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Land Use and Adapation - Traditional Knowledge and Climate Science series

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With deep connections to nature, the world’s Indigenous peoples and local communities are experiencing some of the most pronounced affects of climate change. This video documents a United Nations process that is bringing together traditional communities and climate change scientists, especially at two conferences held in Mexico and Australia. I came here today to listen because these other indigenous peoples are very strong in their culture We witnessed a dialogue of different cultures. This series focuses on some of the key links between traditional knowledge and science and the policy solutions being workshopped. The scientists are beginning to say, Hmmm, there's something we need to know as science is based on what its based on observation, and the traditional knowedge also somehow is based on observation. Indigenous peoples have something to contribute in terms solutions to the problem of climate change. Land use change and Adaptation Cairns, Australia One of the key areas discussed at the conferences included environmental impacts and community adaptations associated with climate change. Indigenous leader, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, pointed out that indigenous knowledge is fine-tuned to local contexts and is essential for climate change adaptation and long-term community resilience. (Vicky Tauli–Corpuz, Phillipines)I think the evidence shows that many of the ecosystems which are still intact are found in indigenous peoples’ territories. One possible reason for that is because of course the low carbon lifestyle, the sustainable lifestyles of indigenous peoples. The other reason is because they use their traditional knowledge to be in sync with nature's processes. Indigenous peoples live in almost every region of the world. Their territories cover 22% of the world's land mass and contain 80% of the world's biodiversity. One of the ways indigenous knowledge is working with climate science is by offering observations and interpretations at a very fine localized scale. IPCC Working Group 3 Chair, Youba Sokona, explains: (Youba Sokona, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Because we need more and more, to have different early warning systems and in most of the traditions they have some early warning system on any extreme event that will happen, because they do have some sign, as science is based on what? It’s based on observation and the traditional knowledge also, somehow, is based on observation. Human beings have been paying attention to their environment for a long time and we would do well to pay attention to those who’ve been paying attention to where we live now for a long time… and that would be the native communities. By recognizing signs such as wind direction, rainfall, temperature change, celestial movement, animal behaviour and the flowering of plants, many communities organize their lives around seasonal calendars. Varying widely across the world, traditional calendars play an important role in how communities interpret and respond to shifts in climate patterns. So we use our indicators, the plants and the animals, to monitor the weather and this is how we work on the land. It is helpful to design our own calendar, which is a great thing to say when it’s ready for us to hunt and gather because there is a space of breeding and there’s a space of timeout for people and animal. Participants at the UN conferences shared accounts of some of the impacts of climate change on local communities. (Igor Krupnik, USA) The things that people used to know, used to operate with, used to rely upon are not working anymore, almost everywhere, and that to me is probably the strongest confirmation we have of really dramatic changes that are happening in global ecosystems in plural. Climate change is disrupting subsistence culture, because subsistence cultures depend upon intact habitats and that's what climate change is disrupting…intact habitats. Marilyn Wallace from Australia, related how habitat shifts and a changing climate are transforming relationships within her rainforest homelands. We are frightened, very frightened. Our food is scarce, the food cycles are all shifting and we don't now what will happen. Our food is disappearing and our understanding of country is transforming. In East Africa, the Masaai peoples are recognizing rainfall regime changes. (Oloodo Saitaga - Kenya) Our climate is changing, it has become unpredictable. A long time ago, we used to know which months there would be rain. Now it’s hard to predict when there will be rain or not. In the Andes, mountain communities are witnessing water cycle fluctuations. (Saturnina Melo Melo, Peru) Rivers live, everything lives. It’s just that they cannot speak, or sometimes we don't understand them. However, if you listen and understand, you can hear the river as if it were chanting. In the cultivating months, rivers play the flute. At carnival, rivers play carnival music. At Easter time, they play the mandolin and guitar. Sometimes that happens behind my house. Nowdays, no one is paying attention to the rivers and they are