Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Aug18

Cumulative Impacts are Global

Rising sea levels are threatening the disappearance of Kiribati, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and other small island nations where Indigenous Peoples “currently have their own, sovereign states.” Residents of these nations are being told to “prepare to flee at some point” and questions surrounding the potential influx of “climate refugees” are being debated in Fiji, New Zealand, and other neighboring countries.page3image15784 page3image15944 page3image16104

The UN Global Compact recently hosted a webinar on how companies can address cumulative impacts, which are defined as impacts “on an individual or a community that are the result of the combined actions of several actors.” Cumulative impacts are an emerging concept, typically referred to in the local or regional sense. Yet cumulative impacts in the global sense also warrant attention from companies, with climate change being the most significant. Because of their economic and cultural relationships with lands and natural resources, Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately affected by rising sea levels, shifting weather patterns, and other symptoms of climate change.

Sources: Intercontinental Cry

Jul26

“What Others Call Adapting, We Call Living” – The Coastal Gullah/Geechee People Face Climate Change

By Allie Goldstein and Kirsten Howard, reposted from Cultural Survival

The Gullah/Geechee people, descendants of enslaved Africans captured in Angola and other parts of the Western Seaboard of Africa who now stretch from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, do not have a word for “adaptation” or “resiliency” in their Creole language. And yet, as Queen Quet, the elected head-of-state for the Gullah/Geechee, explains, the Gullah/Geechee are an incredibly resilient people: they maintained their culture through slavery and today continue traditional farming practices on family compounds.

“What we understand, or overstand as I like to say—that’s what others call adapting,” Queen Quet said. “We call it living.”

Spanish moss hangs on the trees on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina.Spanish moss hangs on the trees on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina.

We spent the day with Queen Quet on Saint Helena Island, where the only contiguous population of Gullah/Geechee people live. The area is called ‘low country’ since it is technically below sea level. When the moon is full and the tide is high, the water often comes up level with the road.

Sea level rise and drought are the major climate change problems that will affect the Gullah/Geechee people, Queen Quet told us. Recorded sea levels at a tidal station in Charleston show over a foot of sea level rise in the last century, and the rate of sea level rise is expected to accelerate as global temperature continues to rise and large ice sheets such as those over Greenland melt. Climate Central projects another 13 inches of sea level rise in South Carolina by 2050. (View their interactive map here.) As for drought, the EPA cites data from the United States Global Change Research Program that annual average temperatures in the Southeast U.S. are projected to increase by between 4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2080, and rainfall is expected to come in heavier bursts, with longer dry periods between storms.

 

Sea level rise on Saint Helena Island is disturbing coastal ecosystems like this 'maritime forest.'

Sea level rise on Saint Helena Island is disturbing coastal ecosystems like this maritime forest.

Queen Quet created a buzz when she attended the National Adaptation Forum last April in Denver, Colorado and presented on “Community Equity in Adaptation and Disaster Preparedness” with a similar combination of song, seriousness, and sass as in her speech above. The Queen’s charisma and drive has opened doors for her to represent the Gullah/Geechee at the United Nations Minority Forum, the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities (IHRAAM), and theInternational Human Rights Commission. She travels about a third of

Queen Quet stood in the root structure of a tree to show the severity of tidal erosion. "We watch the ground move every day," she said.Queen Quet stood in the root structure of a tree to show the severity of tidal erosion. “We watch the ground move every day,” she said.

Back at home, Queen Quet is also busy. On our tour of Saint Helena, she described the “domino effect” of climate impacts for the Gullah/Geechee, whose lives and livelihoods are connected to their land and waterways: “If there’s drought, then we’re going to have more shellfish bed closures, and we don’t have the oysters growing as well as they would have. If the oysters aren’t there, we don’t have the buffer for the spartina grass. If we don’t have the spartina grass in the buffer, we don’t have the maritime forest. And if we don’t have the maritime forest, then we have no roots to hold sand in place, and then we don’t have the Sea Islands.”

