Indigenous Climate Summit Highlights

Tom GoldtoothPhoto Caption: Tom Goodtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network is interviewed by media at the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The news articles below come from interviews conducted at the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change in Anchorage, Alaska.  GJEP Co-Director/ Strategist Orin Langelle was sent there by Global Forest Coalition to help do media work with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

We have also included the link to the Indigenous Peoples’ Guide: False Solutions to Climate Change.  Global Justice Ecology Project participated in the production of this booklet, which was launched  at the Indigenous Climate Change Summit.  This is part of our work to support our Indigenous allies in their efforts to stop destructive false solutions to climate change like agrofuels and monoculture tree plantations (including genetically engineered trees).

From this morning… 4 articles below.

Again, you can see live at www.mogulus.com/talkingcircle
more info at www.indigenoussummit.com

Indigenous peoples to discuss climate

SUMMIT: In Anchorage, they’ll share knowledge and experiences.

By MARY PEMBERTON
The Associated Press

Hundreds of indigenous people from around the world are gathering in Anchorage this week to discuss climate change and solutions for a warming planet.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, a five-day United Nations-affiliated conference, will run through Friday, with about 400 people from 80 nations expected to attend.

Today, on the first full day of the conference, reports on climate change will be presented covering seven regions around the globe.

“Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to the global problem of climate change but will almost certainly bear the greatest brunt of its impact,” said Patricia Cochran, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an organization representing about 150,000 Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka in Russia. The council is hosting the event.

While indigenous people are often “on the front lines” of the problem, Cochran said their voices are often not heard when climate change is discussed.

The summit intends to change that, she said.

“We wanted to have a unified voice, to be able to have more influence over the political and other decisions that are being made that impact our communities,” said Cochran, who also chairs the summit.

Organizers said the summit will conclude Friday with a declaration and an action plan, and a call to governments around the world to include indigenous people in any new regimes on climate change.

Conference recommendations will be presented to the Conference of Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.

The problems of climate change are real and pressing for many, organizers say. Take the case of Newtok, a village of about 325 people in Western Alaska. The Ninglick River is rapidly consuming the land around the Yup’ik village, forcing residents to relocate to higher ground.

“The global warming is really strong,” said Newtok resident Stanley Tom, one of the conference delegates. “The whole village is sinking right now.”

Tom said with the increase in temperature, the permafrost has become extremely delicate and the tundra now is prone to tearing if vehicles run over it in the summer.

Village residents stay off it, he said.

“Once it tears, it starts to melt,” Tom said.

Summit co-sponsor Sam Johnston of Tokyo-based United Nations University said southern Australia is experiencing the worst drought on record. The drought is occurring in an area of the country where many of Australia’s fruits, vegetables and grains are grown.

“It is having a dramatic impact on everybody, including the indigenous people,” he said.

Johnston said people living in the Torres Strait Islands of Queensland, Australia, are being forced to move their township because of rising sea levels. The damage from storm surges is forcing them out, he said.

In Papua, New Guinea, indigenous people are being forced to relocate because a rise in sea level is flooding coastal areas there. Entire communities living off the Papua coast are moving back to the mainland.

In Borneo, climate change on the island in Southeast Asia is being blamed on the loss of traditional medicinal plants. And in Mexico, Mayan farmers in the highlands are having to find new ways to irrigate their crops because of a shortened rain season.

If the loss of glaciers continues in the Andean region along the western coast of South America, the growing season could be cut in half. That’s because farmers would have only rainwater to irrigate.

In Kenya in east Africa, protracted droughts are killing livestock on which people there depend on for food and economic survival.

Organizers said indigenous groups hope not only to share with others how climate change is affecting their communities but also to share ways in which traditional knowledge can be used to lessen the effects of climate change.

Indigenous groups have knowledge that can help, Johnston said, because indigenous people have centuries of experience when it comes to adapting to harsh environments.

“Their traditional knowledge is very important,” he said.

