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The Role of Indigenous Peoples in International Climate Negotiations
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The Role of Indigenous Peoples in International Climate Negotiations

July 15, 2020

Kamal Kapadia  0:00  

Dr. Heike Schroeder is Professor of Environmental Governance at the School of International Development at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Her work focuses on global environmental politics, forest governance and REDD+ and the role of non state actors in the current negotiating process and urban climate governance. From 2007 to 2011, Heike was a Tyndall Senior Research Fellow and an Oxford Martin Senior Fellow in Forest Governance at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. That's actually where I met Heike. She and I shared an office and we became close friends.

So I just want to also say a few personal words. It's very easy when you're working in the world of climate justice to get you know, jaded and maybe even sort of angry and anxious. And the thing, one of the things I really appreciate about Heike is how she always manages to reach tain a deep inner peace, and sense of equal equanimity, and also just a real time that she comes at her work with a great big reservoir of kindness and generosity. And it's this sort of spirit that allows her to bring together very different kinds of people from, you know, indigenous people to supposedly high level climate negotiators and bring them together and help them find some common ground.

But it also has helped me practically so when she and I shared an office like if I was feeling particularly anxious, she would suggest that we pause and we did a little meditation in our office and I was we used to do that we used to close the door and turn down the lights and sit for five minutes and meditate in our office and kind of reground ourselves as a sort of, as a way of kind of coming back to our work. So I really appreciate that about Heike. And so thank you, for your friendship and for your great work and welcome to Terra, I'll hand over to you.

Heike Schroeder  2:05  

Thank you so much Kamal for these very kind words. And hello, everybody from around the world. I was really quite curious Kamal whether or not you give it away that we used to meditate in our offices. And sometimes because we had a window that people could actually look into our office from the corridor, we'd have some faces like noses, you know, on a screen kind of wondering what we're up to in the dark, because we would turn off the light as well. So yes, it's a great pleasure to be joining you in this very exciting new enterprise up of a nine weeks course on climate change.

Okay, so I suppose I'm adding to a kind of broader background on climate change policy and governance. And what I wanted to give us this kind of small, you know, slice of the role of indigenous peoples and this is very much something that has come about in the very, you know, recent, let's say 10 years or so. So why indigenous peoples? Why are they relevant to climate change, and maybe perhaps, in particular to REDD+? Well, so indigenous peoples are perhaps today more talked about then then they have even just you know, a few years ago, but they would would form approximately 5% of the world's population, this is a very general general estimate is quite difficult. And obviously, there's no all kind of shades of grey and of indigeneity out there these days because they often live in kind of mixed, mixed kind of, you know, environments where they might retreat back to the retreat back to their bushes, but then come into the villages and try and get their kids to school.

So they do both, they can retain their traditional lives, but they also interact in some ways and maybe local market spaces. And that said, they still, roughly roughly they manage 11% of the world's land. And they also customarily own occupy or using some way between I think it was 22 - 65% of the world's land surface, that is a lot. That is a lot and obviously also because they are widely, you know, spread quite widely. And also they contribute by a significant amount of tons of carbon saved. And of course, it's again, a bit difficult to to pinpoint exactly how much but here's one estimate of, you know, could be 312 million tons of carbon.

So, despite having contributed maybe the least to global warming, because they traditionally lead low carbon ways of life, they are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change. And that is because they predominantly live in ecosystems particularly prone to effects of climate change, because they can be found in the polar regions, small islands, mountains, humid tropics, coastal regions and deserts. And they also heavily depend on the lands on their lands and the resources from their lands and for their basic sustenance and livelihoods, including food, medicine, shelter, fuel, etc. So they can be seen amongst economically they could as the poorest the most marginalized and people globally for that reason. And in addition, mitigation and adaptation efforts by non indigenous groups potentially adverse effects on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, especially their customer lands to rights and natural resources.

Okay, so you might have already wondered, as you were listening, what what do we actually mean by indigenous? What is indigenous exactly? And there's not not necessarily a, you know universally agreed upon definition but amongst the definitions out there, I think this one is used quite quite, quite commonly, and it's United Nations 2016 -- it says indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which having a historical continuity with pre invasion and pre colonial societies that developed on their territories considered themselves distinct from other sectors of the society that is now prevailing on those territories or parts of them. They form at present non dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations, their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity as the basis of their continued existence as peoples in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and systems. So, here we have it.

I want to now give you three cases, three examples of how this plays out. The first one, in in the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change itself. And I assume that you've already heard quite a bit about this process, but you can also ask me more questions if you like in the Q&A afterwards. So the emergence and also growth of indigenous participation, but especially activism, and as international policy spaces, in particular the UNFCCC, and also mainly in response to REDD+ has really, you know, started to be seen in the last so many years, maybe five years, 10 years, that's when it started.

