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Climate crisis – Global Times

Climate crisis – Global Times

Embera indigenous people wash clothes in a makeshift camp at a national park in Bogota, Colombia on February 7, 2022. Photo: AFP

Embera indigenous people wash clothes in a makeshift camp at a national park in Bogota, Colombia on February 7, 2022. Photo: AFP

On February 7, 2022 the Embera indigenous population washed their clothes at a camp in Bogota, Colombia. Photo by AFP

Long stereotyped as victims of climate change and indigenous peoples who have struggled for centuries to preserve their ancestral lands, ways of living, and land from destruction were finally recognized as important players in protecting precious environments. 

“In the face climatic economic and health disasters, reality forces us to recognize the knowledge of indigenous peoples and to establish a new relationship that respects them,” said Gregorio mirabal, the head of COICA, an indigenous organization. 

“We are not victims anymore, we are the solution!”

UN climate experts published a detailed report on Monday on the effects and adaptation of global warming. This report reinforced that message. 

It highlights the fact that many indigenous peoples, such as the Arctic’s, are at the forefront for global warming. Their communities and traditions are under threat by melting sea-ice and rising water levels.

It also highlights what these communities and their intimate understanding of nature – passed from generation to generation- can do to fight climate change and to limit its impacts. 

This is important because indigenous communities, which number less than half of a billion people around the world, steward land that contains 80 percent of Earth’s remaining biodiversity. 

These communities, from Siberia to the Amazon, have had to come up with strategies to deal with external challenges “for centuries” and have also developed strategies for adapting to changing environments that can be enriching and strengthening other adaptation efforts.

Colonialism is the main cause of their vulnerability that was acknowledged by the IPCC’s first report. 

Sherilee Harper from the University of Alberta, Canada said that “It’s a huge breakthrough.” She also added that this context is crucial in helping to understand the problems facing indigenous peoples and help to formulate solutions.   

Harper was one of the IPCC’s authors, which included indigenous contributors and peer-reviewers for the first.  

She told AFP previously that she had seen a tendency to cast them as victims due to climate change, without the agency acting.

Harper stated, “Of course that is not true.”


While indigenous groups are happy that the IPCC recognizes ancestral knowledge, they feel that more is needed to address the issue. 

Rodion Sulyandziga from the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change stated, “We must come up with an act-oriented strategy.” 

“We must combine all of our efforts. We can bring our indigenous knowledge to the table, not only in prevention but also in new technology.”

Sulyandziga, who represents Indigenous Udege Peoples of Russia, stated that it is crucial to leverage traditional knowledge to adapt to climate change. Udege refers to “forest people”.

He stated, “Without land, we cannot adapt.”  

IPCC scientists stress the importance “self-determination” as well as recognizing indigenous rights. 

The report contains thousands of pages and chapters that cover every region. It also includes numerous examples of adaptation practices that could be used to address the climate threats scientists have warned are already having a serious impact on the world. 

Indigenous communities know how fire is fought. This means that they burn specific plots at certain times of the year in order to stop blazes from spreading later. 

IPCC experts also note the importance of diversification of crops. This is evident in the agroforestry system of Kichwas from Ecuador, which grows food crops and medicinal plants beneath the canopy of Amazon Rainforest. 

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Or, you can use traditional knowledge from Fiji to identify endemic species of plants that can help reduce coastal erosion. 

Harper stated that everyone can benefit from this wisdom once people, especially those in the West, let go of their “arrogance.” 

Mirabal of COICA stated, “We have known for thousands of years that there is balance and inequality; it is our home. We recognize the limits.” 

“Our connection with mother nature allows for us to take care what really matters, water, earth, and life.”

However, the IPCC warned that adaptation is difficult given the magnitude of climate change impacts. 

While some communities may need to leave their homes, others have witnessed climate change transform the land around and make familiar things seem new. 

As seen in the Arctic Inuit communities, where warming is faster that anywhere else on Earth and once reliable snow and sea ice are now fragile.  

Ashlee Cunsolo was another author on the IPCC report. She said that colonialists inflicted terrible injury over generations, from the erosion of culture and language to forced relocation.  

Cunsolo stated that people had “finally entered into the period of indigenous self-determination.” They were “reclaiming culture and lands.” 

“And then comes climate change.”


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