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How and why are indigenous people on the frontline of the climate crisis
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How and why are indigenous people on the frontline of the climate crisis


The climate crisis has a significant impact on the lives of indigenous peoples around the globe, even if it is related to violence.

Ogiek hunter Joseph Kipkemoi Lesingo, a member of an indigenous group hit hard by climate change - The Washington Post

© The Washington Post

Joseph Kipkemoi Lesingo (Ogiek hunter) is a member an indigenous group that has been hard hit by climate change

The Washington Post

Record number of activists are working to protect the environment, and land rights. murderedLast year.

Global Witness reported that 227 people were killed in 2020 around the globe, which is the highest number of deaths for a second consecutive calendar year.

The largest number of murders were attributed to environmental defenders from indigenous organizations, with violence most common in Central and South America. According to reports, almost a third of murders were linked to. resource exploitation– Logging, mining, large-scale agriculture, hydroelectric dams, and other infrastructure.

A senior campaigner for Global Witness, Chris Madden, said: “This dataset is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming. This must stop.”

Why are the indigenous people so affected?

According to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship, with the environment and its resources.

The problems created by climate change, such as land degradation and deforestation, exacerbate the difficulties already faced by indigenous communities – political and economic marginalisation, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination, and unemployment.

The survival of indigenous communities is at risk due to climate change.

The UN states that indigenous peoples are an integral part of the many ecosystems that live on their lands and territories. This may help increase resilience to these ecosystems.

Indigenous peoples also interpret and respond to climate change in innovative ways. They use traditional knowledge and other technologies, and find solutions that can help society cope with the coming changes.

For example, in Bangladesh, villagers are creating floating vegetable gardens to safeguard their livelihoods from flooding. In Vietnam communities are helping to plant mangroves along coastlines to diffuse the effects of tropical-storm waves.

Which indigenous peoples are most affected by climate change

All over the globe, communities are witnessing their livelihoods and health destroyed by flooding, drought, deforestation, and other calamities caused by environmental degradation.

More than 35 million people are estimated to live in the Amazon. This includes almost three million indigenous peoples representing over 350 groups. They have lived in the Amazon for millennia but face the destruction of their forest home due to illegal deforestation, habitat conversion, and the resulting fires.

Awapy Uru-eu-wau-wau, a cacique (chief) of the Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous people, heads up surveillance of the Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous land in Rondônia, Brazil, recording land invasions and illegal deforestation. His family has received death threats while trying to protect their home against armed invaders.

He said: “Nature is important to me because I was born in the jungle, I grew up in the jungle, and my father taught me how to deal with nature,” he says.

“Nature, for us, is the life of us indigenous peoples. Why? It gives pure oxygen, it gives natural food to us, hunting, fishing, native fruits of the jungle, medicine – so, it is important to us, because we live off the jungle.”

Another example is that of the Majhis, one the indigenous peoples in Nepal, Bodgaun village, Sindhupalchowk. They were severely affected by the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and as they attempted to rebuild their lives, were faced with many climate-related challenges.

Extreme drought and extreme rain are destroying their crops in a village where 85.5% earned their livelihood from agriculture and animal husbandry.

What actions are they taking to achieve this?

Many indigenous groups have found innovative solutions to the problems that they face.

Writing in Nature, Linda Etchart of the University of London, wrote: “Until the twenty-first century, indigenous peoples were viewed as victims of the Effects of climate change, rather than as Agents of environmental conservation.

“Representatives of indigenous peoples have in fact been actively seeking a role in contributing to combating climate change through their participation in international environmental conferences, as well as by means of activism and political engagement at local and national levels.”

One example is Hinduo Oumarou Ibrahim from Chad, who is an indigenous advocate and geographer, and was the founder of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) and cochair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change.

She told COP26 attendees: “We, indigenous peoples, have a PhD in reforestation and sustainable management of land.”

“In the Sahel, my people are the best architects of the Great Green Wall that avoids desertification and restores land degradation.

“We do this as a duty, not as a job. We use our Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge as a tool to protect nature. We don’t stand in front of you as a victim. No. Today, we stand as climate champions.”

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