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Hussam Hussein
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Hi and thanks for visiting my profile :) My name is Hussam, I'm a blogger-researcher-journalist, member of the European Youth Press’ Middle East and North Africa Committee (MENAC). I studied in Italy (Trieste/Gorizia), England (SOAS, London), and Poland (College of Europe). Academically, my background is mainly in Diplomacy and International Relations, with a focus on Environment. My interests are climate change, water, development and international cooperation.


Wanna save local cultures and local languages? Then preserve biodiversity!!!

Published 27th July 2010 - 67 comments - 8779 views -

Yes, there is a link between biodiversity, cultures, and local languages!

Biodiversity is important for cultural spirits, and for local traditional languages, and not only for food and basic human needs. 

In particular for indigenous groups, who don't have a fora where to talk and be condered, this issue is of strategic relevance. As a matter of fact, they often don't have a place within the UN where to discuss their problems, giving their own views. However, within the biodiversity platform there is space for them because they actually live within the nature and forests are their home, integral part of their culture and traditions. For this reason, a place in the Convention on Biodiversity has been reserved to these groups.

The link between biodiversity and traditional knowledge as well as with local languages is a fnudamental passage. With the extinction of local languages, there is big loss of unique historical, cultural, and ecological knowledge. Indigenous communities have elaborated complex classification systems for the natural world, reflecting a deep understanding of local flora, fauna, ecological relations and ecosystem dynamics. This traditional ecological knowledge is both expressed and transmitted through the local or indigenous language. When young people no longer learn the language of their ancestors, special knowledge is often lost, as it is not transferred into the dominant language that replaces it. This is often because the dominant language does not have the vocabulary for this special knowledge, or even because the very situations in which this kind of knowledge and its relevance for survival are learned do not occur in the dominant culture. Information on status and trends of numbers of speakers of indigenous languages may therefore be used as a proxy for measuring trends in the status of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. Therefore there is a dual relation between local languages and biodiversity, and biodiversity and local languages. It is also connected with their natural habitat, therefore less environment and nature wuold mean that these groups will have to move to urban places, get used to globalization, and therefore change their style-life, learn English, and forget their traditional languages. At the same time, humans will not use the local languages that means that the traditional knowledge linked to the flora fauna will be lost.

According to UNEP ( ),

Over 50% of the world’s languages are endangered: 1 language disappears on average every 2 weeks…

  • 96% are spoken by 4% of the world’s population;

  • 52% are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people;

  • 28% by fewer than 1,000;

  • 80% of African languages have no orthography.

It has been demonstrated that where you are losing cultural diversity, you are losing biodiversity, and vice versa:

  • there is a remarkable overlap between the global mappings of world's areas of biological ‘megadiversity’ and areas of high cultural and linguistic diversity;

  • of the 9 countries that together account for 60% of human languages, 6 of these centers of cultural diversity are also countries with exceptional numbers of unique plants and animal species.


When I've been told that, I found it of great interest, partly romantic. What do you think of it? Th!nk about it!



I would like to thank Iwona for this link, and teh EU for doing this amazing video...

it is simple and effective, as Jan said, and I completely agree with him!

Category: Environment | Tags:


  • Johan Knols on 27th July 2010:

    Hello Hussam,

    I completely fail to see the importance of biodiversity for local languages. Please enlighten me..

  • Hussam Hussein on 27th July 2010:

    Hi Johan,

    ok, I updated the post.. I hope it’s more clear now smile

  • Johan Knols on 27th July 2010:

    Thanks for the update. But I still miss the link between language and biodiversity. You state in your title that we have to preserve our biodiversity in order to save endangered languages. But languages disappear because of many reasons (like urbanization, as you mention) but not because species are dying out. Remember the long extinct Dodo? Well, he ain’t there anymore but the word is still alive and kicking. I agree that the loss of a language means a loss of knowledge. But I remain saying that a ‘horse’, een ‘paard’ (dutch) or ein ‘Pferd’(german) will always be a horse. Extinct or not, the word horse will never disappear. So unless I am missing something, I don’t see the connection between biodiversity and language(s).