But by 2015, so five years ago, really, there was no quite a significant turnout of representation, thousand people, which was about 3% of the participants of the big Paris Agreement conference with the Paris Agreement was adopted. And they are increasingly seen to be, you know, part of panels and events. But the question is really, to what extent are they being seen? To what extent is it just kind of on vogue to have an indigenous representative, you know, at their, at their view, and to what extent are they actually really also heard and how, yet, and we can probably say that political norms around their inclusion are changing. And of course, I'm giving you a very kind of broad, you know, overview, there's a lot more detail, obviously to all this.

But you could say that there are three documents that that clearly showcase these changes of political norms. The first one is Agenda 21 from 1992 which actually, so I'm playing around with your your pictures, I'm just going to try and okay, here I can see everything. And so agenda 21 declares that sustainable development activities should aim towards achieving a better understanding of indigenous peoples knowledge and management experience. And then the 2015 Agenda 30 very famously, is guided by an overarching principle of leaving no one behind and obviously that would include indigenous peoples and then um, 2015 and the Paris Agreement actually has a mention of the UNFCCC - Local communities and indigenous peoples platform, which has in subsequent years been negotiated and adopted, which aims to catalyze learning engagement and policy coordination that benefits local communities and indigenous peoples as well as the international community through diversifying knowledge systems and promoting knowledge integration.

And you could think you know, say that this is actually quite an innovative step because it in a way gives indigenous peoples even more rights, more voice, then other constituencies, other non party stakeholders as they mentioned, as well, other observer organizations in the process.

Okay, so next case, Bolivia, so here's a case of a country to just look at a different level of governance, as it were. And also, these are cases from a recent project that I'm carrying out. So we're actually going into these countries Bolivia and the next one will be Papua New Guinea and working with an indigenous community around issues of climate change and resource extraction. So Bolivia is an interesting case because it has one of the most advanced legal frameworks for protecting indigenous peoples rights. And this is the result of the 2009 Plurinational nation state constitution, which grants the country's 33 indigenous nations the rights to their autonomy, and their own form of development, territory, intercultural education and free prior and informed consent. And since that time, so in the last about 10 years, and Bolivia has been proven to practice a land distribution process to hand back to its various 33 indigenous nations and their territories, and this has been done to about about 20%.

And this is being done through what's called the communal territories of origin or in Spanish Tierra Comunitaria de Origen (TCO)'s. And these have important implications for the management of common property resources such as forests, as they provide an additional legal framework for local control and property rights over natural resources such as forests. However, subsoil minerals, as elsewhere remains the property of the Bolivian state. They recognize communal lands and traditional territories of indigenous nations as independent entities therefore, for the first time. So when we now look at one of these indigenous nations, the indigenous territory Lomerío um, it's an area of about 260,000 hectares is located in the department of Santa Cruz, which is kind of in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. And, and there you find the Monkox indigenous peoples, and they legally own and manage their land. And now, as of 2006, they were the first ones to have to gained their right to territorial indigenous autonomy.

And as, although this is, in fact, kind of this is agreed in on paper, of course, the struggle continues. And there's a lot of dynamic around what this really means. And not every person everyone is necessarily always on the same page, as it were in terms of whether to continue with traditional indigenous norms or to adopt Western norms. So today the emphasis is, is very much on communal ownership of resources. And this is very much supported by the indigenous alliances, the indigenous local chiefs, but not necessarily by the municipal government that is also run by by the same people the Monkox people.

So in the dynamic of toward perhaps changing governance structures and there's now climate change happening and so additional challenges are, are thereby created for a peoples that is struggling and to to gain autonomy. In the area that we visited, the big two I would say were a drawing of a river that, therefore has reduced their access to fish as a as one source of protein. And the other big issue has been forest fires and they've been hit quite severely. And actually, as of what today they are also fighting COVID-19.

Okay, and then the third case, and Papua New Guinea. And this is a very different country to Bolivia, in that the customary rights that are kind of, you know, prevalent in terms of their....97% of land is under customary rights. The government itself has not respected this nor free prior informed consent, nor has it ratified any international agreements. For example, the UNDRIP - the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples rights. PNG also one of the some of the biggest gold, silver nickel reserves and mines in the world. And it has a very unregulated environment, which is therefore very attractive, obviously to multinationals who can easily exploit these resources. And then these resources are not at all shared yet with the indigenous communities that live adjacent, and so they also they receive no benefits but only experience the very severe environmental damages.