The first Gullah/Geechee people brought to the Carolinas were blacksmiths from Angola whose metal-working skills were in high demand. Their tools allowed the land to be cleared and turned into plantations that grew Carolina Gold rice, Sea Island cotton, and indigo—the enslaved Africans themselves were called ‘black gold.’ After the Civil War, the then-government confiscated the land and the Gullah/Geechee had to buy back the properties they were once enslaved on.

Queen Quet lives on a family compound where her relatives have been farming for generations.

Queen Quet lives on a family compound where her relatives have been farming for generations.

Today, the Gullah/Geechee are working to protect Saint Helena from the coastal development that has overrun nearby islands like Hilton Head. In 1999, Beaufort County passed an ordinance that created a Cultural Protection Overlay (CPO) District. The ordinance preserves historical and archaeological sites and disallows gated communities, resorts, and golf courses on Saint Helena.

Coastal development is a bit of a foreign concept to the Gullah/Geechee. Queen Quet explained that her African ancestors built their villages inland; going to the water was an important part of their culture.

“Water for us is not about recreation. It’s about spirituality. We don’t see it as a place to play; we regard it as a sacred ground,” Queen Quet said. “So you don’t see us building a house right on the water, unless that’s the last piece of land a family has.”

As a Cultural Protection Overlay District, developers cannot build gated communities, resorts, or golf courses on Saint Helena. The Gullah/Geechee live in what today's planners call "open space," Queen Quet said.

The Gullah/Geechee might seem like a ‘traditional’ culture. Queen Quet still lives on a 10-acre family compound where generations of her relatives have farmed cabbage, watermelon, tomatoes, and cantaloupe on a shared plot. In terms of development, though, the Gullah/Geechee may actually offer a glimpse into the future—a future in which seaside hotels are no longer feasible, and people go to the water again, rather than erecting buildings inches from it.

Through the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) program, oyster beds are being restored on the coast.

Queen Quet is acutely aware of what is lost as coastal land is built up: “Others call it development. I call it deconstructionment,” she said. “You just can’t have a Starbucks on the marsh.”

The Queen is involved in a different kind of development: rebuilding the oyster beds on Saint Helena through the South Carolina Oyster Restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) project. The Ace Basin Living Shoreline project seeks to reestablish the oyster beds that provide storm protection to Saint Helena, as well as fisheries. Through the project, oyster shells collected in biodegradable bags are placed along the shoreline to provide new habitat. Once a front line of oysters is established, the spartina grass can fill in behind it, recreating the maritime forest that once thrived.

Some people look at highly developed areas in coastal South Carolina and assume it is too late for communities to tune themselves to the limitations of natural systems—including a harsher future climate. Queen Quet said that in some places, ‘reclamation’ will mean taking buildings down. She sees an inherent impermanence in seemingly permanent structures. There is a proverb in the Gullah language that says: Da wata bring we. Da wata gwine tek we bak. So Queen Quet doesn’t agree with the ‘it’s too far gone’ attitude when it comes to coastal development.

“We have time right now to try to balance things as much as we can,” she said.

 

Jun27

3 Reasons You Need to Support Indigenous Peoples, Even If You Are Not Indigenous

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Look, we get it – everybody has an issue that they care strongly about. For us, that issue is the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. For you, it may be something different. You may even be of the mindset that if you are not Indigenous, then you have no reason to be concerned with Indigenous issues. But we strongly believe that the values and beliefs of Indigenous Peoples can be effectively applied to a wide range of modern-day concerns. Here are the top three reasons to support Indigenous Peoples even if you are not Indigenous.