getting sad and hungry. Just as we walk around hungry, with no one to offer us anything. They are hungry, too. That is why they go out of their way, looking for food. Creating landslides, crushing and eating people for ignoring them. In the Pacific, frequent hurricanes and rising king tides are affecting food security and health. (Nikolas Hakata, Papua New Guinea) This is the middle of the island. The sea recently passed through here and continued almost to the other side. It destroyed everything in people's gardens. After this happened, our people were starving. These invading king tides have left a swamp where the mosquitoes are now breeding. Now, there are many more mosquitoes than usual, and all the children are sick with Malaria. Snowchange, conveyed some of the observations of local and indigenous communities in the Arctic. (Tero Mustonen, Finland) The most important message that we wish to present here is the observation and confirmed melting of the permaforst in Siberia, which is leading to an uncontrolled release of millions of tonnes of new greenhouse gases, which are currently trapped in the siberian permafrost. One of the Snowchange delegates, Siberian reindeer herder Peyotr Kaurgin, relays some of the changes observed by his people. There are many signs appearing… (Peyotr Kaurgin, Russia) the river ice break-up begins earlier, and the birds are flying towards us about 1.5 weeks earlier. The permafrost melt is preventing the migrating reindeer herders from reaching the Northern Arctic coastline. Earlier, we used to migrate in July, and by mid-July we would reach the coast. But now, we are unable to reach the coast by about 150km. Peyotr recounted that near the coastlines, solid ground is turning into swamp, and the warm humid summers are bringing necrobacillosis, a footroot disease, to the reindeer herds. Because the pastures are infected, we avoid going through them for 5 or 6 years. On the other side of the Arctic, the Inupiaq people's ancient relationship with the bowhead whale is being affected by the melting sea ice. Cultural researcher, Doctor Chie Sakakibara, has been working with the Inupiaq people. (Chie Sakakibara, USA) Now that the temperature is rising, the environment is getting too warm for the bowhead whales to survive in the area that's near the coast, which means close to the villages. So, Inupiaq whalers now have to go out to the open water, 50 miles or 60 miles, which would require them to incorporate technologies such as motorized boats, engines, fuels and many other aspects. And how does this influence human-whale relationship? Around the world, rapid environmental shifts associated with climate change are challenging cultural identities. At an adaptation meeting in Mexico, Native American scientist and IPCC author Margaret Redsteer, explains, (Margaret Redsteet, USA)And it’s really heartbreaking for a lot of the people who are the ceremonialists on the reservation, and in part because there are so many changes that are occurring that they don't know what to do about. For instance, there are people who go to the springs and make offerings for rain, but the springs that they have gone to all their lives to make offerings don't flow anymore, so they are kind of at a loss of what to do. There are communities now in the US, native communities, looking 100, 200, 300 miles south of them to see what plants are similar to the plants that are thriving today, because those plants may no longer thrive on their reservations tomorrow. And they are looking to see what relatives they may be able to move, they may be able to assist from other places, other ecozones, and bring them to there and work with nature, work with the resilience that nature has in terms of that Organised governments and NGOS, indigenous or not, need to be open to those kinds of adaptations and mitigation measures that can increase the biodioversity and strengthening, healing, that web of life that has been torn asunder by the climate changes and the impacts that we are seeing. If we don’t follow these protocols, the seasonal calendar which we have designed, it’ll affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually and today, going back on country is part of our beginning. It is healing for us; we are the young generations going back on country and taking up our obligation, our rights, our interests of development. Communities say that recognition of land and resource rights is essential in building adaptive capacity and strengthening a community's climate resilience. Further, to fortify this resilience, communities are proactively developing their knowledge, through respectful exchanges with scientists. For example, at a climate mitigation conference, Jeremy Russell-Smith showed how traditional fire management practices were scientifically enhanced to enable traditional owners to continue caring for their lands whilst at the same time reducing wildfire greenhouse gas emissions. (Jeremy Russell-Smith, Australia)There's been a radical shift in the way we think about how the north of Australia should be managed with fire. There's a far greater acceptance that customary management is appropriate and needs to be encouraged. (Dean Yibarbuk, Australia)We should see young Callitris (trees) here but there