We went to an area called Tabubil where the OK Tedi mine is. The OK Tedi mine a big copper and gold mine that third largest in the world has been in operation since 1984. And has led to various serious environmental devastation around the area, and therefore is also known as an example of industrial malpractice. And so this, you know, plays out in a way that whilst these people are traditional hunters that cannot anymore find anything to hunt. There are no more wild animals, no bushmeat available in the area. And there's a lot of pollution I suppose that the people don't really understand yet and still they are experiencing early cases of cancer in very young people. And they have no health infrastructure in the area.

So the areas contains ethnic groups that are in some way interrelated, but also speak a lot of different languages and the reasons remote and inaccessible, only accessible by plane and really, the infrastructure that exists only exists for the mine and doesn't reach any of the surrounding villages. So, the again, there's a lot more detail to this, but just to say that a situation that is already quite tense and difficult for indigenous peoples as again, exasperated by climate change that has brought about reduced rainfall, drought, increased landslides, and also an interesting kind of dynamic around how diverse people have diverse interpretations as to why the climate is changing. So, to wrap up, as a conclusion, we can say that the kind of indigenous climate change interactions are at different stages play out in different ways, in certain regards in different places.

So the UNFCCC, we see kind of a gradual process of institutionalization of greater participation through the Indigenous People's platform. Bolivia we see a process of implementation of framework regulating communal rights and policies and practices. And in Papua New Guinea, we see kind of early stages of a process of gaining voice in the context of benefits from resource extraction and lack of institutional framework. I want to leave you with this. So here's a quote by an indigenous representative at the UNFCCC, he says, "Sometimes it's different to speak the colonists language. This is a challenge because of how you interpret concepts, how you interpret words, or world views. And we're getting better and better at this because we don't want to be on the outside of the game."

And here's a list of references. And if you are interested in the project that I mentioned, it's called the INDIS project, standing for Indigenous International Interactions for Sustainable Development. And the website is in this project. Okay, so I now stop sharing and see you all again.

Laney Seigner  20:20  

Thank you so much Heike, that was a really great introduction to this topic and and also really relevant to some other content we'll be covering in coming up next week and the following after our focus this week on energy and climate change. And I'm just wondering, before I get into the the guest lectures Slack channel from our learners questions, if you could just provide a little bit more of an explanation of the Redd+ program and indigenous involvement because that is something that's coming up in class 14, that it would just be helpful to, for you to shed some light on for our group before we get to the slides content.

Heike Schroeder  20:59  

Okay, so so, as you know, the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 failed to address the issue of avoided deforestation. It did actually include in the CDM (clean development mechanisms) options of afforestation and reforestation, but not avoided deforestation, which is really where the bulk of the emissions lie. And it wasn't done at the time because of a lot of methodological issues, but also sovereignty issues, you know, countries with a lot of forests want to have their sovereignty played with impeded upon. And so it was left out, but even already for years after, and definitely, certainly by 2005 countries came forward and said, well, this is a big, you know, a big slice of the pie of emissions that we need to address.

And there were some, some studies done that showed that could be about 20% maybe of emissions, I think now we're more likely saying 13 - 17% of emissions come from deforestation. It's a quite a big chunk. It's bigger than transport to leave out and so with the opportunity of the kind of continuation of negotiations, primarily, you know, to negotiate a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, but which wasn't so straightforward, because the US had not ratified. So a second track was started for negotiations for long term cooperative action. And within that, there was the opportunity to, to look at REDD+. So this was done.

And by 2007, REDD+ had gained a huge kind of following. It was very popular topic. There was a big event happening Forest Day of 2007 Bali conference, but also there was this new report that had come out by Lord Stern-- Nicholas Stern. And the economics of climate change. And he actually said that reducing emissions from deforestation was a cheap mitigation option. And this sounded very promising to many countries. So it was certainly very much supported and propelled forward to the extent that I'm REDD+ made a lot of good strides in the early years, it was, you know, good consensus around REDD+ much more so than on a lot of the other issues that were negotiated kind of in those years. Initially toward 2009, the Copenhagen Conference where the Copenhagen Accord was what the agreement was meant to be adopted, but that didn't happen, as you know.

So in those years, and there was already a lot of detail discussed and so 2008 I think it was, as an example, and the US managed to change the reference to Indigenous Peoples in the draft treaty text to Indigenous People. So that's a big difference in terms of, you know, the status that these people would have internationally under international law. And so there was an outcry. And it it soon just became evidence that a REDD+ mechanism would impede seriously you know, impact indigenous peoples who live in the forests. The forests are not uninhabited, they are inhabited, not densely but they are inhabited by numerous indigenous communities.

And some of them these still live quite in isolation, but many of these unfortunately cannot anymore. This is not by their own choosing, but it started through missionizing and then extraction and now also experiencing climatic impacts. And most recently, even, you know, being somewhat negatively affected from conservation efforts that would change the rules as to how they can, you know, how they can live in the forest. They've been also, you know, migration, migration has been forced upon them in such ways. So with that, in those years, increasingly, indigenous representatives came to the climate negotiations and early years, I think they were just angry and nobody really took them seriously. And then they started to really learn and started to be much more strategic and much more kind of willing to cooperate much more positive and also much more informed and kind of professional perhaps. And, and this happens very much through quite a kind of, you know, hierarchy.

