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The Most Inconvenient Truth of All

Ahead of the Copenhagen Summit Survival international publishes a new report which reveals how tribal people, who have done the least to cause climate change, are being affected by attempts to stop it.

Indigenous people are on the frontline of climate change. Living in parts of the world where its impacts are greatest and depending largely, or exclusively, on the natural environment for their livelihoods, culture and lives, they are more vulnerable to climate change than anyone else on earth. According to reports, the impact of climate change on indigenous people is already being felt around the world: from the Arctic to the Andes to the Amazon, from the islands of the Pacific Ocean to Canada’s Pacific Rim. Equally important, but barely recognized, is the impact that measures to stop climate change are having, or may have, on indigenous people. These ‘mitigation measures’ violate their rights and make it easier for governments, companies and others to lay claim to, exploit and, in some cases, destroy their land – like climate change itself….

Where they affect indigenous peoples, measures to mitigate the impact of climate change must:

  • Involve indigenous people fully and draw on their unequalled knowledge of their environments.
  • recognize and respect indigenous rights as enshrined in international law (ILO Convention 169) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly their right to the ownership of their land and their right to give or withhold consent to developments in their territories. Read the report in full

Carine Nadal, The Gaia Foundation; Participant on the recent Schumacher College short course Earth Jurisprudence and Community Resilience: Learning from Africa run in association with The Gaia Foundation: This report highlights the need for a holistic approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Strengthening the resilience (ability to adapt to change) of communities and their ecosystems to climate change interrelated crises such as destruction of biodiversity and livelihoods is essential. Local and indigenous community practices of living with respect for and reciprocity with nature around the world should be acknowledged and shared, and be a source of inspiration within the context of protecting the Earth. The needs of human beings and the Earth are inextricably linked and therefore any platform built at Copenhagen without consideration of this unity is likely, inevitably, to be unsustainable.

Climate change is a symptom of the break down of our relationship with Nature and her laws. This also requires a deeper ecological understanding for us all. Climate change is therefore a human problem, requiring us to learn how to be a participant in a living system, rather than behaving as free radicals. ‘If we destroy the Earth we destroy ourselves.’ We explored how to address this shared concern within our last course at Schumacher (Earth Jurisprudence and community resilience) but it is also something that permeates the work of the Gaia Foundation and the partner organisations we work with around the world who are seeing the harsh reality of climate change on their local environment.

Relevant links

After Copenhagen: Opportunities and challenges
1 – 19 March 2010

Schumacher College will be holding a stand and running a plenary session on localism and resilience at the Copenhagen Climate Change Civil Society event this December.

The Gaia Foundation

Survival International

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