Indigenous hunters who grew up in rain forests know how to walk through dense tangles of vines and leaves without making a sound. At least they used to be able to, until the summers became hotter and drier, making the rain forest a different place.
“The hunters say the animals can hear them from afar, because the leaves are so dry, and that is making hunting impossible,” says Johnson Cerda, advisor with CI’s Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program (ITPP).
Local Knowledge and Climate Change
The world over, indigenous peoples are experiencing first-hand impacts that are linked to climate change – from melting ice caps and rising sea levels to brittle rain forests. They will share their knowledge and how they are dealing with these challenges during an Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, April 20-24, in Anchorage, Alaska.
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Hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Council and co-sponsored by several groups including CI, the summit will provide a forum for indigenous peoples to develop recommendations for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, 2009. The Copenhagen gathering will essentially finalize the U.N. climate change treaty to follow the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012.
“Indigenous communities are some of the first impacted by climate change because they are directly dependent on the land, oceans and wildlife for their survival,” says Kristen Walker Painemilla, ITPP vice president. “At the same time, indigenous peoples have been adapting for millennia with their traditional methods. It is critical to include their knowledge, experience and clear recognition of their rights in the next international treaty on climate change.”
The Wisdom of Daily Life
Indigenous peoples are beginning to bring forward their climate change adaptation strategies at international workshops and other meetings, according to Johnson. Examples include creating small ponds, stocked with fish, to ensure a secure source of protein, and developing wildlife corridors for areas – such as palm tree plantations – that disrupt habitats and often prevent animals from returning to the forests where hunters are accustomed to finding them.
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“The people of the forest say, ‘we have the knowledge and we know how to protect the forests because we have always lived in the forests and we still have our forests’,” Johnson points out.
While indigenous peoples have many diverse and distinct cultures, they have in common an enduring relationship with nature and an intricate relationship with their lands and resources. This relationship is the very basis of their economic, social and cultural systems, their ecological knowledge, and their identities as distinct peoples. Their traditional livelihoods include subsistence agriculture, hunting and gathering, trapping, herding and fishing.
One Voice Among Many
Johnson is Kichwa and grew up in Ecuador’s Limoncocha community in the Amazon rain forest, 200 meters (approximately 660 feet) above sea level. He and Walker Painemilla will attend the conference as part of CI’s ongoing work providing access, information and training that enables indigenous peoples to effectively participate in climate change discussions and decisions at the local, regional, national and international levels.
“We need to unify our demands regarding the implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples, and we need to determine how we can best be part of the climate change discussion in Copenhagen,” Johnson says.
With an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in 70 countries, a united voice would help ensure that their experience, knowledge and traditional practices are incorporated as the global community faces the climate change challenge.
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