Well, there's a number of very, very influential indigenous alliances now. For example, in Latin America, it's KOICA and they represent Latin American countries, indigenous peoples in the various Latin American countries, and they have kind of, you know, indigenous representatives who very much are part of the international policy debates. And so they're therefore well known now. And you know, you will, you will find them at every international meeting as well. So I think they have managed to avert some of the issues, you know, but there's still a lot at stake for them.

Laney Seigner  26:33  

Thank you that that's really helpful to just give us some, some introductory thoughts on on our REDD+, because we'll be Yeah, we'll be diving into that a little deeper, and thanks to a lot of your slides that you've already shared with us on that. So I'm going to turn it over to the Slack channel for some questions from our group. Let's see, Toral would you like to ask your question first to get started?

Toral Varia  26:58  

Thank you so much, Dr.Heike. That was really There's just so much not known about the subject here, at least, that all of it was very, very insightful. But what I'm really trying to understand is that a lot of subject matter, or a lot of efforts that are being put in place for the indigenous community, actually tend to be seen by the governments as activism. Are you really seeing any change in the government's perspective? Are they are they being inclusive of the indigenous communities? Because in in places like India, we have a lot of indigenous communities, but it's almost like, you know, they don't have a choice.

Heike Schroeder  27:45  

Yeah, I think there's quite a variety in terms of how governments deal with indigenous communities. There's some, you know, very bad practices, I suppose, currently, you know, Brazil is one of those and then those countries with better practices and certainly, you know, who who support the indigenous communities maybe Bolivia, definitely also Guatemala, Ecuador, those kinds of countries. And I'm not sure about these days, but definitely earlier days Philippines. So these are countries who have had indigenous community, indigenous representatives also on their national delegations. Um, I would say, yeah, it really varies a lot. And of course, even if a government is fairly positive, like Canada, you know, you can see that the rhetoric is quite positive. And that doesn't mean that there are no issues and so you know, indigenous struggles certainly still continue. And New Zealand is a good example. Now I think they have rectified their loss, but more so is certainly needed.

Toral Varia  29:02  

Thank you.

Laney Seigner  29:05  

Let's see. Yeah, I have a related question to that, but I'm gonna hold on to it for a second and turn it over to Tim to ask his question.

Tim Falls  29:14  

Thank you. Thank you, Doctor Heike. Can everybody hear me okay? So a specific question about Bolivia, you mentioned that the indigenous people regained kind of control of their lands, but the government maintained control of the minerals underneath the lands. That seems I interpreted that is kind of a loophole of sorts that would allow that government to still kind of do whatever they want to extract in the future if they wanted to, even if that wasn't, if that was against the wishes of the indigenous people. Is that an accurate interpretation of that, and then a broader question is, have you seen anywhere on Earth where governments have given full control and ownership? The land above the land and below the land to indigenous people?

Heike Schroeder  30:12  

That's a really good question. I don't know of an example of a country that has done but I wouldn't say that I'm the expert on it. So it may exist and I just don't know about it. I know that with all you know, co management arrangements that exist also in the, you know, Northwestern America, really United States and Canada, they still would have sub soil belonging to the States.

There's, there's certainly a lot of, there's a lot of challenge around, you know, who owns the forest and they're oftentimes kind of overlapping and conflicting legal frameworks, you know, that can be partly traditional customary law but also then statutory law, you know, and only kind of put in place because there might be the, you know, an advantage to owning the forest if there's internationally money to be had. So Bolivia, I mean, compared to a lot of other countries, at least it has some regulatory framework in their favor. That doesn't mean it's, it's, it's implemented completely. And I suppose what I've learned from my visit to this area is that even amongst the indigenous community members, there's a lot of you know diversity of opinion as to what their future should look like. And some preserve traditional ways and others just want to modernize as soon as possible.

You know, younger generations often kind of vote with their feet. In some cases, you know, they want to go into the cities and then in some cases, they also just come back and say it was terrible. It was alienating. It wasn't how they expected. And nothing's really straightforward, I think. Yeah. I think, I mean,  Ecuador has been a good example of this conflict around, you know, exploiting minerals and sub soil, and what can be done to avoid it. And there's always a struggle, because also these indigenous communities that we work with, and you know, they do also want somewhat better material in better, you know, material resources, and they want schools and roads and infrastructure and, you know, now they need medicine in Bolivia, and it all costs money. So they're quite open also to having revenues, you know, come in streams of revenue. So, in the case of this particular area in Lomerío, they have mines, they have small scale artisanal mines as well, so they, but it's communal, so everybody owns it, nobody can do claimants. Everybody can mine and sell. I don't know if I answered your question.