1. Sustainable food practices

A study out of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment at McGill University sums it up: “Food relates to social needs and local economy. Indigenous peoples have their own unique perspectives on the relationships between environment and culture, and food, well-being and health in many dimensions. This knowledge is precious to them. It also has many lessons for industrialized nations and populations. There is a clear imperative to protect unique food resources and their diversity. There are 300-500 million indigenous peoples in more than 70 countries around the world, representing over 5,000 languages and cultures on every continent, and each cultural food system may contain up to 250 species of traditional food alone (among additional bioresources for medicines and life ways). This knowledge base is a treasure worthy of global attention and protection.” Yes – your trendy new tea or super-fruit of the month was most likely discovered by Indigenous Peoples long before they hit your grocery store shelf. Indigenous food systems tend to be healthy, locally-based, and sustainable, meaning they are better for the economy, the environment, and for you. Indigenous agriculture is designed to work with the environment, creating crops that are more resistant to drought and blight and that provide the proper nutrients and health needs for a particular community. Unfortunately, Indigenous food practices are often overlooked and disregarded in favor of big economy-based food production – food that is grown with pesticides, packaged, and shipped to far-away markets. This food is less healthy, more experience, and harmful to the environment. As a result, Indigenous communities that are forced to try to compete on the market are subject to poverty and malnutrition. To learn more about threats to Indigenous food and water security, watch First Peoples’ production “Now We Are Hungry” and check out our new Native Abundance initiative.

2. Climate Change

Because Indigenous Peoples’ livelihoods depend on a close relationship with their environment, they are among the first to be affected by climate change. Rising temperatures have a variety of negative effects – warmer waters drive fish deeper into lakes and rivers, making fishing more difficult, pests flourish as they are not killed off by cold weather, and growing and blooming cycles are thrown off, often making for sickly harvests and shorter harvesting seasons. Though felt acutely now in Indigenous communities, these food-related issues will no doubt be felt by the entire population soon if things do not change drastically (our breakfast foods are already in danger!), along with other climate-change induced ills such as heavy flooding, drought, and severe storms. Whereas most urban societies are still in the state of pretending climate change isn’t actually going to affect us, while occasionally recycling some soda bottles to feel better about ourselves, Indigenous Peoples are responding to climate change with real, direct efforts. For example, the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) is using a “methodology of community-led self-reflection, evaluation, and future-visioning based on local world views and traditional knowledge to develop a community-based climate change adaptation plan.” SnowChange, a Finland-based initiative with projects in New Zealand, Canada, Russia, and Australia, takes a similar approach, mitigating the effects of climate change through specific regulations on hunting, fishing, and agriculture that emphasize a subsistence-based approach. As founder Tero Mustonen says, “It is time to say goodbye to some things we’ll never see again,” referring to traditional practices that are dying out due to the changing environment. “But it is also time to build new knowledge. And this knowledge can only emerge through keeping strong connections with the traditional territory. We must be there on the land as it is changing, so that we can change with it.” Such a direct, realistic, and holistic approach is the only way to ensure that the world’s populations can handle the imminent effects of climate change. For further reading, check out National Geographic’s “Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples” blog as well as First Peoples’ video “Indigenous Peoples’ Stories of Climate Change.”

3. Conservation

Indigenous Peoples are the original conservationists. Living in close harmony with nature since time immemorial, they’ve developed an intimate system of knowledge regarding their land and local animals, and are keenly in tune with the intricate relationship between human, animal, and plant that allows an ecosystem to flourish. Think about it – if Indigenous Peoples did not lead sustainable, respectful lives  within their environment, they would have no source for food, water, or shelter. Many modern conservationists have overlooked this relationship. Though meaning well and intending to protect earth’s amazing landscapes and wildlife, the insistence on creating human-free conservation reserves and parks has meant that upwards of 20 million Indigenous have become so-called “conservation refugees.” Their forced eviction not only disrupts the balance of life in the new parks, but also drains urban areas that must now accommodate entire villages who have lost their traditional sources of food and shelter. Additionally, many Indigenous communities that are allowed to stay on or near their traditional land face severe hunting, fishing, and agricultural restrictions once the land is deemed a reserve or park. This not only results in starvation and poverty for the people, but allows certain animal species to grow unchecked, unbalancing the ecosystem. Indigenous Peoples need to be supported and given the capacity and autonomy needed to make decisions for their own land; studies have show that doing so will result in healthy, well-maintained, and balanced forests, plains, and marine areas. The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre has produced a comprehensive and informative toolkit for supporting conservation by Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

So next time you read about Indigenous People fighting for their land, food and way of life, don’t turn a blind eye – realize they are not just fighting for their communities, but for everyone.

