Author Archives: Brianne Aldcroft

Module 2: Indigenous People’s Summit on Climate Change

This particular link is for the 2009 Summit, but I’m hoping that this is an annual event!  Here, indigenous people gather to discuss the changes they are seeing and the strategies they are trying to employ to cope.  Indigenous people tend to live in the harshest environments thanks to colonization, and thus they are receiving the brunt of the climate change.  In addition to coping with the rapid changes Mother Nature is throwing at them are the rapid economic and social changes that have been ongoing.

What is becoming interesting as my research progresses is the statement that indigenous people rely so heavily on the land.  The statement seems to suggest that non-indigenous people do not rely on the land nearly as much, and of course this is erroneous.  The difference is that non-indigenous people are not as connected to the land.  The resources come from the exact same places, but the connection is far more removed for non-indigenous people likely making them feel less vulnerable.  Also, non-indigenous people tend to live in less severe climates due to colonization practices, and are likely not feeling the effects of climate change as harshly.

Module 2: Climate Change: Who to Trust?[youtube][/youtube]

This video from Alaska identifies the irony between traditional knowledge and climate change and scientific knowledge and climate change.  Aboriginal people in Alaska have been discussing climate change for over 40 years, but supposed modern science has only started seeing a trend in the last 20 years and only in the last 5 has the gravity of the situation begun to sink in.  The Aboriginal people of Alaska are seeing new species that do not like the cold waters of their oceans and new diseases in the animals.  Also pressing to their situation are increased deaths due to fragile ice–it’s melting sooner and faster.

I particularly like how advanced the traditional knowledge of climate change is here versus scientific knowledge.  I’m wondering if the connotations of “traditional knowledge” imply too much antiquity and render it less reliable than scientific knowledge, or if it is a ethnocentric stubbornness that is preventing scientists from working with Elders.

Module 2: Traditional Knowledge and Green Party of BC

What would a project on traditional knowledge and climate change be with out a little politics?  Incomplete by today’s standards!

This is a brief analysis by a Green member of an article about climate change.  In 1999 there was an unprecedented storm in northern BC and local Elders told scientists and leaders that  a storm of that magnitude had never happened before.  It took 12 years for researchers at Queens and Carleton to confirm this information.  The Green member wonders why this knowledge had to be confirmed scientifically and points out that the information was already there and that the money spent on research could have been spent on actually addressing the problem rather than confirming that it was actually a problem…which Elders already said it was.

This is an interesting article point to the bias of Western society towards science as opposed to other forms of knowing.

My interest in this site is to see how much the Green Party of BC actually uses traditional knowledge versus scientific.  Do they strike a balance or are they biased one way or the other?

Module 2: Conservation International

Some of the world’s most vulnerable people are the indigenous people of Africa.  Relying so heavily on the natural environment, but not having the wealthy economic infrastructures of Western countries, puts these people on the font lines of climate change.  The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) is made up of 155 indigenous groups in 22 African countries.  They are working towards showing the importance of traditional knowledge to local decision makers (ie non-indigenous people) so that climate change adaptation is sustainable.

Already use to severe conditions, many of the indigenous groups represented by IPACC have coping strategies for the various challenges that Africa and the rest of the world are beginning to face.

Module 2: Traditional Knowledge World Bank

I’m pretty excited about this site so far!  I liked the name right away, but was wary about how this information is being managed and if cultural/intellectual property rights were being respected.  It’s a UNESCO site and they ensure that “Thanks to its study and classification activities, the Traditional Knowledge World Bank protects the rights of local communities who hold knowledge.  It fosters the recognition of communities’ property rights and it protects them juridically at an International level.”

The site contains information about traditional agricultural practices, water management, architecture, social organizations, art, spirituality of various regions.  The goal is more responsible or informed environmental stewardship, which is the direction I think my project is going.

Traditional Knowledge, Climate Change and Technology

Using the reductionist model of scientific ways of knowing—research and observation—alone is in adequate in the study of ecology and in particular climate change.  Ecosystems and climates are established over centuries, however, scientific data recording these events and cycles dates back only 50 or sixty years in some locations.  Few, if any, regions in the world have more than 100 years of data with which to analyze the health of an ecosystem or the patterns of a climate.