Laney Seigner  33:11  

Yeah, that was a really good question. And and thank you for your answer Heike. I was also confused by that, like how you know, the subsurface distinction, because, you know, I just think I study agriculture. And I think of trees and plants with roots. And I feel like, if you own the subsurface, I mean, you're probably more likely to be after the minerals and not the roots of plants. But of course, like those are down there, too. So it kind of feels like you're literally undermining the things above ground. And that's just but that's an interesting way of thinking about it in the examples you described in Bolivia and Ecuador. And yeah, it seems like more negotiating to be done, I guess, to share the right to have access in equitable economic terms. Let's see. Let me get to Sean and then Dipankar. Sean you want to ask your question from the Slack.

Shawn Drost  34:06  

I thank you so much for your comments so far and and for all the knowledge that you're sharing with us. And my question is about whether I'm wondering, is there any movement to like, actually include indigenous peoples individually or in some way collectively as like actual parties to the Conference of the Parties?

Heike Schroeder  34:30  

Yeah, good question as well. So I guess they would love to have that outcome. But it's, it's some, something that many countries are also very much against. Now, I think that, even if they are quietly against they are not going to openly state these, so they're going to be quite reserved, and not necessarily push this agenda item. But this platform was supported by a small number of countries. And I think the indigenous communities, indigenous representatives really worked hard to speak and to, you know, gain acceptance of this because they argued that whatever was decided was actually going to directly affect their livelihoods, which was different to other constituencies.

And that already is a huge, you know, change if if they have, you know, access in that way, they have more access than other constituencies, and to have them be on a par with governments, I think that would really revolutionize our, you know, state system or nation state system. I mean, these days, you can't rule out anything anymore. But that would be really quite revolutionary. Even, even in a context of Canada, and I've watched this happen where The First Nations would be speaking and they would have, you know, they wouldn't always be allowed to speak, depending on what the kind of the norms of the specific meeting were where they might find themselves, they would not be able to speak officially, if they weren't part of the national delegation. And so there's definitely sensitivity around this question of, you know, who other than national governments and parties would have the right to speak in formal settings that would primarily, you know, be those of negotiating text. And yeah, I can say more, but I think that's probably a good start.

Laney Seigner  36:48  

Yeah, thanks for that. Deepankar, you had a slightly related question, I think so do you want to go ahead and ask it

Deepankar Panda  37:00  

So, basically, I just wanted to understand like, what is your take on citizenship and the indigenous people? And do you think, like, defining citizenship is somewhere aligning them to the Western norms? So, just want to understand your opinion on that.

Heike Schroeder  37:18  

Hmm, yeah, also really good question. And it's really hard sometimes, you know, because in today's world, you have to have a national passport, you can't, you know, you're not a legal person who can travel internationally without it. And so, I think, you know, the negotiating kind of representing indigenous people, and they have passports and so they are part of, you know, the nation state system. And, and then it depends, I think on the on the specific country, you know, what, how they're recognized and again, you know, we let's say Indonesia doesn't recognize this indigenous peoples at all. It just says, you know, we're all individually indigenous, every, every Indonesian is indigenous, therefore, nobody is in the indigenous as the official kind of, you know, government take.

And then you look in New Zealand and you see a lot more recognition for the, you know, the Nation, the nationhood nationality, and that might be your pluralist. And you see that also in Bolivia, it's a pluri national state. So there are, you know, multiple nations that are accommodated for but this might work within a national government, you know, national kind of contexts or government is a country context, but not necessarily Internationally. We're not that far along. And they that you could travel, you know, and marry possible. I'm not sure don't think so though? Not that I've heard.

Laney Seigner  39:07  

Thanks so much for that as well. Yeah. Tim, Tim, you want to go ahead and ask your second question? I think that's a great question and sort of linked broadly to what we're hoping all guest speakers will shed  light on for our cohort for those seeking to transition into climate related work. Yeah.

Tim Falls  39:27  

My question is just do you have any recommendations or guidance for anyone who's eager to transition their career into advocacy for indigenous peoples through the lens of climate change? That's kind of where I came from when joining Terra and only gained more excitement and interest so any guidance you have would be appreciated. And I also took note of INDIS project, and will check that out.