 

Apr24

Maple Syrup Threatened by Climate Change

By Britnae Purdy

Ojibwa woman gathers maple syrup

Enjoy your morning pancakes with maple syrup? Thank the Native Americans. Legend holds that Woksis, an Iroquois chief, had a habit of slashing his knife into a tree each night after a day of hunting. One warm morning he pulled his knife from the tree and was surprised to find sap dripping out. His wife, not wanting to make a trip to the stream, collected the watery sap in a pail to cook dinner with later that night. The meat came out sweet and delicious, and Woksis began collecting maple sap every night for his meals.

Regardless of how sap was actually discovered, it is a fact that the Native Americans of New England and Canada had been collecting maple sap and processing it into syrup long before colonization. After collecting the sap in hollowed-out logs, they would insert white-hot field stones to bring the sap to a boil. They would either cool the sap at this point to make syrup, or continue to process it until the sap crystallized into maple sugar, which would not spoil and could be easily used to flavor dishes or as a quick source of energy.

When European settlers arrived, the Iroquois traded maple sugar with them and eventually taught them the sugaring process. The settlers added their own techniques to the process, and sap collection quickly became  standard practice for households across New England and Canada.

Unfortunately, this Native tradition, and maple syrup for your pancakes, may become extinct due to climate change. Atypically warm weather is disrupting the trees natural process for making sap. Maple trees produce the best sap on cool days preceded by freezing nights – the cold weather causes the sap in the tree to freeze, creating a low-pressure vacuum that draws more sap up from the roots. When temperatures rise the next day, the sap melts and oozes through the tree, making for easy collection.

When temperatures stay abnormally warm, as they have been lately, this process does not occur. Additionally, the warm weather causes the trees to begin to bud. The hormones that trigger budding also decrease the sap’s sugar content and spoil its taste. This means that it takes much larger quantities of sap to boil down to a gallon of syrup. Furthermore, warmer weather caused by climate change allows pests to prosper, killing young maple trees before they are able to reach maturity – trees must be 40-50 years old to produce the best quality of sap. Acid rain has also become a constant stressor on the trees.

Tappers who invest in expensive, modern vacuum systems are still collecting a decent amount of sap from their trees, but hobbyists, artisanal tappers, and communities who adhere to the traditional practices are suffering. The tapping season, which typically spans a month, is shortening to one or two weeks, and tappers are being forced to begin the process earlier and earlier in the year.

The trees are also fed up with climate change. In a phenomenon known as tree migration, maple trees are moving further north and up mountain slopes– a study by UVM ecologist Brian Beckage found that tree species in Vermont have shifted 90 meters since 1964, seeking colder climates. Maine, Wisconsin, Vermont, and New York, which combined produce 80 percent of the United States’ maple syrup, will lose production to Canada. Quebec currently taps one-third of their trees and produces 5.35 million barrels a year, 70 percent of the global supply.

Climate change experts predict that the maple sugaring industry could be wiped out by 2100, destroying a $65 million business and taking with it centuries of agricultural practices rooted in traditional indigenous knowledge.

Are you Indigenous or interested in Indigenous issues? Join us for Proud To Be Indigenous Week in May. Learn more at: http://bit.ly/X3UeOG

(Photo: Ojibwa woman gathers maple sap circa late 1800s to make maple syrup and sugar. From Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, http://minnetonkascenes.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html)

Feb25

Movements of Survival: A Conversation with Rebecca Adamson & Bill McKibben about Idle No More & 350.org

by Dan Morrison

Idle No More
A few years ago, I wrote a piece titled, The Art of Slacktivism about how young people were Tweeting and Facebooking away from their dorm rooms and sofas to support causes they believed in. Millions donated $10 to relief efforts in Haiti from their cell phones and then went on with the rest of their lives feeling as if they changed the world. Slacktivism seemed a perfect philanthropic transaction for the ADHD-riddled 21st century – fast, convenient and cheap.

Then all of a sudden people filled the streets Tunisia and a dictator fell. Wael Ghonim, a Google employee in Egypt, started a Facebook page that rallied Egyptians to oppose the now fallen Hosni Mubarak regime. The Arab Spring spread and dictators tumbled in Libya and Yemen, and uprisings and protests continue throughout the region.

