Learning new stories to live by

Arran Stibbe, PhD, said the Philippines should protect its language diversity and its many traditional and indigenous cultures.

An ecolinguist and a professor in ecological linguistics at the University of Gloucestershire, UK, Stibbe said the country’s languages and cultures contain ecological wisdom.

Stibbe. Photo from Stibbe’s Facebook account

In the study Traditional Ecological Knowledge Versus Ecological Wisdom: Are They Dissimilar in Cultural Landscape Research? by Rosyi Damayanti T. Manningtyas and Katsunori Furuya, ecological wisdom is defined as “the best expertise of pure improvisation for and from ecological practice that enables a person or community to make not only ethical judgments, but also take circumspect action on ecological practices.” The study was published on the MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute) website, a scholarly, open-access publication, accessed on Jan. 24.

Ecological wisdom is important in constructing positive new stories for people to live by, in place of the current stories that Stibbe described as “stories of industrial civilization that are putting the planet on a path towards disaster.”

Stibbe’s presentation. Screenshot of the webinar

He mentioned that in the industrial civilization, the texts in newspapers, magazines, advertising, and even in economic textbooks influence culture.

“These texts have an influence on our culture,” Stibbe said. He further explained that the hidden messages in these texts “are implanted very deeply in our consciousness and influence how we think, how we talk, and how we act.”

He then posed the questions “Are these stories encouraging us to act in ways that create an equal and sustainable society? Or, are they negative stories which are encouraging us to consume too much and create an unfair society?”

Stibbe explained that to avoid the possibility of collapse, and avoid the grim projections for 2050 (i.e. world population to increase to 9.7 billion and tripled chemical pollution), the industrial, consumerist, economic growth-driven civilization must transform itself into a sustainable civilization.

Stibbe’s presentation. Screenshot of the webinar

Quoting Ben Okri, the Nigerian-born British poet and novelist, Stibbe said, “Why stories? Stories are the secret reservoir of values. Change the stories that individuals or nations live by and you change the individuals and nations themselves.”

According to Stibbe, ecological wisdom is embedded in languages and traditional cultures.

“In the Philippines, you have many traditional cultures and indigenous cultures, and within those cultures, there is a lot of ecological wisdom. So one of the things that ecolinguistics can do is first, protect the languages that are threatened because these contain traditional ecological wisdom,” he said.

Stibbe mentioned that traditional cultures respect the natural world around them.

Stibbe’s presentation. Screenshot of the webinar

Through these, people “can look to these cultures to find inspirational forms of language which we can tell new stories about who we are as humans and new stories about the way the world is, that could help us build a new ecological civilization,” he said.

He also explained that though protecting language diversity is important, so is revealing the positive stories “embedded in traditional Filipino culture and trying to make them available to people across the world to try, to make a difference, globally, to the ecological situation that we are in.”

Stibbes’ discussion on ecological wisdom, new positive stories to live by, and traditional languages and cultures were among other topics he touched in his lecture on ecolinguistics for the webinar, Linguistics 290: Current Trends in Linguistics, which was livestreamed on Jan. 12 at 4 p.m. over the UP Diliman Department of Linguistics Facebook page.