  • Hussam Hussein on 27th July 2010:

    I got your point. But at the same time, if the habitat of an indigenous group disappear, they will have to move probably to a city, they will start to speak English (or Spanish, Portuguese, etc. depends on the geographic location), and they will slowly forget their traditional language. In this way, if we conserve biodiversity, local languages will be more likely not to disappear… you know what I mean?

  • Johan Knols on 27th July 2010:

    I see what you are trying to say and I agree that loss of habitat sends people into the city with all the consequences.

    But biodiversity is something different from a habitat.

    If the tiger gets wiped out, than this will not result in people leaving for cities. If a habitat like forests get cut down, yes, than people might leave for the city.

  • Hussam Hussein on 27th July 2010:


    at the series of conferences I had in Geneva with UNEP officials, I nuderstood that biodiversity is not simply the genertic diversity of speicies, but it is made by the 1)the genetic diversity, 2) the species diversity, and 3) the ecosystem diversity, that I called habitats:

    1.Genetic diversity is all the different genes contained in all the living species including individual plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms.

    2.Species diversity is all the different species, as well as the differences within and between different species.

    3.Ecosystem diversity is all the different habitats, biological communities and ecological processes, as well as variation within individual ecosystems.

  • Helena Goldon on 27th July 2010:

    very interesting discussion so I am subscribing to it in order to be updated - I would myself love to know the real definition of biodiversity!

    Apropos languages - contrary to popular beliefs, the language is extinct when there is only ONE NATIVE SPEAKER left, which means he has no other native speaker to talk to! (I studied languages and this fact fascinated me).

  • Johan Knols on 27th July 2010:


    I surrender! grin

  • Hussam Hussein on 27th July 2010:


    lol… I love discussing with you in a constructive way, like today. I hope to have the opportunity to meet you ni the next months, in order to discuss in real life… in the meantime, I’m looking forward, as always, to read your wonderful posts! smile


    thanks for the definition. However, I think we should not wait till there are a cuople of native speaker to intervene… raspberry We should prevent this to take place! smile

  • Larisa Rankovic on 27th July 2010:

    Even if there were no correlation between biodiversity and cultural diversity, in the sense that one may affect another, as you have explained that it does, it is very interesting that there is an evidenced overlap of natural diversity and cultural/linguistic diversity. Great

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 27th July 2010:

    Let me just share that here in the Philippines, there is an endangered language and only a few families remain who know how to speak it.

  • Jan Marcinek on 27th July 2010:

    Whait if I am deaf? There will be anyone who hear my opinion? Or will perform as well as deaf?

  • Hussam Hussein on 28th July 2010:

    @Iris: which language is it? Are there projects in order to try to save it as far as you know?
    @Jan: not sure I got your point… I guess that if you’re deaf and the others are not, if you speak to them they will be able to hear your opinion… but if also the otehrs are deaf, that would be a problem if you’ll try to communicate with them speaking, there may be some cummincational problems… but again, I’m not sure I got your point…

  • Jan Marcinek on 28th July 2010:

    @Hussam: If the others are deaf and I speak on them…

  • Hussam Hussein on 28th July 2010:

    @Jan: maybe Helena, who studied languages, could be able to answer your interesting question… What I could add, is that it would be better to act in advance in order to save this traditional knowledge and local languages, without waiting only for few when only few people speak it.

  • Helena Goldon on 28th July 2010:

    Jan, as far as I can remember wink there are different sign languanges for each language, is that right? Czech Sign Language, Ugandan Sign Language (I know there is one!) or Polish Sign Language…

    They are separate languages and the rule applies also to them.
    Many of my deaf friends use both Polish and Polish Sign Language. Now, it depends which was your NATIVE language - the first you learnt.

    So if your first was indeed Czech, not Czech Sign, and (supposedly) you were left with another Czech Language user the language is still alive! grin

  • Hussam Hussein on 28th July 2010:

    Thanks Helena… wink
    I noted you always speak about native speakers… however, if there are only two people speaking the language, and only one of them is native speaker while the other one has acquired a good level but is not a native speaker, what wouls it be the situation?

  • Helena Goldon on 28th July 2010:

    the situation would be lost, Hussam.
    Sorry, the condition cannot be changed, period.