For example, the Aborigines in a large reserve in northern Australia have used traditional fire practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, allowing them to sell $17 million worth of carbon credits to industry, which in turn has generated significant new income for the community, Johnston said.

Tom said his small Alaska village is now an island, surrounded by a river that is eroding the very earth under their homes. But, he said, Newtok is not alone. Other Alaska villages are having similar problems with erosion and flooding.

Tom wants to learn more about what is happening to indigenous people elsewhere in the world.

“I am really interested outside of Alaska how they are being affected,” he said.
Include indigenous rights in global climate change policies, summit told

Any global agreement on climate change has to include the rights of Aboriginal Peoples, delegates said Wednesday at an international climate change summit in Anchorage, Alaska. The connection between the rights of indigenous peoples and climate change took center stage Wednesday at the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Council. “Our indigenous people are saying that the effects of climate change right now [are] affecting our right to practice our culture,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told CBC News on Wednesday. “It’s affecting our right to live in a sustainable manner, and to have access to our traditional food systems.”

Since the summit began Monday, about 500 delegates have been sharing their experiences with how climate change has affected their communities, as well as talking about indigenous rights, such as the rights to land, clean water and traditional native foods. Such rights are guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Goldtooth said any deal on climate change has to be directly tied to those rights. “Our strategy is to try to get the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People within its body,” Goldtooth said.

John Crump, polar issues co-ordinator with the United Nations Environmental Programme, said indigenous rights will be recognized in any climate change protocols adopted by the United Nations. But specifics on how that would work have yet to be determined, Crump added. “This process will continue, and the need to recognize indigenous rights in climate change negotiations and in how the burden of climate change impacts are distributed, that’s a long-term project,” he said.

By the time the five-day summit wraps up Friday, summit delegates are expected to draft a formal declaration and action plan on climate change, which will be presented to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

Indigenous youths offer their take on climate change

INDIGENOUS GLOBAL SUMMIT: They didn’t cause the warming, but they can help find solutions.

Members of the world’s next generation of conservationists sat in a circle to bat around ideas on how indigenous people can help stop global warming. Several dozen young people who are attending the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change caucused Wednesday to define their role in tackling climate change. About 400 people from 80 nations are attending the five-day United Nations-affiliated conference in Anchorage.

“We didn’t have a say in all of this that went on but we are the ones taking all the heat,” said Robert Chavez, a 16-year-old Pueblo Indian from San Juan Pueblo, N.M., when asked how he feels about global warming and the future of the planet. The summit aims to get indigenous people of all ages to speak about climate change with a unified voice — one that will have more influence over political and other decisions made about climate change.

“What do you want?” the group leader asked the young people. “What is a good way to define ourselves?” In the end, the youths decided even though they did not cause the problem of global warming they are in a special position to find solutions. That’s because they are the ones, they said, that can bring technological knowledge and the traditional knowledge of their elders to the problem.

“If we do not react now — there will be no other time,” said a young man from Africa who talked about how repeated droughts are killing livestock, creating economic hardships for families. “I do not see another time we will be together as people.”

The youths decided they would send the summit a message about the importance of including them in looking for solutions to the problem. “We are the bridge between our elders and what’s ahead in climate change,” said Greta Schuerch, 29, of Kiana. “I feel that indigenous youth have a responsibility especially to take the traditional and local knowledge and adapt to what is to come.”

Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, a 30-year-old member of the Athabasca Chipewyn First Nation in Canada, said young people make up more than half of the world’s population. Her town in northern Alberta sits precariously close to the tar sands being mined in Canada, Deranger said. She said mining of the tar sands has ruined the indigenous people’s subsistence way of life. “The people can no longer hunt and fish,” she said. “The water is so polluted they no longer can drink it.” “We … inherited all the problems,” she said.

The summit will run through Friday, and will conclude with a declaration and an action plan, and a call to governments around the world to include indigenous people in any new regimes on climate change.

