Indigenous People on Climate Change

Building A Snow HouseA fresh and very interesting Q & A discussion of climate change in relationship to indigenous worldviews. Via Science Magazine:

The Arctic has become the frontline for observing the effects of anthropogenic climate change, from rising ocean temperatures to shrinking sea ice cover. These changes have greatly impacted the traditional practices of indigenous Arctic communities, which rely on sea ice for hunting and travel. In recent years, climate scientists have sought the multigenerational and intimate knowledge that indigenous people have of their environment. How can scientists use this knowledge to improve climate projections and models while respecting indigenous culture?

Igor Krupnik, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institution, has studied the indigenous communities of Alaska and northern Russia for 40 years. Yesterday, he gave a talk at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW) on environmental observations that indigenous experts recorded from 2000 to 2010. I sat down to chat with him about what scientists could learn from indigenous perspectives of climate change.

Q: How long have Arctic communities perceived climate change as a threat?

I.K.: First, it hasn’t been perceived as a threat. That’s very much today’s Western perspective. People are concerned with what is happening, but I haven’t heard them speaking about their environment as being “under threat.” [They describe it as] “a friend acting strangely.” It’s a friend that behaves a little bit weird, but doesn’t cease to be a friend because it’s your home.

Q: When did the period of acting strangely start?

I.K.: We started documenting it from indigenous people in the late 1990s, which doesn’t mean it started then, it’s just when we started looking for it and listening to them …

Read More in Science Magazine

12 Comments on "Indigenous People on Climate Change"

  1. Carbon dioxide comprises roughly 0.035% of the Earths atmosphere. There is no way in hell it drives the Earths climate. The Earth is still thawing out from the last ice age but there is no catastrophic anthropogenic global warming taking place. We should be concentrating on real problems that we can do something about not computer generated hypothetical ones. 

    • Mr Willow | Feb 21, 2012 at 1:43 am |

      *And so. . . what’s your point?

      We should not stop chopping down trees—or take it a step further and conclude it would be perfectly alright to chop down more? We should cease our pursuit for alternatives for fossil fuels, and therefore continue to blow the tops off mountains, continue digging enormous holes into the ground for oil and coal, which kill people every day (especially with lax regulations)? That we should stop researching solar power, wind power, and wave power (among other alternative energy sources)? That we should just do what we’ve been doing since the dawn of the industrial age and just presume that everything is going to be alright because either God is going to wipe the slate clean or Nature is so self-sufficient that it will clean the mess faster than we are making it?

      Whenever I hear the sorts of sentiments as the one you just related, that is all I hear: that all this time and energy spent researching and building windmills and solar panels is wasted and we should just continue in the manner that we have been for the past hundred years (thereäbouts) and just forget about everything associated with the environment because it will all work itself out because we have no impact on how it behaves. 

      To be clear, I could care less about ‘Global Warming’, ‘Climate Change’, or Al Gore, I personally think all the research is irrelevant as has been this ‘debate’ on the issue, but I think it is beyond idiotic to absolve ourselves from any sort of blame or responsibility for negatively affecting the environment when we have been making the air visible (industrial smokestacks), making water flammable (fracking), and killing innumerable organisms (plant and animal [and human if you prefer the distinction]) with our practices of fuel retrieval and use. The long term effects that have been proposed are largely inconsequential. because the short term effects are there for all to see.

      So again: What is the point of siding with the ‘skeptics’ on this issue unless you believe that we should just continue with what we’ve been doing and therefore leave the cleanup to Nature or God?*

      *{comment copied and pasted from:}

      By the way, the article doesn’t mention carbon dioxide. At all. 

      It was more an observation that indigenous peoples—who still live very close to nature—are noticing changes in the environment, yet the scientists who are studying the climate cannot determine what exactly these ‘changes’ are, both because the natives look at different aspects of the environment and because the natives and academia speak two completely different languages, terminology wise, making dialogue between these two groups difficult.

      Very interesting thing, something I hadn’t considered. I hope they iron out the language barrier.

      • Misinformation | Feb 21, 2012 at 3:16 am |

         Pretty much agree with everything you say. However:

        “So again: What is the point of siding with the ‘skeptics’ on this issue
        unless you believe that we should just continue with what we’ve been
        doing and therefore leave the cleanup to Nature or God?*”

        Being a “skeptic” in many cases, is not an implication of whether or not the planet is being trashed. But who is doing the trashing and what should be done about it? People should be very skeptical about how the status quo is framing these question.

        • Mr Willow | Feb 21, 2012 at 3:53 am |

          You mean like the CEOs of solar energy companies becoming the new leveragers of policy making power instead of CEOs of oil companies? 

          If so, then I agree. 

          Largely, however, I find the skeptics to be more insufferable than the supporters, despite my loathing for Gore’s ‘the sky is falling’ attitude, precisely for the reason I point out; that in many respects the skeptics are denying the planet is being trashed—or more specifically, denying that the methods by which it is being trashed are having any effect on the planet (and by extension, us). 

