Barcelona (Spain), Sep 29 (EFE).- A new international report defends that the knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities could contribute more to the fight against climate change than many current strategies, which is why it advocates including them in political decision-making processes on global warming.
The report, published as a white paper, has been prepared by an international team of twelve authors, including researcher Victoria Reyes-García, from the UAB Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technologies, and Neil Dawson, from the University of East Anglia (UK), as well as five indigenous academics.
This initiative, co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), is a response to growing calls for increased international attention to culture in the science and policy of climate change.
The authors draw on case studies to illustrate why acknowledging the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples and local communities would add much to Western scientific strategies and make a necessary transformational shift from current interventions.
Although the West is betting on new technologies or behavior changes promoted by governments and big business to combat climate change, the authors say that these approaches are based on a very Western and scientific understanding of the problems, as well as on solutions going from top to bottom.
“There is a growing consensus that we are not responding to climate change as quickly or as effectively as necessary. To meet this challenge we urgently need to understand the problem from a different perspective. The values and worldviews of indigenous peoples have much to contribute”, said Rosario Carmona, a researcher at the Research Center for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management in Chile and a collaborator at ICTA-UAB.
According to the report, the knowledge systems held by the world’s 400 million indigenous peoples, in addition to many local and traditional communities, “provide alternative ways of understanding and proven means to address complex global problems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss”.
However, the authors warn that “counterproductively, many indigenous peoples and local communities continue to suffer social, political and economic discrimination, often including violence and displacement from their territories, and bear the brunt of environmental change and climate”.
Examples detailed in the report include the contribution of Mapuche spirituality to climate change mitigation in Chile, customary processes based on customs, practices and beliefs that guide the relocation of coastal peoples in Fiji, local knowledge of water management in the Spanish Sierra Nevada and indigenous fire management practices for forest conservation in Bolivia.
It also examines resilience associated with traditional stone walls for agriculture in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, local flood risk management in informal settlements in Sierra Leone, and indigenous knowledge in urban settings such as the San Francisco Bay and the Phoenix Valley in the United States.
“Simply put, many international bodies are now recommending that indigenous leaders and representatives play a much more prominent role and have more opportunities to influence decisions and commitments in global climate negotiations and climate strategies at the national level,” Victoria Reyes-García has summed up.
“Although indigenous knowledge is sometimes assumed to be outdated and not relevant to the modern world, indigenous knowledge systems are active, dynamic, contemporary and highly resilient,” Reyes-García said.
Knowledge systems include not only values, such as spiritual beliefs and connections to nature, but also ways of actively deciding, organizing and governing, managing and caring for land and resources, and play a crucial role in the sustainable management of much of the world’s critical ecosystems, species and resources, the report concludes.