The United States wasn’t immune. On September 17, 2011, people emerged from behind their laptops and mobile phones and marched on Wall Street to protest corporate greed in the wake of the economic meltdown. Occupy Wall Street soon became Occupy Chicago, Boston, Portland and spread across the world.

These people were not “slacktivists” but activists, revolutionaries and heros. Social media was finally living up to expectations – inspiring people online to take offline action.

But two of the biggest movements may be yet to come.

The first is Idle No More, a movement that caught many by surprise. What began with four indigenous women protesting Bill C 45 for violating Canada’s Indian Act became a movement of Indigenous People circle dancing in the streets across Canada, blockading rail lines, and hunger striking to speak with the Prime Minister and Governor General. By using the Twitter hashtag #IdleNoMore, the movement spread across North America and the world. It came to represent Indigenous Peoples fight for self-determination, cultural respect and a healthy environment for all. It is as powerful as it was spontaneous.

350.org‘s climate movement is different. It was a planned, concerted effort by environmentalist Bill McKibben and his students. They have worked hard over the last few years to build up a following of people concerned about climate change and asking them to act. 350 has mobilized its followers to petition the US Congress to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, “Connect the Dots” by sharing photos of the impact of climate change on social media, “Do The Math” and pressure universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and most recently to take to the streets in Washington, DC and pressure President Obama to act in climate change. 350.org is no less grassroots, but it has a center from which it coordinates its efforts.

With Idle No More and 350.org dominating the headlines (at least of Huffington Post), I had the chance to interview Rebecca Adamson, an indigenous leader and founder of First Peoples Worldwide, and Bill McKibben, environmentalists and co-founder of 350.org, to find out what makes a movement and what the future holds for Idle No More and the Climate Change movements.

 Rebecca: All we hear about today is that a new exciting movement has started, only to find out that it is a repackaging of something old. What is a movement in your mind and what makes Idle No More and the Climate Change movement any different?

Movements originate from a genuine community concern. Authentic members of society, not our leaders, stand up and take it upon themselves to come together and address an issue. The origins tend to be spontaneous. They don’t come out of academies, businesses, or institutions, which manage the status quo. Movements come out of us, the People, who want to affect change. In that sense, Idle No More is right on. Over the years, the environmental movement has become stale and institutionalized, but 350.org is breathing new life into it so it can become relevant again and regain itself as a Peoples movement.

 Bill, you wrote The End of Nature in 1989. What role have indigenous people played in the environmental movement and what role are they playing in 350 today?

The first thing to say is, 350.org is rooted in place in every country on earth but North Korea–and in most of those places indigenous people are at the forefront. That’s true from the Andes to the forests of India, and from northern Scandinavia to the boreal forests of Canada. Some of our closest allies in the fight against the tarsands–the people who really started the Keystone XL Pipeline fight–come from the Indigenous Environmental Network. The first person I ever heard about the tarsands in depth from was Melina Laboucan-Massimo and her great colleagues in the White Buffalo area.

Rebecca, you have been an activist for indigenous rights since the 1970s. Why is the Idle No More movement important?

Idle No More is important because it is a genuine movement. It is unique because for the first time in our history as indigenous peoples, members of non-indigenous society are joining us in mass. Peoples like Bill have joined us are waking the public up to the issue of not only climate change, but a peoples’ right to self-determination. Bill tied our movement into a global audience. Indigenous rights and climate change have always been reported on as two separate issues. Now, peoples are seeing them as parts of a larger global issue and movement.

But it is important to remember that Idle No More is not new movement. It is the latest manifestation of our Indigenous Peoples movement that we have been fighting for hundreds of years. It is human kind’s movement that fights for what every human being wants – the right to determine their own destiny and make a better world their children. 

Bill, when did you know that the 350 climate movement was taking off? Did you have a plan or did it just happen?

