The effects of climate change are measurable and being felt today. It’s not a theoretical or distant cataclysm that can be put off being dealt with — we have to act now. And we have to start listening to the Indigenous communities who are on the front lines of protecting our natural world because they are among the first to feel its impact. We must help them safeguard what should be sacred to us all.
Indigenous peoples around the world have long had a profoundly intricate understanding of nature, the environment and how all life is interconnected based on a relationship of reciprocity (if we take care of something it will take care of us) — the complete opposite to the exploitative, extractive plundering of natural resources so far perpetrated by the Western colonial complex.
It is a close relationship with the environment, and deeply spiritual, cultural, social, and economic connections with that environment, that makes Indigenous peoples uniquely positioned to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to the impacts of climate change. | Climate Home News
One such community that’s facing the potentially devastating ramifications of climate change is the Quileute Nation of La Push on the northwest Washington coast. Their community is situated in an area that is prone to flooding and storms that are being made worse by rising temperatures (increasing glacial melt and winter rainfall) and rising sea levels. For their community, culture and way of life to continue, they need to move their housing and other crucial amenities to higher ground and away from the risks of flooding and ocean encroachment that climate change is bringing to their territory.
These are real people, not just the fictional representation of them that were used in the ’Twilight’ book and film series. They have a rich and diverse, pre-colonial connection to the region they live in and they need help to protect their heritage and way of life — if you want to learn more or donate, you can do so here. It’s a fight we should all be paying attention to because an increase in ocean water temperature creates current shifts, loss of marine breeding grounds and deoxygenation in the water (which decreases biodiversity and reduces fishery resources). This isn’t just a threat to the Quileute Nation and their treaty fishing rights, although the consequences of this, for them, is direct, immediate and significant, it’s a warning signal to the rest of the world of what may come if nothing is done.
The Quileute Nation rely on treaty fishing rights to safeguard ceremonial, subsistence and commercial fishing. If they continue to lose access to these vital lifeways because of climate change impact on the sea waters surrounding their community, not only is the passing on of essential cultural practices and traditional knowledge at risk, but access to an important food source and economic revenue is endangered too. There are many places around the United States and the wider world that rely on the fishing industry to provide economic stability, job creation and food. We should all be learning from the Quileute Nation, and all pledge help because the issues they are facing will spread beyond their shores, especially if decisive action from those in power is not forthcoming.
Action alongside the Quileute Nation and all other Indigenous communities who are at the forefront of responding to climate change must come from a place of recognition and respect for their heritage, cultural practices and wealth of (lived) knowledge about the environment. We must support the work they’ve been doing and make sure that elected officials and policymakers bring Indigenous groups into the climate action decision-making process so that their voices and rights are upheld.
Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. | Excerpt from Sir David Attenborough’s speech at the 2018 UN Climate Change Summit
Fighting climate change has to be done, and quickly, but that urgency must not come at the cost of the original custodians of this land. We must create a balance between utilizing any traditional ecological knowledge that’s gifted to us with not commodifying it. Modern science is finally catching up with what Indigenous knowledge has known for millennia about the natural world, it’s imperative that we do not allow the strides in our own understanding to further marginalize any group of Indigenous people. We must make sure that any climate change organization, network, conference or seminar we are a part of, or that’s working on our behalf, has mandated Indigenous representation.
This is the way forward. Let’s make it so.
Sea Level Rise Explained – National Geographic
Northwest Tribes: Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change – Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute