Tag Archives: climate change

Alaska Native Perspectives on Earth & Climate – Lesson Plans

Found at the Teacher’s Domain, which is a free digital media service for education use, the ‘Alaska Natives Perspectives on Earth & Climate‘ webpage provides links to student activities, lesson plans, and videos.  The resources are organized under topics of traditional ways of knowing: spirit, air, fire, water, and earth; and Earth as a system: atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. The lesson plans are recommended for grades 6-12, detailed, and are based on Alaskan Native ways of knowing. The site is free to use, although you have to register after 7 uses.

Module 4: TEK and Restoration


There is a plethora of research, articles and websites touting the way Traditional Ecological Knowledge can be used as scientific evidence of the climate change that is happening in extreme envirionments (such as the Arctic and Sahara), and lands that are relied upon for sustinance by indigenous people (such as Samoa and Tasmania).

What is lacking in the research, is evidence as to how TEK can reverse or slow the process of climate change and how the particular ecosystems should be managed and maintained.  This website, Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network, briefly outlines how altered practices from Western to Indigenous, has slowed, stopped or reversed the negative changes associated with climate change. 

I think sites like this one could prove to be more valuable than ones pointing out the doom and gloom of the climate change situation.  People know that the climate is changing in a detrimental way, but they don’t know what they can do about it.  This provides valuable information and hope to people that hopefully can be acted upon.

Module 4: Third World Farmer


Third World Farmer is a game that makes use of Indigenous knowledge and teaches gamers about the struggles of a farmer in a developing nation.  The game bridges technology and IK in many layers.  The first layer is that of the actual game design–it is a game on a computer, but the rules of the game are dictated by environmental and social factors that influence the livelihood of an African farmer, and to overcome the difficulties, the gamer must discover the Indigenous knowledge to be successful.  Within the game IK and technology are also linked.  When the gamer starts, all she has is her family and a bit of money.  She must research the various crops and decide how best to spend her money.  Through trial and error, the gamer develops a very rudimentary form of Indigenous knowledge.  As the gamer makes more money, she can buy various technologies that will make her life easier and help her yield better crops and thus make more money.

Some of the criticisms I have of this game are that the fact that it is a game may trivialize the plight of the third world farmer.  There is not a lot of education going on to really inform the gamer of the social implications of the GAME itself.  There is infomation about the severity of the situation in Africa, and a critical thinker would understand the message, but the average gamer would not see that while he or she may have just lost their entire family to a plague, the actual farmer the character represents can’t escape this reality.  Another criticism is that the issues behind the struggles are not very well articulated.  It does show that these farmers are being forced to work with in the confines of mechanization, but it doesn’t reveal that the increase in length, frequencey and severity of droughts is caused by industrialization and capitalism.  You also can’t save your game and pick up where you left off later.  This is frustrating from a game point of view, but also from a learning point of view.  To get the full effect of the game, several hours are required, which I’d like to expend over a few weeks, but because I can’t save the game, I have to start over each time, but I also don’t have the stamina (or time or patience) to spend 7 consecutive hours playing the same game.

Module 3: Winds of Change and Daniel Wildcat


This pdf is a bit of a review of the discussions and events at the Seven Generations Conference in 2008.  Of particular interest to my research is the interview with Daniel Wildcat who is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas.  His specialty is in Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment and education.  The epiphany he describes through story in this interview is my thesis for my paper.  While working with NASA and remote sensing satellite images of Earth, he decided that First Nations people were “local sensing” experts and that the two forms of knowing–scientific and indigenous–work together to create a larger, more accurate picture.

Indigenous knowledge can certainly give scientists more specific, holistic information about what is happening at ground level or “in real life” (as opposed to in satellite images on on pages of data), but the rapid rate at which things are changing, and the extreme nature of the changes often renders the problem solving skill set of the particular indigenous knowledge ill equipped to deal.  Thus, scientists and indigenous thinkers need to collaborate in order to problem solve and troubleshoot the solutions to this massive issue.

Module 3: IK Supporting SK


Being that I’m both a science and humanities teacher, I appreciate both the scientific method and other forms of gathering knowledge and information.  As such, I chose my topic for this course’s research paper to look at how indigenous knowledge supports scientific knowledge.  My hypothesis was that science would provide the data and quantitative analysis of climate change and that indigenous knowledge would provide the human, spiritual and qualitative analysis of climate change.

This article explains how the scientific community researching climate change actually needs to go to Indigenous peoples first to find out what needs to be researched.  One of the researchers gives the example of rainfall averages in her home town of Boulder, Co.  In July, her city usually gets an average of 1 inch of rain.  If this rain is dispersed through out the month, her lawn is lush and healthy.  However, if Boulder gets an inch of rain on July 1, and then none for the rest of the month, her lawn is dead.  Weather stations and other tools would not effectively differentiate in this case between 1 inch of rain distributed through the month and 1 inch in one day.  In this situation, traditional or Indigenous knowledge would be needed to explain that the data are not actually reflecting the changes that are happening.

Here is yet another example of why we need to look to the human experience of life and the land and rely less on supposed empirical and objective data.

Also notable in this research is the attempt to answer some of the questions that Linda Smith (1999) suggests are necessary when doing research with Indigenous people.  This research appears to try to answer the questions “Whose interests does it serve” and “how will its results be disseminated”.  There is a serious concern for the traditional ways of the Inuit people, and the research is attempting to help them adjust their weather predicting strategies so they can continue on with traditional ways of life.

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?


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.

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.