We had a plan, but we didn’t know it would work. We started with myself and seven undergraduates–since there are seven continents, each one took one and we went to work. And somehow a year later we pulled off a global day of action with 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called ‘the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.’ I think it’s because there was such unrealized demand for climate action

 Bill, you mentioned in a recent Huffington Post piece that indigenous people control the lands where much of the fossils fuels are in Canda and that, “The choices that Native people make over the next few years will be crucial to the planet’s future.” What if they choose to exploit the fossil fuels to pay for the development they often need so badly?

Well, if they do, the carbon will have the same effect as if the Koch Brothers pour it into the atmosphere. The good news is these lands are also the prime sources of sun, wind, and geothermal power in the continent.

Rebecca, a critical tenet of First Peoples is to strengthen the voice of native people and ensure they have self-determination and decision making power. An indigenous community may decide developing fossil fuels on their land is their right and the best thing for their people. Bill has a clear point of view that we must keep the fossil fuels in the ground if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change. How do you deal with this dilemma?

All of us want the right to decide their own destiny and that of our children. However, decisions about access to clean water, food security, and the allocation of resources are being made by a small, elitist group. This should concern ALL of us. Who doesn’t want a say in what happens in their neighborhood? On indigenous lands, companies and governments are stripping away our assets, polluting our waters, and selling our land to the highest bidder. Which is why for us, Indigenous Peoples, the issue is the right to self-determination. Idle No More is first a movement to ensure Indigenous Peoples have the right to decide for themselves, which is why it is spreading so rapidly from Canada to around the world.

Indigenous Peoples are the miner’s canary in a development process gone haywire. Indigenous Peoples have a sense of enoughness and equitable distribution. But development takes all of our land, water, food and other life supporting assets away and sends them up market to make iPhones and Big Macs for the consumer society. If we are stripped of our life-sustaining assets, there is not much else we can do but profit from the oil beneath our feet so we can survive.

Personally I feel and intrinsic affinity for the land. It heals me. It sustains me and I am obligated to sustain it. The Indigenous paradigm for conservation is one of protection-production and production-protection. You take care of your place because it produces for you. And it produces for you because you take care of it. Not every indigenous person acts in this way, but I strongly believe that ensuring the right of self-governance for Indigenous Peoples will bring about new, sustainable ways to live in harmony with Mother Earth.

In order to do what Bill is saying, we have to come up with a radical new way on how to distribute benefits and wealth equitably. But the fix is not having indigenous peoples be over-romanticized tree-huggers. Bill and I both agree that the reality of climate change is that if we don’t fix it, we are all going to die. 

Bill, How does 350.org work with and support other movements like Idle No More? How do you ensure there is not competition?

We’re not really an organization, we’re more like a campaign. We try to just set up ways for everyone to play together. And we always pay attention to great leaders–like, say, Clayton Thomas-Muller who is one of my absolute favorite allies. Or Tom Goldtooth, or Reuben George, or Bill Erasmus, or Melina Loubacon-Massimo, or any of the other great indigenous leaders we get to work with. There’s no group of people I’ve learned more from.

To learn more about First Peoples Worldwide and 350.org, visit www.FirstPeoples.org and www.350.org.

Dec10

International Terra Madre Day: A Celebration of Local Food

December 10, 2012 marks the fourth annual International Terra Madre Day, a day to celebrate local food and honor the communities that produce them. The holiday was created by Slow Food International, a grassroots movement that connects communities with the food they eat through the promotion and preservation of local and sustainable food systems.

To celebrate Terra Madre Day, communities around the world are hosting events and activities to celebrate the uniqueness of their food systems.  In the Czech Republic, Moravian chefs are hosting a workshop to teach participants three different methods of cooking carp, a freshwater fish with strong cultural ties to the country. In Mali, local chefs are teaching children the near-forgotten recipe for sinasaar, a traditional crepe prepared for weddings, religious festivals, and other important occasions.  In Rwanda, community members organized a workshop in an elementary school to teach children traditional methods of churning butter and cheese. Several of these events will raise money for Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project, aimed at funding community gardens in cities and villages in 25 African countries.

First Peoples Worldwide has launched Native Abundance, an initiative that will fund food-related projects organized and orchestrated by Indigenous Peoples around the world.  Native Abundance will aim to help Indigenous Peoples improve food security, increase incomes, and protect the environment through strengthening Indigenous practices in communities around the globe.