Heike Schroeder  39:58  

Yeah, um, advocacy for well, there's a lot of advocacy out there on the part of also NGOs. And some do great work and others, you can kind of, you know, kind of be a bit careful, because it's always tricky, who sets the agenda. And if you really want to be advocates for them, you need to have them set the agenda and really only, you know, do what they want, the way they want it. And I think these days, they're realizing something that they really need to do is to learn our ways more so, you know, understand our science better, understand our systems better. And so really help them in understanding this and you know, sharing, you know, the knowledge with them so that they understand what they need, what is best for them to do, basically. So, that's one. And this, I think, is also they love if their cause being shared more broadly. So you know, any anything anyway, that, you know, their their plight and their stories and their hardships can be shared internationally, so that there's, you know, an awareness that's raising in terms of what we're doing to them with our lifestyles and advertently. You know, we don't even know what we do in terms of, you know, how we, we promote how we support exploitation of their lands really, really badly, and all sorts of ways to what we eat, what we consume, etc, etc. And the environmental pollution that you know, that needs mine for them as well.

Tim Falls  41:41  

Thank you, I hadn't thought of, I've always thought of indigenous people as those who have knowledge to share with with non indigenous and hadn't thought of it the other way that that might have something to offer to them as well, in that sense,

Heike Schroeder  41:56  

I think they have a lot of knowledge to share with us and only some of us are interested, I think, you know, there's a lot more to be done to really also open ways open doors for them to speak, in a way, and even that a lot of what they have to say, still, you know, falls on deaf ears sometimes because their views their values are very difficult to for, you know, the Western mind to make sense of it, you know, it's not as soon as you get get into nonhuman and dimensions, you know, the Western mind kind of shuts down but this is a very important area, you know, for them very important element of their worldview. So I think the more that we can educate ourselves or open up our minds up to really, really hearing what they have to say the better?

Laney Seigner  42:53  

Yeah, I think thanks for that answer. And yeah, this is reminding me, I was able to go up to Alaska to work with a professor on her research while I was in grad school. And while I'm there, I read a great book on sort of the coalescence of indigenous peoples knowledge with Western climate science. And it was sort of a fascinating example of both parties sort of being able to listen to each other and communicate across, you know, cultural lines and communicate in a way that both made it possible for indigenous peoples to preserve their traditional hunting practices and for their knowledge to feed into Western climate science that was sort of incorrectly predicting some changes for that area up till that communication. So I'll share that resource with our cohort that seems like yeah, something to look out for and build on.

Heike Schroeder  43:43  

Who was thee?

Laney Seigner  43:46  

It was perfect. Dr. Margaret Torne, who does research on warming warming patterns in the Arctic and plant migrations further north around the Arctic Circle up in Barrow and Nome, Alaska. So it was, I think it's called like the Sign of The Whale or I don't know, I'll post the name of the book because it's a great thing on this 2 way knowledge exchange.

So let's see, I think we have a few more questions from Ha and Shawn. So Ha do you want to go ahead and ask your question?

Ha Vu  44:20  

Yeah, so my question is, so, in the, I mean, obviously, I think a lot of indigenous rights and concerns have been with respect to sort of land use of like, forests use and pollution, which is, I mean, it it makes a lot of sense and they are very important concerns in the bigger fight. I just wonder if you also know of cases where there are, like activism of indigenous rights with respect to, let's say, a bit more global climate like greenhouse gas emissions by sort of the traditional climate change tempo. Yeah or like, if they what do they have to say about like, yeah, you have all energy or if they want to modernize themselves that, is that in the conversation?

Heike Schroeder  45:19  

Okay, um, so one, one thing and this is actually also a little bit back to your question, Tim, and what I've had someone say at a conference, so there was an indigenous person in a conference in Arizona and they just said, you know, as the heat, as it gets hotter what we do is we adapt, so we just, you know, move further up the mountain, further up the hills. And I think that's a really important lesson that you know, indigenous communities are very good at adapting they find, you know, solutions by changing the way that they interact with the environment. And we just don't seem to be able to understand that we think, you know, technology will shield us rather than changing ourselves. And so this is one area, I think one example.

And in terms of, you know, kind of broader climate change discourses, global discourses, adaptation wise, there's a, I think there's generally a bit of a difficulty for indigenous peoples to understand carbon, they understand health of ecosystem. So, they understand that if you know, trees are cut, ecosystem balance is, you know, lost. And once that happens, species will maybe you know, become imbalanced as well. You know, the whole kind of the balance tilts. And then you have a lot of change and you know, you'll lose species, you will lose animals and plant species, I mean, and so then you know, that's an issue. So for them, they just have much more of a felt experience with with, you know, the balance the ecosystem itself.

And carbon is just an abstract element that means nothing really out of it's just for us, like we see it as something we see it, it's very important to come we don't even care about anything else that comes from the forest. We only care about the carbon because our, you know, of reference point of frame and have, you know, framework is, is climate change and carbon emitted, you know, increases climate change. We don't even connect with the rest of the picture of changes that are happening. Others do that right, who people who work on biodiversity for example, desertification processes, etc. So I think there's a lot, you know, that we really can learn from their, you know, their approach their worldview, and addressing our environmental issues.