          Scale down the argument to a yard, and it would be like saying dumping your garbage in the corner of the yard. Sure, it isn’t that severe of a problem, aside from the nauseating smell, the fact that it’s killing the grass, its unsightliness, and some vague principle of cleanliness being violated. 

          One side says the garbage is the end of the yard, that it will consume the house, and you’ll have to move or be buried in a pile of refuse, so they say to reüse all the old bottles and cans instead of throwing them in the garbage pile, to stop using things that you would normally use only once before tossing it into the mound of trash. Sure, it is a difficult transition, the self-restraint in some cases, the creative uses of otherwise disposable objects in others, but, they say, very dramatically, if you don’t do something right away, then the whole yard will catch on fire, engulf the house, and kill you.

          The other side says that the garbage pile is of no concern, that we can just keep dumping, or send some to the neighbours yard, or even better, start burning it, making the air smell even worse and completely ruining whatever section of the yard where that is done. “Oh, the grass will grow back,” they say, “after all, it was growing before you ever got there.”

          One side has merit—because the garbage pile will grow, killing the grass as it does, continuing to seethe putrescence, continuing to be an eyesore, liable to eventually consume the yard, forcing you to live among the garbage—the other does not, beyond some sense of not wanting to be manipulated, which really seems to me, in this argument, to be a very juvenile ‘I don’t want to be told what to do!’ >_<

          • Catsnbanjos | Feb 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

            Yes, the CEOs of solar energy companies have EXACTLY as much influence on national affairs as the CEOs of oil companies. Idiot.

          • Mr Willow | Feb 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

            That was a hypothetical scenario in response to a potential future, where we embrace truly clean energy like solar and wind, and reject oil and coal. 

            Reread the last bit of the comment I replied to. 

            In such a scenario, it would be conceivable that the new energy giants would simply replace the old energy giants in lobbying congress. For what reason? Who can say, considering the reason current energy giants lobby to receive permission to destroy the natural environment—because people have determined the natural environment to be important, so they wish to conserve and preserve it, which hurts energy company profits, so they lobby and the cycle goes on—perhaps it will be discovered some company or another are using some harmful substance in their solar panels, or a windmill company is abusing workers. Honestly, considering the methods in which corporations behave, wouldn’t be surprising. 

            I still say we should all have solar panels on our roofs and/or windmills in our yard, rather than building wind and solar farms, relying on some company to provide us with power through a centralised grid. 

      • Jin The Ninja | Feb 21, 2012 at 6:09 am |

         that is EXACTLY my feeling. i don’t really care about ACW (and certainly disdain al gore), but what i am gravely concerned with and patently recognise is the harm perpetrated on the environment via industrialisation, capitalism and resource exploitation.

    • Jin The Ninja | Feb 21, 2012 at 6:11 am |

      this article is about a holistic approach to understanding changes in ecology generated from man-made causes rather than the western scientific method. you’d do well to read the article before generating a post unrelated to the article.

      • Mysophobe | Feb 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

        Along those same lines, here is an holistic argument I’ve heard several times that I find quite compelling:

        With the exception of creatures that live near geothermal vents, all life on earth has always gotten all the energy it needs, in one form or another, from the sun’s rays landing directly on the earth.
        Humans are the only organism in the long history of this planet with the ability to cheat and circumvent that natural process. First by burning wood, then whale oil and coal, and now burning fossil fuels and nuclear power. By doing this, we released ever older and ever greater quantities of sequestered sun energy into the environment. For all intents and purposes, we’ve bombarded the earth with millions of years of the sun’s energy in a century. This large scale disruption of the natural cycle cannot not have consequences.

        • Jin The Ninja | Feb 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm |

           100% agree, really interesting perspective and really tied into the sun’s properties as a life-giving force, thanks for that!

    •  You’re right, if you look at charts that show the fluctuation in temperature over the last several thousand years you’ll see clearly that CO2 actually follows after temperature rather than the other way around. If you notice, the name of this anthropomorphic global warming movement was changed from warming to ” climate change” because the earth was actually cooling. Arctic Ice is growing.

  2. Things like Nuclear Meltdowns, Bombs with toxic chemicals, Deforestation , Big Farming industries improper removal of waste and our very own Military dumping in oceans is really just making it difficult for humans to live in harmony with our planet.  The Earth will be fine. It has plenty of mechanisms to fix itself. WE won’t be so lucky. Unfortunately, our efforts in preserving our home are misdirected. The climate will change. It does that. We’ve been fortunate not to be in another ice age. Quite the change i’d say.  But the environmental movement has been hijacked with false science leading people off course to convince them that taxing them for breathing will some how fix it. I hope people start to see thru those schemes. Individuals should take responsibility, yes. But the causes of the bigger problems are made by  the same companies calling for the everyday person to pay for it.

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