Climate change is an environmental issue that affects us all, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognizes Indigenous knowledge as a powerful tool in our fight against it. But did you know there's also a connection between climate change and what's called "Land Back"?
For centuries, indigenous communities have faced colonization, land theft, and corporate exploitation - ultimately suffering poverty while putting their culture at risk of being forgotten forever. Despite Native Americans only making up 5% of the world population, they account for 15% living in poverty—a disparity driven by systemic injustices rooted deep within history. That's why many are bringing attention to Land Back: It seeks to reclaim Indigenous lands so marginalized groups can regain more excellent stability and pass down wisdom without fear or hindrance from outside forces.
Climate change affects us all, and while it's understandable to focus on the effects felt by Indigenous communities, their importance in combatting its huge impacts cannot be overstated. From indigenous knowledge passed down through generations to modern collaborations with researchers and politicians—they are key players in protecting our planet from further destruction.
Let's dive into the role indigenous communities can play in fighting climate change.
What is "Land Back"?
The "Land Back" movement is a call from indigenous people across the world to restore the land to its traditional owners. This indigenous-led campaign saw a resurgence in 2020 as activists advocated for steps toward decolonization, systemic racism, and environmental justice. The aim is for Indigenous people to have access to their ancestral lands and be able to benefit from them economically, culturally, spiritually, and psychologically, something that has often been taken away or excluded during colonization. The protection of indigenous cultures and lands is endorsed by organizations like Amnesty International and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). Both groups advocate for the protection of indigenous rights, lands, and cultures (in alignment with the Land Back movement), recognizing that Indigenous people must have prior informed consent before any action affecting their land takes place. Apart from showing solidarity with Indigenous communities in need of fundamental rights and access to resources, many see the Land Back movement as an essential way to righting past wrongs towards Native People and repairing centuries-old wounds that can no longer go ignored.
In summary, Land Back is a powerful Indigenous-driven movement that seeks to restore political and economic control over traditional territories. For youth, elders, knowledge keepers, and activists alike, it's about reconnecting with the lands they come from in meaningful ways – whether it be through literal land restoration or advocating for self-governing agreements between governments. As Ronald Gamblin of 4Rs Youth Movement puts it: "No matter what meaning is attached...we have an urge to reestablish our relationship with the Earth".
Climate Change And Land Rights
Did you know that Land Back initiatives may be beneficial not only for Indigenous populations but for the health of our planet? The IPCC's 2019 Climate Change and Land Special Report reveals how important land rights are in terms of preserving forests—especially when these lands are recognized as belonging to communal or Indigenous peoples. It even highlighted a strong connection between granting access to such territories and an increased capacity for carbon storage! So if we want both communities–and mother nature –to thrive, returning these steeped-in-history lands back into rightful hands may be the key.
Indigenous People Are The Best Conservationists
Indigenous people and local communities have been making an incredible impact on conservation - more than 30% of the world is managed by them! That's a lot for only 5% of the global population.
Recent research has shown that Indigenous territories around Brazil, Australia, and Canada are even better places to preserve biodiversity than designated protected parks. What's more? They can defend against deforestation just as much (sometimes even better) as formal government protection plans! This makes their work all the more important in fighting climate change.
Despite owning half of the Amazon, Indigenous communities only account for 4% of deforestation in this vital rainforest. The other 96%, however, is leading to an emissions crisis that these same under-appreciated communities could numb: their resistance has already prevented 24% worth of North American annual emissions! But, unfortunately, recognition remains elusive - leaving us with a question we can't help but ask: why don't they get credit after all?
In 2021, a member of the Kashia Pomo Tribe in Sonoma County told Vox about their struggle for conservation recognition. Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated case: many Indigenous people have been left out when it comes to land and biodiversity protection initiatives. Unless they're part of formally protected areas or conserved regions - which is rarely the case - Indigenous custodians are denied acknowledgment despite being key protectors of our valuable ecosystems.
Indigenous Knowledge Can Fight Climate Change
Indigenous communities have a deep connection with nature that can help us tackle climate change. It's well recognized by the IPCC, who confirm their sustainable land management techniques - like controlled burning and canal creation - as having high scientific confidence in fighting climate change!
Indigenous communities have long practiced sustainable living, understanding the value of respect for nature and taking only what is needed. This traditional wisdom has driven Melomys to seek more responsible production methods that minimize damage to ecosystems. As consumers, we can support this by prioritizing brands with ecological commitment in their operations; donating funds towards environmental initiatives like tree planting or awareness campaigns, and backing Indigenous and local communities at the forefront of conservation efforts.