  • Jan Marcinek on 28th July 2010:

    Helena: That’s right. Unfortunately, there is a different sign language in other countries. I first learned to speak, then sign language and then speak again. But my sign language is gone… :(

  • Hussam Hussein on 28th July 2010:

    Thanks Helena for the clarification.
    Jan, do you mean that you forgot it? Does it work like for the languages, that you have to practice regularly if you want to remember?

  • Jan Marcinek on 28th July 2010:

    I was five years old. I know basic of sign language, but i can’t communicate with other deaf people. Because I live between healthy people and they speaking in czech language on me.

  • Hussam Hussein on 29th July 2010:

    Thanks Helean and Jan, I didn’t know much about these issues we discussed, but now I started to understand them. Thx

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 03rd August 2010:

    just some inspiration!

  • Hussam Hussein on 03rd August 2010:

    thank Iwona… I loved it! Just posted it on my facebook profile smile

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 03rd August 2010:

    and this is EU, Ihavn’t noticed that, and they have so cool ads on fb…

  • Hussam Hussein on 03rd August 2010:

    that’s cool.. didn’t know it was from the EU Commission.. even better! smilewhat do you think guys of this video?
    It’s nice the music, and it’s nice because anyway, u don’t have to listen to understand it.
    @Jan: how did you like the video? I think it was penetrating, simple, and efficace!

  • Jan Marcinek on 04th August 2010:

    That is absolutely amazing video! I like it. Simply and effective. Thanks for it. I put it into my favorites.

  • Hussam Hussein on 04th August 2010:

    Thank you Iwona, and thank you Jan. I have updated this post niserting the video and the comment of Jan smile

    But how would YOU imagine a future with less species of trees, birds, and animals?
    Do you think we are already going to this future?
    Which differences do yo unotice in your daily life as far as biodiversity is concerned? Compare your own reality today with that of when you where 8 years old. Anything changed? Or more ni general your relation with the natural environment has changed? I am very interested in hearing your opinions, coming from different regions of the world.

  • Jan Marcinek on 04th August 2010:

    Oh, you mean this. Sorry. My vision is that some animals become extinct, and some evolve into something else. But for example: I live in Czech republic. There were two kinds of dangerous spiders. Now there is more than ten kinds. They come from southern countries. Same “problem” is with nature. We will have more problems with animals such as rats. Perhaps the plague come again?

  • Hussam Hussein on 05th August 2010:

    Thanks Jan for sharing with us your Czech experience.
    I think that the dangerous spiders probably came to Czech Republic because of the migrations induced by climate change. This is an otehr important aspect of its impacts. Of course, this could bring “problems” to the local populations not used to dangerous spiders, however it would give the opportunity to them to survive.
    Mitigation and adaptation to climate change would help the different species to adapt to climate change without migarting, or migrating to avoid extinction. But is there always a price that someone will have to pay, probably. What should be the relation in your opinion between the security of the populations and the survival/migration of dangerous animals? A similar problem is faced in the Alpine region because of teh bears… any idea? any other concrete example?
    Jan, for instance, what does the Czech population and the Czech media say about it?

  • Jan Marcinek on 05th August 2010:

    We will eliminate dangerous animals to other contries or kill them (maybe we adapt technique from southern countries). Maybe climate change eliminate them to north.
    This problem will by in nature, not cities. But in the cities will be more rats.
    Ordinary people in Czech republic saying: This is not our problem. This is problem of our government and other organisations. People in the Czech Republic have no interest :(

  • Hussam Hussein on 05th August 2010:

    Thanks Jan, this is really interesting. Also in Jordan it is difficult to raise awareness on the environmental issues. But what do you think you about that? Do you think that this is also YOUR problem, or in your opinion it is only a problem of your government or of other organizations?

    Yeah, I guess it is climate change that pushes animals to the north.
    But in your opinion dangerous animals should be killed or elimated?

  • Jan Marcinek on 05th August 2010:

    This is our problem, not just my. I live in city and have cottage in nature. I love it. I think that government (or something with power like celebrity) must help us. We must do something. Not waiting.

