Oisin M.

Copywriter

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Climate Change And Language Loss

16-01-2020

To the majority of people living in the world today, climate change has always been a term that has barely skittered around the edges of our knowledge until fairly recently.

We knew that something was going on, but decades of opposing scientific views and a healthy amount of convenience on our part, helped to create a situation in which we felt that a bit of recycling and a shrug of confusion regarding the whole ordeal was the best we could do. After all, the hole in the ozone layer was shrinking, and surely the politicians were going to do something about it sooner or later.

Fast forward to the late 2010s, and climate change has evolved into a full-blown climate emergency that has hit public consciousness like a ton of bricks. The scientific consensus on the fact that humans are the main drivers of climate change has already been beyond question for years, and the lack of action by the powers that be has pushed us to the edge of the abyss. While this emergency affects us all, there are a number of cultures that are at a greater risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels and mass migrations.

Unfortunately, when a culture disappears its language usually goes with it, and as much as a large diaspora can greatly aid in its preservation, after a few generations it becomes nothing short of a monumental task. Here are three of the nations that are more susceptible of losing parts of their cultural heritage due to the immediate effects of climate change.  

Greenland

The melting of ice in the Arctic suggests that Greenland could become a more habitable in the next few decades, but that doesn’t necessarily mean good news for its culture. Greenlandic is the official language of this vast autonomous region within the kingdom of Denmark, and its approximately 60.000 native speakers are at risk of being displaced by an increased accessibility to gas, oil, and other natural resources due to the receding ice. 

This situation can transform the economic potential of the region, and much like the uncontrolled deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the natives and their cultures tend to be the ones that get the short end of the stick.

Marshall Islands

This idyllic island country comprised of almost 1200 islands in the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean has already had its fair share of difficulties before climate change began rearing its ugly head a few decades ago. Over 60 nuclear tests were conducted in the mid 20th Century, leading to numerous evacuations and demographic shifts, some of them to the U.S. mainland, and leaving the Marshallese language in a complicated situation.

Rising sea levels have steadily gained territory over the small islands that form the nation, slowly claiming an average of 3.4 millimeters per year. While that may look like a small amount, it is enough to allow seawater to leak into the water systems and contaminate drinking water, and a continued rise could soon render the Majuro Atoll, home to more than half of the population, uninhabitable. 

Australia

The effects of climate change are not limited to melting ice and rising sea levels. As we have seen in late 2019 and early 2020, an unprecedented amount of bushfires have ravaged the Australian outback, in part due to the severe drought affecting eastern Australia, largely attributed to the effect of climate change. These fires have burned almost 200.000 square kilometer, destroyed over 2.500 homes, killed an estimated one billion animals, and displaced thousands of people

However, the predictions for the next bushfire seasons are only getting worse as climate change increases, especially putting at risk countless communities of Australian natives and threatening their culture, language, and way of life.

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