The effects of climate change are measurable, and being felt today. It’s not a theoretical or distant cataclysm that can be ignored — we have to act urgently. And we have to start listening to the Indigenous communities on the front lines protecting our natural world; we must help safeguard what should be sacred to us all.
Indigenous peoples around the world have long possessed a profoundly intricate understanding of nature; including how all life on Earth is interconnected through a relationship based on reciprocity. The principles of which focus on balance and returning the gift; cycles of giving and taking that support ecological systems — the complete opposite to the exploitative and extractive plundering of natural resources that’s currently hurtling us towards climate collapse.
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 facing the devastating ramifications of climate change is the Quileute Nation of La Push on the northwest Washington coast. Their community is situated in an area already prone to storms and flooding; which is being exacerbated by rising temperatures and sea levels. To protect their community, culture and way of life, they need to move their housing and other crucial amenities to higher ground; away from the risks of increased flooding and ocean encroachment that climate change is bringing to their territory.
The people of the Quileute Nation retain a rich and diverse, pre-colonial connection to the region they live in; we should support them as they protect their heritage and way of life — if you want to learn more or donate to their ‘Move To Higher Ground’ campaign, click here. It’s a fight we should all be paying attention to; 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; it’s a warning to the rest of the world about what may come if nothing is done.
Relying on their treaty fishing rights to practice ceremonial, subsistence and commercial fishing that supports their community; the Quileute Nation will lose access to these vital cultural lifeways if climate change continues to impact sea waters unchecked. Not only is passing on essential cultural practices and traditional knowledge at risk, but access to a primary food source is endangered as well as economic revenue.
Many places around the United States (and the world) rely on the fishing industry to provide economic stability, job creation and food. It’s vital therefore, that what the Quileute Nation is facing gets recognised and tackled; the issue will spread beyond their shores if significant action from those in power remains hesitant.
Taking climate action alongside Indigenous communities has to include recognition and respect for their cultural practices and traditional knowledge of the natural world. We must support the work they’re doing but also ensure elected officials and policymakers bring them into the climate action decision-making process; their voices and rights must be 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
Modern science is finally catching up with what traditional Indigenous knowledge has known about the natural world for millennia; it’s imperative we do not allow improvements in our own understanding to further marginalize any Native groups. We must make certain that any climate change organization, network, conference or seminar 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