On 13 June 2012, UNU and UNESCO launched their new book “Weathering Uncertainty: traditional knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation” at the International Council for Science’s Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, linking science and policy at Rio+20.
Below is a Summary
Indigenous peoples and marginalized populations live in all regions of the world. Regardless of their location they are all impacted by climate change because many of their location are in vulnerable environments. At the same time climate change poses added risks because of indigenous peoples “continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods” (Nakashima et al: 6). Are these peoples simply victims of global climate change? All groups are already actively adapting to changes. Indigenous peoples attentiveness to environmental variability, shifts and trends is already a crucial part of their way of life so it is necessary to gather local knowledge which can give much needed insight into community-based adaptations and solutions. For example indigenous observations and interpretations of the atmosphere have guided their adaptation for millennia. Even though traditional ecological knowledge has been recognized by several fields, these insights are just recently being used to compliment macro scientific climate research projects and findings. Indigenous knowledge was acknowledged in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) as an invaluable resource for a changing world. A number of international agencies with expertise in traditional, local and indigenous knowledge have been working to support indigenous knowledge and bring it to the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.
As many indigenous societies live in distinct regions like small islands, high altitude zones and deserts or the circumpolar Arctic which are often isolated from mainstream populations “decisions, policies and actions undertaken by the majority, even if well intended, may prove inadequate, ill-adapted, and even inappropriate” (6). So the purpous of understanding the specific vulnerabilities, adaptation capacity and longer-term aspirations of a particular group gives insight in how to deal with the global climate change negative effects. Thus, indigenous and traditional knowledge continues to contribute to this broader understanding.
This document emphasizes the need for placing indigenous and traditional knowledge as the foundation for working towards sustainable climate change adaptation. This shift from the scientific-based knowledge institutions is a new one. As stated by the authors of the document: “up until now, observations and assessments by indigenous peoples and local communities have remained largely outside the IPCC process, in part due to the formal requirement of scientific documentation and peer-reviewed publication” (24). It is because of “requirements broadening” that indigenous, traditional and local knowledge is considered crucial for learning about appropriate coping mechanisms and community-based adaptive measures. This approach shift is really encouraging.
The IPCC marks that it is important to understand how policies may affect indigenous resilience. If policies reduce diversification resilience is lowered because there are less options and innovation is discouraged in the face of uncertainty. These policies tend to be made for the mainstream majority at the expense of indigenous and vulnerable populations. When I read about the development model outlined in Rights-Based Approaches to Endogenous Development by Harry Jonas, I learned about a policy making process that occurs at the local level for the local level. Endogenous development describes a community process of outlining and working towards plans according to local values whereby the development process promotes the use of existing community resources (assets and values). I think that the Weathering Uncertainty document is internationally important. Whether local groups can effectively utilize this information or not remains to be seen. The local plans like the rights-based approach to endogenous development is needed in order to continue to guide our approach to climate change adaptation.
By Sarah Lecouffe Axtell
Harry Jonas, Rights-Based Approaches to Endogenous Development, June 29th, 2010, http://www.terralingua.org/bcdconservation/?page_id=50
Nakashima, D.J., Galloway McLean, K., Thulstrup, H.D., Ramos Castillo, A. and Rubis, J.T. 2012. pp. 1-51. Weathering Uncertainty: Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change Assessment and Adaptation. Paris, UNESCO, and Darwin, UNU, 120 pp.
*** Read more at: http://unu.edu/publications/policy-briefs/weathering-uncertainty-traditional-knowledge-for-climate-change-assessment-and-adaptation.html