  • Hussam Hussein on 05th August 2010:

    Jan, I like when you say that this is a common problem. And that the government as well as “us” should not wait but that everyone should act and do something in order to help biodiversity smile

    I would like to know if any celebrity, as far as you know, did do anything in order to help the environment in Czech Rep.? Maybe concerts or any particular initiative?

  • Hussam Hussein on 05th August 2010:

    @ Mirko: glad that people from outside the community of Think3 read with interest my posts smile thanks for your interest in my posts!

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 05th August 2010:

    have you already discovered the facebook possibilities, that you can add tune as your friend and so one. From now on I will not eat tuna any more…

    another topic connected with biodiversity is our obsession about sterility. That we are so afraid of small fly or spider… and using all this sprays ect… I haven’t check yet how is it connected with MDG#7, but my intuition tells me that a lot…

  • Jan Marcinek on 06th August 2010:

    @Hussam I know just about czech Greenpeace. hmmm Last our charitative concert was for Haiti. And many celebrities like models (Tereza Maxova) have projects for help to people. Especially to kids.

  • Hussam Hussein on 06th August 2010:

    @Iwona: lol… so we can promote a campaign on: add the animals on facebook, and therefore don’t eat your facebook friends? wink lol
    Interesting point concerning the sprays about mosquitos.. how could it be connected in your opinion to the 7th MDG?

    @ Jan: interesting.. did many people participate in that concert? and what did you think about their involvement?

  • Jan Marcinek on 06th August 2010:

    @Hussam Many people go to concerts. But few of them realize it for what it is. Mainly want to see celebrities.

    I spoke with one man who founded a charity event. And he told me he was doing for the glory. There is much talk about him and he gets work through this. I could not believe my ears - Unbelievable!

  • Hussam Hussein on 08th August 2010:

    @Jan: I know what you mean. However, do you think it’s a bad thing to have these people not aware of the reasons of the concerts and there only to see the celebrities?
    Don’t u think it’s still a good thing because even if they are not aware of it, but they are doing a positive action? wink

  • Jan Marcinek on 09th August 2010:

    @Hussam: Maybe it’s good. But this should motivate people to further action.

  • Hussam Hussein on 10th August 2010:

    @Jan: yeah, I think that they should be motivated and aware of this, but still, even if they are not, they are contributing to a good goal. Which kind of further actions would you suggest?

    @Simon and everyone: that’ a very interesting question. I think that also Jordan is facing this problem indeed. For instance, loss of biodiversity means also a loss of the traditional habitats of the bedouins, who will have to move to the cities. For this reason, the desert and bedouin traditions will slightly disappear…

  • Jan Marcinek on 10th August 2010:

    @Hussam I suggest actions like Run for Paraple

    Active involvement of people in action. People will realize that others do not have it easy. And support it.

  • Hussam Hussein on 10th August 2010:

    @Jan: Thanks Jan for the link. Yep, I saw it before and I also think it is indeed a good intitiative. Last year in Amman we started the Amman Marathon, that goes in the same direction: make people involved through sport on public initiatives:
    How did your event go? Many people participated? And do you think that in the future these people will be more aware?

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 10th August 2010:

    wow, you’ve made a discation. coming back to the topic - I of course think that languauge and culture is very important but more important for me is freedom of speech (check my article Civil society in Belarus)

  • Hussam Hussein on 10th August 2010:

    Iwona, thanks for your comment. Actually, I don’t like to say that something is more important to something else. For instance, in Africa is it more important primary education or water wells? It could be said primary education, because only with education these people could have a future. However, the post of Ladislav it shows that without water children will be sent to bring water home from other villages, with no possibility to have a good primary education. Therefore preserve biodiversity to save local cultures and languages or invest on the freedom of speech? Both of them are indeed important, and I wouldn’t choose one instead of the other.

