Two interesting stories recently on the loss of cultures and whole peoples. The first, here from Slate, is an article on the last man from a native community wandering a 31-square mile area that the Brazilian government has cordoned off for him, so that he’s not harrassed or killed by developers. The second is from Scientific American:
[G]lobal voices are being silenced at a frightening rate. The key indicator of this decline in cultural diversity is language loss. A language, of course, is not merely a set of grammatical rules or a vocabulary. It is the vehicle by which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Each one is an old-growth forest of the mind. Linguists agree, however, that 50 percent of the world’s 7,000 languages are endangered. Every fortnight an elder dies and carries with him or her into the grave the last syllables of an ancient tongue. Within a generation or two, then, we may be witnessing the loss of fully half of humanity’s social, cultural and intellectual legacy. This is the hidden backdrop of our age.