Indigenous peoples have been keeping ecosystems healthy for centuries through these practices, but formalized conservation efforts often disrupt this work and displace traditional communities. The creation of protected areas has displaced 10 million people. Thankfully, solutions centered on climate justice are emerging to support both people and the planet together.
Why We Need Climate Justice
Despite being the least responsible for climate change, some of the world's most vulnerable countries have suffered immensely due to its effects. These nations carry a disproportionate burden from something they had no hand in creating or worsening.
Climate justice reveals a bigger picture that frames global warming as an ethical and political struggle, adding extra dimensions of inequality and human rights. It acknowledges one of the most unsettling parts of climate change - those worst affected are often the least responsible for it, whether from lack of access to resources, unequal opportunity in decision-making processes, or another systemic barrier. It highlights the importance of addressing any root causes behind why people are unable to respond appropriately; bringing about real social change around this crisis is essential if we stand even slimmer chances at protecting our planet against devastating environmental disasters.
Indigenous peoples are intimately connected to the natural environment and its resources, making them uniquely vulnerable to climate change but also giving them an important role in sustainability solutions. This is because they adopt meaningful practices that respect their connection with land beyond economic value.
While Indigenous people have a large part in fighting climate change, they are also more impacted by the lack of climate action.
Indigenous peoples are the protectors of our planet, managing 80% of its remaining biodiversity. Unfortunately, despite their incredible impact as environmental stewards on our world's ecosystem balance, these people still suffer disproportionately from climate change and its subsequent effects, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. In many cases, too, Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by imposed policies regarding global warming initiatives which then further exacerbates the situation for them.
It's no surprise that the countries with some of the highest emissions do not feel much of an impact from climate change: Chinese, US, and EU citizens have been identified as among the world's largest polluters. To create a better balance between those causing environmental damage and those who feel it most in terms of their health – we need to demand more sustainable policies and decisions by our leaders. We can also help put pressure on companies to make necessary changes that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions simply by making mindful buying choices.
Climate justice is a movement focused on addressing the human rights and ecological and economic effects of climate change caused by environmental negligence. It seeks to have those responsible compensate people and countries suffering from their actions. Climate justice calls attention to the plight of vulnerable communities and underprivileged countries that have been disproportionately affected by environmental disasters caused by the emissions of others. It also takes a stand against practices like over usage of resources or pollution to a level that endangers people's lives or causes irreversible damage to ecosystems. We need climate justice because it ensures those with power do not abuse their position for personal gain without consequence, gives voice to those who cannot speak for themselves, and establishes guidelines for creating sustainable environments capable of flourishing long into the future.
Everyone should be protected from the potential negative impacts of polluting industries on air, water, and soil quality - no matter where they live in the world. Environmental justice also acknowledges that certain communities may be disproportionately affected by environmental hazards caused by irresponsible businesses and governments. Furthermore, it supports efforts to prioritize solutions that benefit disadvantaged populations while mitigating any potential risks posed to them due to environmental degradation. We need environmental justice because it ensures that no one is left behind as we strive toward a cleaner, healthier future for our planet.
Indigenous Communities Must Play A Role In Fighting Climate Change
Climate change has been a long-standing issue that we have yet to tackle. But the IPCC is recognizing an important and often overlooked factor: traditional Indigenous knowledge in regards to sustainable land management can play an essential role. Restoring lands back into their rightful hands leads towards positive lifestyle changes and ensures natural resources are cared for responsibly with future generations kept top of mind!
As we celebrate Indigenous People's Day, let us take a moment to remember their tremendous role in protecting our planet.
Melomys works closely with One Tree Planted - an organization that plants trees and collaborates with indigenous communities worldwide. This organization works closely with indigenous communities, like the Sapara Women's Association "Ashiñwaka" from the Ecuadorian Amazon, who risk disrupting their traditional ways by oil exploration. One Tree Planted and the Spara Women's Association worked to help restore the Amazon rainforest in 2021! By planting 150,000 native and medicinal trees, they helped empower indigenous communities while also fighting climate change. Going above & beyond – one tree at a time – these two incredible organizations are helping create a large-scale impact on our planet.
When you purchase something from Melomys, you get an awesome product made from eco-friendly materials and support a great cause. Through our partnership with One Tree Planted, 5 native trees are planted for each item purchased – meaning your purchase can help restore and protect deforested areas worldwide while supporting local communities!
Please show your support for indigenous people as we raise awareness about our native guardians of nature this holiday season.