are none. Why? Wildfire. We haven't been here managing fire so destructive fires have come. And if you looked at this Western Arnhem Land fire project, you’d have to say it has been successful in so many ways and largely because right from the outset, it had the full authority of the cultural governance arrangement. These senior traditional owners were very supportive of the needing to actually get together a program which would be inclusive, representative of their cultural needs, but knowing that it had to become sustainable in the longer term. We proved that if we burn in patches and at different times of day we can control the spread and intensity of fires. And this way of burning makes much less greenhouse gases. Scientists from Venezuela are also seeing the inter-regional potential of fire abatement. (Bibiana Bilbao, Venuzuela)The experience that they have in Australia covers a wider territory, but it's impressive how the traditional mechanisms of fire management are identical between the Indigenous Australians and the Amerindios even though we are so far apart and in two different continents. There were some UN conference delegates that expressed concern about the history of scientific engagement with local communities. (Oladimeji Oladele, South Africa) Many technologies or innovations that have been introduced, they have left people worse off all in the name of science. Things were introduced, for example, mechansization introduced in Africa knowing fully well that the top soil is not that heavy to be able to use this equipment, then we are worse off for it. And it is always better if you come at the participatory or the bottom-up approach, looking at what people are already doing what is the impact of that, and why are they still keeping to it, and why has it been able to sustain them over the years, even before the advent of science or the introduction of science on that particular issue. In Mexico, Fernado Briones, who works with Chiapas farming communities, explores the potential regional climate knowledge exchanges. (Fernando Briones, Mexico)There's not a lot of interaction between scientific models and traditional knowledge of climate, but there's a huge potential over there because if rain patterns are changing and the farmers may have the information, they may choose a better time to plant. So, definitely, we need to develop early warning systems. Innovative climate adaptations in the Arctic, include local to global environmental monitoring projects developing between reindeer herders and NASA. (Nancy Maynard, USA)It’s a real pleasure to interact with the reindeer herders because they contribute so much information about what's going on, on the ground. One of our NASA projects is to try to use microwave radiometry to perhaps detect rain on snow and in fact we found that the indigenous knowledge, that is, the reindeer herders on the ground, were able to identify in our satellite imagery those areas where indeed it had rained. A key threat to herders, rains that freeze on snow form a strong ice layer across the ground, sometimes causing starvation amongst the reindeer. And it might serve as an early warning device for the reindeer herders so that they don’t take their herds in that major area, where there's a strong ice layer. (Mikhail Pogodaev, Russia)We established a few resource information centres in the reindeer herding regions and it means that these reindeer herding regions, they now participating in a kind of big network. Knowledge development is most important in face of climate change. The arctic Inupiaq People are also working collaboratively with scientists. They go out on the field together and indigenous people become not only the guide for the scientist, but they also become mentors for the scientists, and tell them, teach them how to navigate on the sea ice, how to interpret animal behaviours, and many other environmental features that exist on the northern land. In the face of increasing climate instability, the recognition of indigenous rights and respectful two-way knowledge collaborations are contributing to building better early warning systems and supporting local efforts towards climate resilience. For full interviews and support materials:

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 15 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: United Nations University
Views: 129
Posted by: unuchannel on Sep 21, 2012

Indeed, climate change poses a direct threat to many indigenous and marginalized societies due to their continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods. Thus, there is a need to understand the specific vulnerabilities and adaptation capacities of indigenous and marginalized communities.

Indigenous and marginalized peoples, however, are not just victims of climate change.

Their accumulated knowledge makes them excellent observers of environmental change and related impacts. Attentiveness to environmental variability, shift and trends is an integral part of their ways of life. Community-based and local knowledge may thus offer valuable insights into environmental change due to climate change, and complement broader-scale scientific research with local precision and nuance.

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