This week, Indigenous Peoples from around the world met in Anchorage, Alaska at an international summit to push for a greater role in the effort to combat climate change. The five-day-long event brought together some 400 representatives from 90 nations, including Bolivian President Evo Morales.
Worldwide, Indigenous Peoples are facing the brunt of climate change, as the ecosystems on which lifestyles and traditions depend are being compromised. For instance, the summit took place some 500 miles from Newtok, an Indigenous Yup’ik village soon to be abandoned to avoid the rising waters.
What’s more, Indigenous Peoples’ expertise in areas related to the environment has been built up over generations, making their leadership indispensable. The website for the summit’s activities has more:
[H]uman activity is changing the world’s climate and altering the natural environment to which Indigenous Peoples are so closely attached and on which they so heavily rely.
In a very real sense, therefore, Indigenous Peoples are on the front lines of climate change. They observe climate and environmental changes first-hand and use traditional knowledge and survival skills to adapt to these changes as they occur.
Existing international climate change negotiations have excluded Indigenous Peoples from any formal role, marginalizing their voices and ignoring their expertise. Participants at this week’s summit demanded that governments fully incorporate Indigenous Peoples in all international debates and decisions on climate change.
As Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and member of the MADRE Network of Experts, explained, “We have centuries of experience in adapting to the climate and our traditional lifestyles have very low carbon footprints.”
President of the UN General Assembly Miguel D’Escoto addressed the summit, saying that Indigenous Peoples are “vital to the many ecosystems in their lands and territories and help enhance the resilience of these ecosystems.”
*Photo credit: Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News