's humanness seems impossible, yet sadly, it exists. 
 In addition, Davis' information about the damage Christian missionaries have done to indigenous cultures was deeply disturbing.  Even more tragic is the damage our governments continue to create, by raping our lands for profit (mining, forestry), with no consideration for the indigenous cultures who live their--soil, water, food supplies and wildlife are left poisoned.

 The information below (in italics) is from my facts and opinion and was not a part of Davis' talk:

*In Canada, think tar sands of Alberta and the pipeline that Harper is pushing across the West to load oil onto ships in Prince Rupert, BC. Oil spills will happen several times a year and destroy the only temperate rain forest left on the globe (and home to the rare Spirit Bear population).*
I urge my fellow Canadians to put a stop to this Pipeline--there is still time.


However, there is always an element to any professional speaker that exposes the talk as expert story telling and self promotion. On occasion, it takes away from the true essence of the subject of the talk. I am sure it is difficult to condense the subject into an hour and a half talk, but I found his choice of subjects (from the cultures he chose to examine) exclusively patriarchal. I accept that yes, he is a male scientist, so it would have been more difficult for him to access the women of the cultures.  However, I wanted to know more about the women, we as a humans, need to know more about the women. The only woman subject was a Tibetan nun (who, incidentally,  I've just been reading about). And yet, her story was that of a woman escaping the patriarchal confines of her culture to become a reclusive nun.
There were times, I found his talk, too broad, containing some stories that I have heard before, from other sources.
Though, my overall impression was: that's my dream job!--traveling the world, exploring, writing, taking photographs and learning from indigenous cultures.

*If you enjoy my blog, please send a vote my way. Click on the Circle of Mom's button in the top right corner of this page and scroll down to vote for Modernista Mama. You can vote once a day until contest closes on OCT 11.
Thank-you to all those kind souls who have been diligently voting for me :)

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