August 9, 2019
Google Earth launched a new interactive project Friday aimed at preserving Indigenous languages from around the world.
Featuring 55 languages from 27 different countries, the project invites users to explore the globe while listening to audio clips from Indigenous language speakers, as well as written anecdotes describing why the preservation and revitalization of their culture and language is important.
The UN has named 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, and Google launched its project on Indigenous Peoples Day to mark the occasion.
“Of the 7,000 languages spoken around the globe, 2,680 Indigenous languages — more than one third of the world’s languages – are in danger of disappearing,” the project page says.
Seven languages featured in the project are from Canadian Indigenous and First Nations peoples.
“I think it is an important initiative,” said University of Victoria associate professor of anthropology Bryan Thom on CTV News Channel Friday. “They’re bringing the issues facing Indigenous languages to mind.”
Thom’s department liaised with Google for the project as they frequently work with the Indigenous communities on Vancouver Island.
“The UN has put emphasis this year on how important it is to preserve and revitalize these languages…worldwide,” Thom said. “Here in Canada [there] is a legacy of Indian residential schools and Indigenous languages have had a very rough time.”
“Communities are working hard to revitalize them and bring them out and teach them to the youth, and those kinds of efforts take a lot of resources and supports in our communities so I think this project highlights the benefits of that,” he said.
The lands of the world’s 350 million Indigenous peoples and local communities hold 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and sequester nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon. Over 80 percent of biological diversity is managed by local communities. But forested landscapes are vulnerable to climate change, the encroachment of agriculture and extraction activities.
The gold standard aims to:
Strengthen respect, recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities, including women
End persecution of land and environment defenders
Increase recognition of, and sustain support to, Indigenous peoples and local communities – including women – as stewards and bearers of solutions to landscape restoration, conservation, and sustainable use
Build partnerships to enhance engagement and support for rights-based approaches to sustainable landscapes across scales and sectors
Dramatically scale up efforts to legally recognize and secure collective land and resource rights across landscapes.
“As the world heats up due to land-use related emissions, so do tensions over control of ecosystems and territories, putting Indigenous peoples and local communities at risk,” Mumba said. “We need concrete solutions on multiple fronts that work to combat climate change,” she added.