Learning From Indigenous Peoples on Climate Change

Sapara people in a canoe
For Sapara people in Ecuador, being able to move around their traditional territory is essential to climate change adaptation. Photo by Gleb Raygorodetsky

Many of the people likely to be on the front lines of a changing climate are indigenous. Already assaulted by centuries of colonialism and exploitation, many indigenous people must also now adapt to rising seas, warming temperatures, and other disruptions to natural systems.

Conservation biologist Gleb Raygorodetsky has been traveling the world to document stories of resilience among indigenous people in the face of these challenges, from the Arctic to the Amazon. He is compiling the stories into a book, Archipelago of Hope: Encounters at the Edge of the Changing World.

Raygorodetsky is trying to raise funds to finish the project through the crowd-funded site Indiegogo. We spoke with him about his work.

What’s the journey that led you to this topic?

I am a conservation biologist by training. But when I grew up in Russia I had learned from people who lived off the land. So, eventually, I came to realize that Western science doesn’t have all the answers. It tends to be more surgical and less holistic. Indigenous people have closer intimate relationships to the land.

In the 1990s, when I was working for Gwich’in people in Northwest Territory of Canada, I began to focus on climate change. I have been learning from local people because they know a lot about all the changes on their land. They often talk about it in more holistic ways that are more profound than just parts per million [of CO2] in the atmosphere. They talk about the relationships between living things and between the people and the land.

Why is it important to listen to an indigenous worldview?

We should look at such environmental issues as climate change through the prism —> Read More