What We Need To Learn From Native Cultures About Climate Adaptation

Planet Earth, (TFC)— When it comes to climate change, now is the time to react and develop defenses. Unfortunately, very few western resources are allocated to prepare for future environmental challenges. That’s not the case in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, who’re already dealing with environmental changes. Recent months have seen adaptation techniques field tested in indigenous areas, for eventual use elsewhere. One of the many questions going forward, however, is whether progress itself is sustainable.

As important as the actual technologies is including as many voices as possible in climate conversations. Climate change affects humanity more than any war, or plague. In fact, grimmer predictions for the future suggest it may eventually cause those things. According to Glacier Hub, whereas indigenous peoples occupy 65% of earth’s land, they’re rarely included in climate debate.

Even the 2015 Paris climate talks were largely void of indigenous voices, and that’s a problem. A recent piece by Indiana and Sorbonne Nouvelle University researches called “Environmental Governance For All” argues that real change can’t come without 100% human inclusion.

According to Glacier Hub, the Paris agreements didn’t mention indigenous peoples or their climate plights. Without indigenous voices, any and all climate adaptation conversations are missing a key component. Indigenous cultures have long retained insights and knowledge matching their western, modernized counterparts.

Humanity sells itself short by excluding 65% of it’s own population. A majority which is experiencing the effects western civilization is currently waiting for. Populations in high mountain area, for instance, are threatened by significant glacial retreat. African and South American populations are similarly experiencing environmental overhaul, and species die offs.

This all destabilizes fragile indigenous livelihoods, and without representation their people’s may “go first.” Often times, native peoples are expected to act as land guardians, or caretakers. While some are reluctant, others eagerly take up the challenge. In some areas– particularly the Amazon– protectors have been targeted for assassination. Simultaneously, funding for climate adaptation goes elsewhere.

In Kenya–where droughts and flooding are worsening–communities are improving their resilience. According to World Resources Institute, Kenya’s rainy season has become “shorter and unpredictable.” Whereas 20 years ago the season began in March, it’s shifted to April today.

Populations have already begun relocating, notably with northerners escaping intense heat. Herders are learning to fish, and agriculture is generally taking a major hit. Kenya’s climate impacts, WRI reports, catalyzed a mass migration from rural to urban communities. Some have gone as far as to name these people some of the first “climate migrants”. One must ask how many are to come, and from where?

Locals are doing what they can, even if that means bringing community leaders together. A “Preparatory Scenario Planning” (PSP) apparatus was developed, facilitating speedy community planning. Recently, forecasts shared through PSP bought community members time to brace for incoming floods.

In one county, WRI reports, an early warning system allowed residents to preemptively move to higher ground. Local businesses were even able to stock up on drugs and other supplies for incoming floods.

According to planners, encouraging participation has been the most difficult component. Perhaps this is the lesson to be learned. Climate change involves the entire global community, and it’ll take all of us to solve. And it’s not just about preparing for nature’s lash, the solutions are multi-faceted.

As Kenya demonstrates, agriculture is extremely fragile and will break when faced with climate impacts. Numerous varieties of corn are under study for resilience, particularly against brutal droughts. Africa’s a key player in this initiative, the Harold reports, as maze feeds millions across the continent.

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Image Source: Pixabay.com

A recent study examined projected temperature increases, and their likely effect on crops. Increasing temperatures, Herald reports, contribute to less suitable crops by increasing their maturity rates. Some varieties mature at the same rate as the increases, however, and could be a saving grace. That’ll take new breeding strategies, such as those associated with genetically modified foods.

How native Africans react to these crops, however, is an entirely different story. GMO crops in Hungary, Haiti, and elsewhere have been burned by residents who don’t trust the new technology. It doesn’t necessarily help that the study also recommends streamlining regulatory testing, and access to the market.

Alternatively, pre-emptively conditioning crops to become compatible with future high temperatures is possible. Using greenhouses, crops can be exposed to temperatures simulating those to come. A little selective breeding, and the descendants of those crops will be prepared for the anticipated reality.

Each of these good ideas are just that without funding, planning, and dedicated energy. The bulk of funding comes from a slew of international donors, foundations, and governments. Recently, the world bank announced it’ll dedicate billions over the next several years to fund climate adaptive technology. Bilateral funding has been critical, bringing dozens of countries including many NATO nations.

According to Devpolicy Blog, Australia has provided some of the largest contributions, at $396 million. Trailing being are Japan, the EU, and others with very little from the US. Australia’s contribution, Devpolicy reports, accounted for 55% of a 65% block allocated to the pacific islands.

The Pacific islands is one of those regions already facing the consequences of climate change. New Guinea is currently suffering droughts, while more northern islands are wracked with violent typhoons. Despite massive contributions by some nations, it’s going to take everyone to really tackle the issue. Planet earth isn’t waiting for it to be politically appropriate to fund climate adaptation in the US. While trillions are spent on perpetual wars, the sky above and the ground below rumbles in angst. And we are–currently–relatively hopeless to stop it while divided.