Conference recommendations will be presented to the Conference of Parties at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Native Peoples Sound Dire Warning
By Stephen Leahy

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Apr 22 (IPS) – Humanity’s hot carbon breath is not just melting the planet’s polar regions, it is disrupting natural systems and livelihoods around the world, indigenous people reported this week at a global meeting on climate change in Anchorage, Alaska.

“We indigenous people are the prow of the ship of humanity in the oncoming waves of climate change,” said Vanessa Marsh of the small Pacific island of Niue. Indigenous people are here to alert humanity and lead the way in healing Earth, Marsh, a youth delegate, told more than 400 representatives of world’s indigenous peoples here.

Coastal erosion, mud slides, longer droughts and more severe hurricanes are just some of the impacts of climate change affecting the Caribbean region, Chief Charles Williams of the Kalinago people on the island of Dominica told the U.N.-affiliated Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.

“Most indigenous people live on the margins…their ‘purses’ are not as strong as others when it comes to coping with climate change,” Williams said. “Climate change will make things significantly worse for people with difficult lives already due to discrimination, poor nutrition and health conditions,” Anthony Oliver-Smith of the University of Florida and United Nations University’s Institute for the Environment and Human Security. “Most Indigenous Peoples today live oppressed existences as minority groups within states. Climate change for them layers another potentially crushing pressure on top of many others,” Oliver-Smith said in statement.

At least 5,000 distinct groups of indigenous peoples have been identified in more than 70 countries, with a combined global population estimated at 300-350 million, representing about 6 percent of humanity. Severe rainfall, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of Pacific Island peoples, reported Fiu Mataese Elisara from the Pacific island of Samoa. “Other islanders have already been displaced. This (climate change) is a life and death matter for us,” Elisara, executive director of O le Siosiomaga Society, an environmental NGO, told IPS.

Many indigenous peoples have inhabited their lands for thousands of years. That long tenure and intimate connection with the natural environment has given them a unique sensitivity and understanding. And representatives of indigenous peoples around the world related the changes they are experiencing at the summit.

In Papua New Guinea, indigenous people report being forced to relocate due to a combination of population growth and the inundation of coastal land due to sea level rise. On the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world, the Dayak people have documented climate variations based on observations of bird species, rising water levels, and the loss of traditional medicinal plants.

Temperature changes in the Andean region have had a drastic impact on agriculture, health and biodiversity, evidenced by an increase in respiratory illnesses, a decrease in alpaca farming and a shortened growing season.

African indigenous peoples are reporting “serious impacts on their livelihoods” following a regional meeting to discuss climate change last month, said Joesph Ole Simel of Kenya. “Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is a human rights issue,” said Simel, who heads the Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organisation in Kenya.

Drought and the rise of new diseases affecting livestock are principle impacts which are leading to conflicts between tribal communities and land degradation as more animals have to share reduced pastoral lands. That in turn is forcing more and more people to abandon their traditional livelihoods and move into cities.

Drought and hotter weather are making it very difficult to grow maize in most regions in Mexico. Entire regions like Sonora will not be able to grow maize by 2020. “We don’t want any more heat,” said a representative from Oaxaca, Mexico through a translator.

The vast indigenous regions in Russia that compromise 75 percent of the country’s landmass are experiencing a wide range of climate impacts including melting permafrost, flooding rivers, and forests receding north, reducing the pasture for reindeers and bringing new insects and diseases.

More frequent and stronger tropical storms and hurricanes are a major threat to the entire Caribbean region, says Cletus Springer, of Saint Lucia and director of the Department of Sustainable Development for the Organisation of American States.

In 2004, Hurricane Ivan devastated Grenada, a small country in the region. “That storm set the country back 10 years,” Springer told the summit.

“We should never let those countries that created the problem (climate change) sidestep their responsibilities. Don’t let them feel comfortable with their neglect, not for one moment,” he urged delegates.

Stephen Leahy’s trip to Alaska was financed by the United Nations University and Project Word, a U.S.-based media NGO. (END/2009)

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