The Current

ENCORE | Anthropologist Wade Davis on disappearing world cultures

Wade Davis has spent more than a decade travelling the globe to visit the peoples, cultures, and languages, in danger of extinction. The anthropologist says the cultural life of our planet is under assault and deserves to be heard.

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For 13 years, Wade Davis had an enviable job.

He was an "explorer in residence" for National Geographic. As an anthropologist, it was his job to experience and document cultures that are in danger of disappearing.

A dugout canoe lies on a white-sand beach of the black-water Rio Piraparaná. (Wade Davis: Photographs, published by Douglas & McIntyre)

Davis tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti in October how the loss of languages around the world is the "canary in the coal mine" for culture as well.

 "Of the 7,000 languages spoken the day most of us were born, fully half aren't being whispered in the ears of infants. They're literally on the brink of extinction." 

Davis is also a writer, filmmaker and photographer and his book Wade Davis: Photographs features photos from 19 different regions of the world that he's visited. 

They tell the stories of the people and the culture from ancient ceremonies performed on the top of glaciers in Peru to painted faces in New Guinea to Inuit hunters on Baffin Island. 

'The Windhorse', Lapis Sky Camp, Bunkhan Valley, Arkhangai. (Wade Davis: Photographs, published by Douglas & McIntyre)

"Every culture has something to say." 

"There is no reason whatsoever to use the word primitive to describe any culture."

He says cultures are just different ways of interpreting the world and are not on a continuum from traditional to modern. 

"The whole question is what kind of world do we want to live in and how do we figure out a way as we transition forward in the march of history we can maintain the glory of diversity which is in a sense the poetry of life itself."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.