Friday, August 29, 2008

Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World

In April 2008 a conference was organized in New York called "Sustaining Cultural and Biological Diversity in a Rapidly Changing World: Lessons for Global Policy". Here's what one of the organizers Terralingua has to say:

"The past two decades have witnessed an upsurge of interest in the links between cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity. These various manifestations of the diversity of life are under threat by some of the same forces, yet, both in scientific inquiry and in the realms of policy and management, nature and culture are often treated as separate and unrelated entities. This stems in part from the mutual isolation that has traditionally characterized training and work in the natural and social sciences, leading to limited communication or collaboration among fields concerned with sustainability in both nature and culture. Another contributing factor has been a limited appreciation of the relevance of the vast variety of approaches to human-environment relationships that have developed across the world’s diverse cultures, often through close interactions with the natural environment and based on a perception of humans as part of, not separate from, nature. Fragmented approaches have not been successful in arresting the growing erosion of the world’s biodiversity and of the vast and diverse pool of cultural knowledge, practices, and languages developed by humanity. This is resulting in an ever less diverse and resilient world."

Many of the speakers were interviewed. These interviews (in English) can be heard in the section "Vanishing and Re-emerging: Reviving Biological and Cultural Diversity" on the A World of Possibilities website.

I found the Ashish Kothari interview especially interesting for its emphasis on and optimism about community-initiated, and community-sustained movements.

This post is also on my Esperanto blog at Ipernity.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Learnt Icelandic in 7 days?! The incredible Daniel Tammet

I've just read and seen interviews with the autist Daniel Tammet. According to the English Wikipedia, he not only has prodigious mathematical talents but also knows 11 languages: English (native-speaker), French, Finnish, German, Lithuanian, Rumanian, Estonian, Icelandic, Welsh, and Esperanto!

He changed his family name to Tammet, choosing, according to an interview, the Estonian word for the oak - 'I've always had a love of Estonian. Such a vowel rich language.'

He's even created a language. It's called Mänti - which comes from the Finnish word for the pine tree, according to a (frustratingly short) post on his (English) blog. A little more information about the language can be gleaned from his interview in The Guardian.

As if this is not enough, he's apparently learnt Icelandic in 2005 in one week! At any rate, he learnt enough of the language to be interviewed in it on national television in Reykjavik!

You can see a part of that interview in the BBC documentary, "The Boy with the Incredible Brain", which can be viewed on YouTube as five, excellent films. The interview with Tammet is in the last part.

Would be very interesting if a speaker of Icelandic could comment on the interview!

Esperanto version of this post: Lernis la islandan en 7 tagoj?! La nekredebla Daniel Tammet.