Guest Post by Altaire Cambata
Biodiversity loss involves the decline and extinction of species. It’s something that’s been happening since life first evolved on Earth. But today, extinction rates are hundreds or even thousands of times higher than the “natural” or “background” rate. Earth today is undergoing a sixth mass extinction – a loss of life on a par with the extinction of the dinosaurs (the fifth mass extinction in Earth’s history). This sixth mass extinction is entirely the result of human activities. Biodiversity loss today is essentially a human problem needing human solutions.
Izilwane is an organization dedicated to addressing biodiversity loss on the human side of the equation. It is an online multimedia platform that uses volunteer eco-reporters from around the globe. These intrepid writers, bloggers and videographers focus on helping non-experts see the connection between biodiversity loss and human ecology.
So how did Izilwane come about, and what does its name mean? The organization is the brainchild of Dr. Tara Lumpkin who co-founded Perception International in 2000. Perception International is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the concept that different perceptual modes are essential for the survival of the human species and, in turn, other species. Dr. Lumpkin coined the term “perceptual diversity” to define the role of perceptual constructs in the relationship of people with nature.
In 2009, Dr. Lumpkin traveled to South Africa to conduct fieldwork to develop models of how biodiversity protection “connects the human animal to the global ecosystem.” Her visit reinforced her notion developed over the years that our anthropocentric perception of nature is the root cause of our environmental crisis and biodiversity die-off. While in South Africa, Tara had the inspiration to use a multimedia platform to raise awareness of the Sixth Extinction and of its basis in our perceptions of the human place in the natural world.
Upon her return Dr. Lumpkin formed a nonprofit project called “Izilwane,” which means “animals” in Zulu. Izilwane takes an anthropological approach to biodiversity loss and develops creative, inclusive responses to the Sixth Extinction.
Izilwane has a simple mission: to raise awareness and to inspire the appreciation of all species on earth. It aims to achieve its mission through a confluence of articles, videos, interviews, photo essays, reflecting various international and perceptual perspectives. In essence, the organization addresses the pertinent question: Can humans avert the dire consequences of ignoring the role of nature in our collective wellbeing? The question is particularly apropos in an age dominated by a consumerist milieu and the overarching impacts of population growth.
Izilwane trains individuals from around the world to be “citizen reporters” who co-create eco-centric models of thinking and living, and who share their knowledge and experiences with a wider audience. The team of global reporters comprises students, post-docs, environmental activists, youth, professional journalists, and others who care about the environment. The multimedia platform provides the vehicle to drive home their messages. The platform provides a voice for storytelling about biodiversity. The stories reflect scientific as well as emotional responses to the Sixth Great Extinction – stories that are both local and global, sometimes academic, journalistic, or philosophical.
Recent articles include:
- Belonging to the Land – an insider’s view into the resilient lives of the Black Mesa Native American elders of Arizona
- Big City Conservation – an exploration into the surprisingly unique biodiversity of New York City
- A review of My Pantanal, a film by big cat conservation organization Panthera about jaguar populations and ranchers co-existing positively in Brazil.
Always on the lookout for contributors, Izilwane encourages people from all walks of life and from all around the globe to contribute content. Articles, blogging, photos, videos, and art work created by young contributors are all ways to tell the story of Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction. And maybe, just maybe, an article, video, picture or young person’s drawing will strike the chord that helps someone realize how their own perceptions dictate their choices and actions. In this way, Izilwane invites you to, to paraphrase the economist E. F. Schumacher, to do the right thing and to be part of the cure. To find out how you can participate in Izilwane, click here.
“We must do what we conceive to be right and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we’ll be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll do the wrong thing and we’ll be part of the disease and not part of the cure.” ~ E. F. Schumacher
Altaire Cambata is Writer and Blog Editor at Izilwane Online Magazine. She writes on themes of human ecology and biodiversity loss, and has contributed to National Geographic and Ecology.com. Altaire Cambata is currently earning her MA in Environment, Development, and Policy at the University of Sussex, England.