What indigenous people can teach us about fighting climate change

Julian Brave Noisecat

Photo courtesy of Emily Kassie

Julian Brave NoiseCat is a writer and Indigenous advocate. He himself is a member of the First Nation Secwepemc and a descendant of Lílwat Nation of Mount Currie of British Columbia.

NoiseCat argues that climate change is a call to humans to re-evaluate our relationships with the world, starting on a very intimate and personal basis.

In addition to her work as an advocate for indigenous peoples, NoiseCat is also a strategic political operator. He is credited with spearhead of the campaign to be nominated by President Biden Deb Haaland became the Interior Minister, making her First Native American leader a cabinet-level agency.

NoiseCat is a member of New America and Enter Media Center and is Vice President of Policy & Strategy at Data for Progress, a forward thinking pool. And last year, for all his leadership with his writings and politically, he was included “TIME 100 Next” list of emerging leaders.

Here, in this edition of CNBC’s series on addressing climate anxiety, Noisecat shares how natives have a framework for relating to the natural world that is worth learning from, and why it is. important for responding to climate change in a sustainable way.

This is Noisecat’s curated conversation with CNBC, lightly edited and condensed for brevity.

Humans are part of nature

The separate concept of man and the natural environment is one of the core theoretical moves in Western political philosophy.

In my view, the separation of these two – people and the world we live in – makes it possible for us to exploit and extract from nature because we are seen as a separate thing. from it.

And it’s a very different epistemological system from the one you might see in the Indigenous context.

We view ourselves in relation to particular places, and maybe even in some cases, view those places as spiritual and conscientious.

I went fishing a number of times in August. I went salmon dipping at Farwell Canyon on the Chilcotin River with Willie Sellars, team leader of the Williams Lake First Nation, Esk’et hereditary leader, Francis Johnson Jr. and their families. And when we fish, we pray in front of the river, and we give thanks for what we bring home.

Julian Brave NoiseCat (L) and Darryl Sellars trout fishing in Farwell Canyon on the Chilcotin River.

Photo courtesy of Emily Kassie

There is power and authority in honoring and recognizing who you are and where you come from. I think that’s a very basic but important point. There is power in it.

Attachment to place and respect for a place and your place in the environment, in the natural world, creates an imperative to protect and protect and preserve those places.

That’s what we see Indigenous peoples and movements doing around the world. And in the broadest sense, what everyone should be doing right now is to protect and preserve our world.

In the fast-paced modern world, we don’t have any notion that we are in a relationship with the natural world.

We have no idea that we should really be grateful for the things we receive from the natural world.

That sounds really confusing and basic. But if you really put in the effort to make it happen in your life, profound changes can only come from those very simple places.

Back to the old ways

I’m not saying that’s enough to combat climate change.

We need to expand the share of renewable energy on the grid. We need to figure out how to convert some of these industrial processes like steel and cement production to carbon-free production. We need to figure out how to clean up the farming area.

But I think more simply, we also need to figure out how to have a more equitable and reciprocal relationship with the resources and natural world that sustain us.

And we’re taking a shortcut right now. We are out of balance.

There are actually other ways that really work. And in some contexts actually, ironically, we start to pursue those other ways as better ways to go about and do things.

In California right now there is a very serious conversation about controlled burns and forestry management that would be more like the way the Indigenous peoples managed the forest than the colonial economies did. The way that we fisheries management actually a lot closer to the way the Indigenous peoples managed pre-colonial fisheries than in the overfishing relationship that has brought us to a point where the fishery has almost collapsed. .

In addition, there are places in the world like Canada, like parts of the Amazon, and potentially now parts of the United States, where conserving soil as a carbon sink is one of the strategies and policies that are being worked on. being pursued is like Indigenous conservation of the land, protect the land to ensure that the carbon stays in the forest and in the soil.

In the Native American context, the idea that we are related, that we have a lot of relatives, is a really important one.

At first it extends to your blood relatives, but there is also an understanding that we are all related, which is biologically true and we also have kinship with parts of the natural world.

People in my hometown take the black bear as a relative, for example. My family comes from a particular region of British Columbia – our land relatives are black bears.

And the idea that we need to treat each other with love and compassion, because we’re at the end of the day, it’s all related, I think that’s what really, really matters. .

Truly have love and compassion and believe that we really have a responsibility to protect the non-human world from destruction.

It’s hard for us humans to have only compassion for each other, let alone for salmon, for wildlife, for birds, for water, for mountains, forests…

But maybe we should. Maybe we should care about those things because we are related to them. It’s also a pretty different way of interacting with the world, and for me it’s a fascinating way.

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