Saturday, April 25, 2009

Indigenous people share climate adaptation strategies Indigenous people from around the world gathered this week to discuss the effects of climate change on their lands — the first time they have convened in such numbers on the topic.

The Andean region has suffered an increase in respiratory illness, a decrease in Alpaca farming and a shortened growing season, which may eventually be cut in half. In Kenya the Samburu people are losing their livestock to severe, extended droughts. And the Dayak in Borneo have documented climate variations including rising water levels and the loss of traditional medicinal plants.

More than 400 indigenous people presented their adaptation strategies to representatives from 80 nations at the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change held in Anchorage, Alaska, this week (20–24 April) to both highlight their vulnerability and impact climate research. "We don't want to be seen as just the powerless victims of climate change," said Patricia Cochran, chair of the summit and an Inupiat native of Nome, Alaska, in a press release.

Sam Johnston — summit co-sponsor and a senior research fellow at the UN University — told SciDev.Net that there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating climate variations at the local level into climate research….Johnston says that indigenous people and Western scientists have a lot to learn from one another. He says the conference presentations are "ground-truthing"; they confirm that climate change is happening in all areas.

Regarding the acceptance of these traditional offerings as serious research, Johnston says: "There are some serious methodological barriers to overcome in order for [the research] to be taken seriously by Western scientists … obviously a lot of this indigenous knowledge isn't documented or peer reviewed."

…Johnston wants for a similarly open-minded approach from scientists. "If mainstream scientists want to incorporate local knowledge and local impacts as they said they did, they have to move away from a strictly guided and formulated approach to what information is valid and what isn't … they have to meet some of these [indigenous] stakeholders halfway."

Shown is Rumah Ugat, in the Kapit Division of Sarawak, Borneo. Shot by Aron Paul 2005, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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