A community garden in Uganda, part of Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project (Source: Slow Food)

Stay tuned for more information about Native Abundance!

Dec05

Indigenous Representation at COP18 Climate Summit

by Altaire Cambata

The 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) opened on Monday, November 26th in Doha, Qatar. The annual United Nations climate summit has attracted swarms of politicians, bureaucrats, business people, environmentalists, and NGOs to discuss policy implications surrounding the possibility of a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature.

Temperature rise will have devastating impacts on groups that live most directly and intimately with the land first. The cruel irony is that these groups often experience socio-economic inequity and have little to no carbon footprint. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and winner of the 2007 Nobel peace prize, has declared, “By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people [in Africa] are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change … As global average temperature increase exceeds 3.5ºC, model projections suggest significant extinctions ranging from 40 percent to 70 percent of species assessed around the globe.”

Unfortunately, Indigenous groups have often been under represented at COPs and other conferences. Hindou Oumar, coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples of Africa, who stated, “If the present is not safe then there is no point in talking about the future. We need money [to combat climate change] now.” These sentiments were echoed by the African Group of Negotiators, headed by Swaziland, with particular emphasis on the lives and livelihoods of farmers.

Cambodia is also seeking climate justice for Indigenous Peoples and other populations that make up the country’s poor; 50 percent of Cambodia’s people live on less than USD $2 per day. Last year, Cambodia experienced its worst flooding in many decades. The flood affected over 1.5 million people, killed 250, inundated 400,000 hectares of cultivated land, and caused estimated losses of USD $520 million. Chhith Sam Ath, the executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia and Ung Soeun, the coordinator of the NGO Environment and Climate Change Alliance, are attending COP18 with the following mission:

Developed countries should pledge to cut their emission by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 in order to ensure the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Developed countries should also make further cuts immediately, not waiting until 2020. Adaptation is a key priority for Cambodia and all developing countries. The people of Cambodia, including farmers, women, indigenous people, and other affected groups should be compensated for the negative impacts of climate change and for lost opportunities for development.

Representatives of Indigenous groups across nine Amazonian countries are also present, as well as COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organization of Amazon River Basin), to ensure that the rights and land claims of Indigenous Peoples are recognized and included in carbon offset schemes that protect the Amazonian rainforest. Unfortunately, REDD and other carbon-trading mechanisms have developed reputations for displacing forest peoples or fining them for using the forest for subsistence activities.

Potential policy outcomes from Doha are viewed with skepticism and pessimism due to historical inaction and reluctance to cut emissions from key nations, and a lack of adequate adaptation funds for least-developed countries.

Even if Doha fails to yield binding action on climate change mitigation and emissions cuts, Indigenous Peoples around the world continue to take action from the bottom-up, for their rights, their land, and their future generations.

Dec03

Indigenous Pakistanis feel the Impacts of Climate Change

by Rachel Martin

The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), the Pakistan Institute of Labour and Education Research, and the National Council for Environmental Journalists organized a seminar titled “Climate change: Impacts on Livelihood, Marine and Coastal Resources” as part of the Week of Action for Climate Justice in Karachi.

According to this article in The Nation, Indigenous Peoples are suffering from a loss of traditional income thanks to rising pollution levels and reduced fish populations they depend upon to survive. The decrease in marine life and rising pollution levels have led to a decrease in traditional sources of income for these communities.

Speakers, including Syed Baloch, General Secretary of the PFF, and Nadia Bajwa of the World Wildlife Fund of Pakistan (WWF), talked about how Indigenous Peoples are increasingly vulnerable to hunger, poverty, and flooding disasters as a result of climate change.  According to Syed Baloch, “we [Pakistan] do not have serious efforts to initiate adaptation measures with the involvement of communities.”

In other words, Pakistan’s government has yet to rise to the challenge of adapting to the impacts that climate changes brings, such as natural disasters and environmental damage that have a direct impact on the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. According to Baloch, the government has designed policy to address changes made by climate change, but this policy has yet to be implemented.