  • Jan Marcinek on 10th August 2010:

    I think this will help more than celebrity concerts. Because it gets into people’s subconscious and they talk about it with other people. Buzz…
    we have Marathon in Czech republic too. I like project Livestrong…

  • Hussam Hussein on 10th August 2010:

    Indeed Jan! Sport means a lot. And I would also add that marathon and sportiv initiatives are very important especially for youth. For instance I remember when I was in primary school, that every year our school used to organize kinda olympics for our school, including a small marathon. All the activities took place in a forest near by and lasted the whole day long, including a pick nick. It was miportant for us because every year we lived the nature, and felt better, also in relationship with the environment and the nature we live close to but that often we don’t know properly. So it was an occasion for environmetal awarenss raising as well as sport and socialization. What do you think? Any similar experience?

  • Johan Knols on 10th August 2010:

    @Hussam @Jan @Iwona

    Guys, I feel that I have to step in since nobody else does. The last comment that was made on this article and had to do with the topic of the post, was on the 28th of July. I would appreciate it if you go back to the original discussion (pick it up from the 28th), or stop the simple collecting of comments since it fills up my email in-box. I don’t mind receiving mails, but only if they are of added value.

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 11th August 2010:

    @Johan - To stop receiving notifications for this comment, click here:, if you havn’t done yet wink

    I feel ofened, you complain about us - think about it bloggers - that we use this platform insead of community platform for linking let’s say small things as the seperate post… so OK, I find something interesting and instead of putting it as a seperate post I put the link to the last post about the topic to let know people who are interested in MGD7 about it. That’s the way internet works.

  • Johan Knols on 11th August 2010:


    If ‘you know how the internet works’ than you also know that you get comments that might differ from the way you feel. It is not meant personal. Thanks for the link, as I forgot I could do that.

  • Iwona Frydryszak on 11th August 2010:

    @Johan - ofended was a wrong word, I more thought confused smileBy the way, I think that we miss still the discussion about rules here in the compatition and platform, so it’s good that you are some kind of guard here smile

  • Hussam Hussein on 11th August 2010:

    Guys, I’ve been away one day, didn’t think to find all this.. anyway, frankly speaking I think that the comments were relevant and connected somehow to the main topic, as Simon underlined. Johan, I had the same problem with other posts that received a huge number of comments, and I prefered simply to do as Iwona suggested.
    As Iwona said, it is interesting and important to share links, comments, etc. instead of only make new posts, I mean, concerning this post, for instance, Helena could have written her own post on the lost languages, Jan on celebrities and their involvement in these issues, etc., but they decided to make something more interactive, building ideas together with us, asking and answering our questions, our thoughts. I loved that, I personally enjoed very much not only writing this post, but in particular updating it and sharing with all my readers my thoughts, ideas, and comments.
    As Iwona said, this platform doesn’t have rigid and precise rules to be followed, and many bloggers complained at the beginning about that… however, I think that this freedom sometimes could be a plus, giving us the opportunity to explore more behind the rigid borders, not part of this platform.
    I hope that Johan, if not interested in our non-interesting discussion, will simply apply to not receive further notification. I would like to thank again the fellow bloggers that took part in this discussion and please, keep asking questions, make suggestions, and share your thoughts.

  • Mark Grassi on 16th August 2010:

    Thanks Hussam,

    Those are scary numbers and reading your post makes me want to know more about the links to language loss.. ironically I feltlike it was already happening in the concrete jungle of Brussels with the un-English jargon but I liked the Commission’s practical website as well!

    I went to a conference on TEEB, earlier this year that also attempts to put an economic value on biodiversity loss. Like you say, language diversity is romantic and some things have a greater than economic value though!

  • Hussam Hussein on 17th August 2010:

    @Mark: I think it depends on which area in Brussels you live in, whther you are in the EU bubble (then yes, you could have this feeling) or maybe in a truely “Belgian” area.. wink And yes, it’s not only about economics, culture and traditions would be difficult to quantify economically.

    @James: I think that what you say it is indeed interesting and important. Basically, it is what the post and the discussion is all about, and I totally agree with you. Thanks for reading the post smile

  • Hussam Hussein on 29th August 2010:

    Ben, glad that you liked it! It’s important to me to know that also people from outside the competition read my posts and that they find them interesting. smile

  • Hussam Hussein on 31st August 2010:

    Thanks James for the links smile

  • Hussam Hussein on 26th November 2010:

    Thanks Naveen for your contribution! smile

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