Laney Seigner  48:08  

Thanks so much for that. And let's see, we are yeah, we are nearing getting close to the end of our time here. So, Shawn, let's get to your question. And then we'll leave some time for any final thoughts or questions. Before we wrap up? Go ahead.

Shawn Drost  48:21 

Thank you. So I was wondering, I live in California. And here we have a debate on whether to include REDD like offset protocol and our cap and trade system. And this new protocol would join the other existing offset protocols which are US only, and if it's greenlit this new protocol will direct money towards international conservation efforts. But it's unlikely to have good oversight, serious respect for indigenous rights. You know, in the in our messy in this messy situation, what would you say to decision makers to people that are involved in this debate? And would you ultimately endorse such an imperfect protocol?

Heike Schroeder  49:16  

Right, yeah. Um, it really depends, you know, on how ambitious we want to be, and what the answer would be. I mean, at the end of the day, I think in the West, we just need to do a lot less, and we would achieve a lot more. We're just creating all sorts of incentives. And oftentimes, these are kind of false incentives and they're warped incentives. You know, we're doing something by creating a program that helps us to not change anything at home, but then, you know, even I mean, even channelling money into a community that doesn't operate through money. It's going to, you know, create issues, and oftentimes creates, you know, divisions, those who because you receive them some money and those who don't, and who then benefit from, you know, new infrastructure and those who don't. And so we just keep mingling, mingling, mingling, I mean, the best thing for us would be to stop exploiting their natural environment and, and reduce our consumption. I mean, that at the end of the day, what is really what we need to do, but not all policymakers will be happy with that.

So they'd rather just create, you know, offset programs. And of course, this is a bit of a bland and kind of broad answer. And of course, it depends. I mean, there are communities who want to excel, you accumulate monetary wealth and have better lifestyles and, you know, materialistic lifestyles. I mean, we do too. It's it's kind of quite a sensitive area issue. And so I think we need to tread very carefully. And ultimately, I think we do need to look a lot more at what we do, you know, how we contribute to the challenges and other countries through our consumption and also our policies and our system.

Shawn Drost  51:11 

So, the main takeaway is sort of a, it's, it's, it's a kind of the wrong question, but the whole mindset behind the topic is just is a frame of mind that it will not really work and, you know, to answer this question is to sort of is kind of a moot point. And, and so you really don't have a strong stance either way.

Heike Schroeder  51:37  

It depends on whether you want, you know, a weak or strong sustainability answer, perhaps, you know, do you want to have an answer to just tweak a little bit like, you know, have incremental interchanges. Or do you want to actually have a radical, you know, long lasting change in effect? I mean, it really depends on what we're prepared to look at ourselves, I guess.

But indirectly, I'm saying, I mean, this is my personal view, I would I find the opposite approach a little bit problematic. I mean, it's maybe you know, one step and it has some kind of good outcomes in terms of awareness raising, for example, and, you know, we fly around the world... we have to pay a few dollars for this, you know, to offset emissions, at least we'd kind of start to think about it. But of course, we're not solving anything, because who knows how this money is going to be used. And so often, you know, more often than not in history, so far, many of these offset companies have not necessarily invested the money to the, you know, benefits of the local people, shall we say? I mean, there's a, you know, huge variety of quality of offsetting programs out there.

Laney Seigner  52:50  

Thanks for those insights Heike. And let's see, I'm gonna see if we can get Tim's question in there. And then I'll turn it over Kamal for one final question. So Tim, go ahead.

Tim Falls  53:03

Thanks for letting me ask so many things. I'm gonna just read what I typed because I think that's my, I put it in the best words as I typed it. So, in working with working directly with indigenous indigenous people, I often find myself nervous about my whiteness. I want to be sensitive to my outsider status and respectful of the traumas brought on to indigenous people, by people who look like me. Do you have any advice for how to approach indigenous peoples with a sincere desire to support their cause, while avoiding the perception of just another colonialist coming in to quote unquote, 'help'?

Heike Schroeder  53:48  

That's again, a great question. Um, in my experience, so it is limited, I have found them to be very welcoming of us as people rather than, you know, caring about our skin color, first and foremost. And I think as long as you are genuine and open and loving and caring and you know, trustworthy, I think that's what what matters. And I think they're, you know, they are able to differentiate. And into my experience for the I mean, they've been very few who would have spoken out against us in the community saying, what do they want, they can't want anything good, like they will come and take something. What are they taking? So yes, there is distrust, but I found that as soon as they've actually really interacted with us and understood our true intention, it was fine. So yes, we have a very bad rep. And yes, if we come personally, you know, with very, our best of intentions being on their side and I think this is also something we so often emphasize that we are on their side. And we are very, very sorry for all that is, you know, happening to them from our systems or governments, and you can create some wonderful connections with them.