To address these problems, Nadia Bajwa of WWF Pakistan says that “we are working to have scientific and sociological feedback from various sectors, including indigenous people living in the target areas. We are also working on trans boundary issues related to Pakistan and India.”

Supporters of the Pakistani Fisherfolk Forum rally in Karachi (source: One Pakistan)

Why are Indigenous People impacted so dramatically by climate change? What policies do you think governments could make to help protect them?

Nov22

Maya Debunk “Doomsday” Myth

By Nick Pelosi

In May 2012, a Reuters survey found that 10 percent of respondents believe rumors that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012.  According to this article by Jaweed Kaleem in the Huffington Post, Mayan leaders and scientists are calling for an end to these rumors due to their factual inaccuracy, and are accusing governments and industry groups of exploiting Mayan culture for financial gain.

In Guatemala, where Mayans comprise about 50 percent of the population, the Ministry of Culture is hosting a doomsday celebration in Guatemala City on December 21, that is expected to be attended by 90,000 people, and one tourism company is selling tickets for a doomsday themed bike tour of Central America during the month of December.

Felipe Gomez, leader of the Mayan alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop, called on the Ministry of Culture to rethink the doomsday celebration, stating “we are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles.”

Carlos Barrios, a Mayan elder and priest, initiated an investigation of different Mayan calendars and conducted interviews with nearly 600 Mayan elders.  The investigation found that according to Mayan belief, the date marks the first time in 26,000 years that the sun will rise in intersection with the galactic equator, forming a cosmic cross considered to represent the Tree of Life – a symbol common in spiritual traditions throughout the world.  This indicates the transition between the World of the Fourth Sun and the World of the Fifth Sun.  December 21, 2012 will not mark the end of the world, only the end of a calendar cycle and the start of a new one.  According to Barrios, “humanity will continue, but in a different way. Material structures will change. From this we will have the opportunity to be more human.  We are living in the most important era of the Mayan calendars and prophecies. All the prophecies of the world, all the traditions are converging now. There is no time for games. The spiritual ideal of this era is action.”

Rebecca Storey, an anthropologist at the University of Houston who specializes in Mesoamerican cultures, stated “most of the Maya scholars think (the doomsday prediction) comes from the Christian West, where the whole idea of doomsday and apocalypse is an important part of Christianity.  It’s mostly outsiders that have made that link that somehow the end of a time cycle can be a time of destruction.”

While there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the doomsday rumors, scientists examining rainfall patterns in caves have identified correlations between the rise and fall of Mayan civilization and climate change.  According to research published in Science Magazine, Mayan civilization peaked between 450 and 660 AD, a period marked by heavy rainfall and subsequent increases in population, agriculture, and wealth.  After 660 AD, a decrease in rainfall led to resource strains that fueled conflicts and destabilized the social fabric.  While the doomsday rumors are farfetched, the Mayan struggles with climate change and resource scarcity could be reflective of current global patterns.

Photo Caption: Mayan leaders and scientists are now calling for an end to the doomsday rumors due to their factual inaccuracy (photo credit: Huffington Post)

What sort of changes do you think will occur in 2012? Let us know in the comments section!

Nov10

First Peoples Worldwide in the world!

Neva Morrison, Managing Director of First Peoples Worldwide, has an exciting month ahead!

November 20-21, Morrison will be in Ottawa, Canada at YES The Young Entrepreneurs Symposium. The Symposium is organized by the New Relationship Trust and the Cree Nation Youth Council and brings together young Aboriginal entrepreneurs and business people to help build business skills in native communities.

Later in the moth, November 28-December 2, Morrison will be in New Orleans, Louisiana hosting a panel at the Social Change Film Festival & Institute (SCFFI).  The Festival encourages filmmakers to focus on significant global social and environmental issues in creative, educational, and action-inspiring ways and the SCFFI has collaborated with FPW to highlight Indigenous filmmakers.

And December 10-13, Morrison will be Doha, Qatar as part of a World Bank/Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development workshop on the “Impacts of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Knowledge.” The workshop will coincide with the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP18) meeting in Doha.

For more information on these events, please contact Nick Pelosi: npelosi@firstpeoples.org.