Also problematic with this approach to the study of the land, is the objective removal of the human being.  The reductionist model has the scientist standing back and watching as independent and dependent variables interact.  It is as if the human is not part of this ecosystem.  Limited, but recent and scary data suggest that assumptions that the vastness of the earth could never be affected by the human are coming to be challenged as climates and ecosystems are changing rapidly.  The idea that the human is separate from the land is being questioned by modern science, but modern science lacks a model that incorporates the human as an agent and member of these ecosystems, but there is no time to sit around and think of one.

Aboriginal traditional knowledge can help scientists understand better the changes happening in various regions of the world because traditional knowledge reaches so far back into the memory of indigenous groups.  The collective memory of indigenous groups provides a more holistic understanding of the intricacies and relationships that exist between species and systems.  The most important part of the traditional knowledge approach to understanding the environment is that the human being is placed as an active member of the system.  This role is important for people to recognize their power over the environment but more importantly, their responsibility.

My research will focus on analyzing how indigenous groups use the internet to promote a holistic approach to understanding ecosystems and climate change.  My hope is that I will see scientists and other aboriginal groups borrowing from each other as we attempt to understand and rectify, or live with, the changes that our planet is undergoing.

Module 1: Being Indigenous

Here is an article that made me a little angry.  While it is from Mexico, the same mentality can be seen in Canada also.

The short of the long is that a group of indigenous Cucapa people had been denied their indigenous fishing rights on the Colorado River Delta in north west Mexico.  The government cited environmental devastation due to damming of the river upstream in the United States.  Despite clauses in the Mexican constitution about “indigenous rights”, the Cucapa continued to be denied fishing rights.  Finally, their lawyer suggested that it was their appearance that was causing them problems–they looked, sounded and behaved like Mexicans and not like the stereotypical Cucapas.

The article goes into the historical flip-flopping of expectations placed on the indigenous people of Mexico, and these expectations do parallel Canada and the United States.  An expectation of assimilation changed to a program of multiculturalism has indigenous people with one foot in the past and their traditional culture, and one foot in the present and mainstream culture.  This is a typical outcome for many minority groups in multicultural nations, but it’s particularly problematic for indigenous people because of the rights they have and the expectation mainstream society has on them.  Many people in mainstream society feel that if they receive special rights, they should look, behave and speak like their ancestors.  So once again, they are being dictated to by the mainstream.

Module 1: Indegenous Environmental Network

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is a website that aims  to “protect the environmental, cultural, social, and human rights of Indigenous Peoples”.  The website is American, but is inclusive to all indigenous groups in North America, and could readily be used by other indigenous groups through out the world.  The site high lights key environmental issues in North America and provides users with scientific, cultural, spiritual and historical information on the area.  They also organize campaigns in order to prevent environmental problems or rectify wrongs of the past.

The current focus of the IEN seems to be the Alberta Oil Sands.  Several articles look at the different issues surrounding the problem and some articles discuss with the local First Nations populations are doing in attempts to rectify the situation.  Interestingly, they also document the work they have done in conjunction with similar organizations (not indigenous ones, but environmental ones) in Norway, Demark, Russia, Finland and The US to convince state governments to impose an international moratorium on offshore drilling for oil in the Arctic.  I wasn’t able to see what success they have had convincing these governments to leave the last untouched source of desperately needed fossil fuels, but with such international solidarity between the interest groups, one can hope that governments will listen.

Module 1: Endangered Species in Canada

This site has really grabbed my interest!  The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has the daunting and important task of evaluating the health of the various species of wildlife in Canada.  It is a very interesting approach to what has likely always been a very hard-science based practice.  Scientists tracking the health of the species that we rely on in Canada likely realized very quickly that their data did not go back far enough to make informed decisions, but they also realized that for the health of some species, decisions had to be made!

Aboriginal traditional knowledge (ATK) is incorporated into their annual assessments.  The website has information on what ATK is, and even states that the meaning of ATK varies depending on what region one is researching.  The assessment process for determining the health of a species is listed and in that list is the protocol around using ATK.  This protocol includes cultural sensitivity due to the spiritual nature of the information.  The site is run by the Government of Canada and so this representation of ATK is in my opinion a grand tipping of the hat, so to speak, to First Nations cultures and their vast knowledge of the land.

Module 1: Aboriginal Mapping Network

Here is a website attempting to marry up the disparity between the affordances of the web with the indigenous connection to the land.  Using traditional knowledge and the Geographical Information System, hunting areas, fishing areas, ceremonial grounds etc. are being plotted and connected to the history and current practices they represent.  The site also provides scholarly information on the cultural importance of the land for the various First Nations cultures.  One contributor to the site sees the project as connecting people with the land and connecting the past with the present.