Tim Falls  55:10 

Thank you.

Laney Seigner  55:14  

Okay, Kamal. Do you wanna ask a final question before as we wrap up?

Kamal Kapadia  55:19

I'm sure I'm actually gonna ask two questions. One is just a specific question. Early on, you had mentioned that conservation projects themselves can cause problems. So I'm just wondering if you can speak to that a little bit, sort of how is it that because our REDD+ people are now talking about even though it's supposed to benefit indigenous people, there's a concern that it's actually going to make things worse. So if you can speak a little bit to you know, what are the what are those specific concerns, and then the second question is just a question that we ask all our guests because, you know, as our students are looking to transition into climate work, or put a climate lens on their existing work, do you have any general advice on how they can sort of find their path in this space?

Heike Schroeder  56:04  

Okay, so in the early days, there there were, I mean, there was also CDM projects already that created quite a lot of you know, adverse impacts in terms of indigenous communities losing or being pushed out of out of that their lands because now you couldn't hunt anymore, for example, and they were dependent on hunting for bush meats. And of course, they always do this within reason, you know, only so much that they need subsistence wise, never exploitatively. And, and then this is an important point I think I didn't actually mention before, but the safeguards, environmental and social safeguards, was adopted and this was adopted in 2000 & gosh I think 12 but don't quote me.

And, and, and, and it includes a range of safeguards addressing also indigenous communities, so, you know, right free prior and informed consent also, you know, governance, transparency and good governance in general. They need to be included in decision making up front, you know, these kinds of things are nowadays included and sometimes it's still a challenge of actually putting this into practice and that, you know, indigenous communities are remote and they speak different languages. You know, somebody comes and speaks English to them or Spanish and they don't understand what is wanted from them, and they are unsure and it's quite difficult and again, it's not their worldview that carbon needs to be, you know, sequestered. I mean, That just doesn't make sense to them rightly so, you know, and you could argue it's just the Western way.

So there have been all sorts of issues with them. Other issues have been around, you know, signing contracts for 30 years. So cannot take, you know, fell another tree for 30 years, you know, what is that and why and you know, there can be a lot of confusion and, and, and it's intimidating as well, to many, if Westerners come with these kinds of projects, and telling them they benefit in their go to school, but they might have their own schooling, kind of ideas and ways that they teach the younger through, you know, their own practices, and they don't necessarily understand what it means to have a school, Western medicine and cetera, et cetera. So there's, you know, impingement in that way, and that may be disadvantageous for them.

And then the second question, second question, climate change is such a wide area. And I remember it was I think Steve Rayner, our colleague from Oxford who once said, and I loved it. He said, climate changes like a Christmas tree, you can hang anything you want on it. And it just really means that it's a very wide area. And of course, you know, you can engage in renewable energies, you can engage in food because agriculture is such a driver of climate change in a number of ways. You know, one is deforestation, but another one is fossil fuels, you know, that are inputted into fertilizers and pesticides, and also transportation around the planet. So, and heating, you know, and other inputs into the farming process. So it's huge. It's a huge, huge issue component, and a lot can be done, you know, in changing the food system that we currently have.

There's so there's a lot of different areas within climate change that can be quite different from one another in terms of how to get into it. And also there's, you know, policy work. But then there's also grassroots kind of awareness raising work, there's information dissemination kind of work. I mean, it's just vast. And so ultimately, it depends on what you know, what everyone is really interested in or kind of wanting to make a difference on, you know, what they feel most passionate about. And there's, I guess, it's good to, you know, to get involved in the communities around whatever area you're interested into. So and also you're all welcome to, you know, get in touch with me personally, if you want to have some ideas of you know, contacts who to, who to get in touch with. That's oftentimes a good way. And seeing what you know what kinds of opportunities there might be that you can get involved with what's needed, stuff like that. That's great.

Laney Seigner  1:01:05  

Yeah. Thanks so much for being willing to engage with our cohort. And yeah, for just being here for this wonderful conversation today. And I'm gonna wrap things up for today. If that sounds good to everyone. Thank you for your questions and participation, and yes, this recording will be available for future reference.

Heike Schroeder  1:01:26  

Thank you so much, everyone, for great questions.

Kamal Kapadia  1:01:29  

Thank you, Heike.

Heike Schroeder  1:01:31  

And Laney for setting us up together. That's really great.

Kamal Kapadia  1:01:37  

Is it okay, Heike you offered Is it okay if we share your email address with the students. Sounds good, thank you again. Have a good evening, everyone

About the Certificate
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Climate Change: Learning for Action
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12 Weeks

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June 2021
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