Fourth World nations are serious parties to local, regional or international negotiations concerning mitigation and adaptation to changes in the climate. Climate Change due to global warming is attributed to human initiated releases of carbon and human created toxins into earth’s atmosphere. These nations occupy territories containing 80% of the world’s biodiversity; and with a combined estimated population of nearly 1 billion, the world’s original nations are least likely to contribute to carbon release or toxin release. Fourth World nations are also not invited to sit at the negotiating tables where decisions are being made about how humans mitigate and adapt to climate change. While the vigorous debate rages between economic partisans whether climate changes are a natural process or a human created process or both major changes in the climate all over the world are palpable. Fourth World nations are among the world’s peoples most likely to notice these changes first owing to their proximity to the natural world.
Fourth World nations see first hand the melting of ice flows at the North Pole. Fourth World nations see and experience dramatic floods and droughts. Forests and jungles wither and wild animal populations become seriously unbalanced. And perhaps most noticeable among Fourth World nations: the rise of human chronic diseases associated with increased heavy metals, toxins in the air, the loss of wild game and declining fish stocks and the destruction of plant medicines and foods. The effects of Climate Change directly on Fourth World nations is immediate and a part of daily life.
Despite the immediacy of negative climate change effects known for many years throughout the Fourth World, native communities have had little to say about mitigating or adapting to climate change. Few if any Fourth World nations have offered solutions to the regional and global problem of global warming drawing from their own knowledge, experiences or understanding of nature. Indeed, just the opposite has been heard. At the United Nations Forum on Indigenous Issues last Spring, nations’ delegates pleaded with the United Nations to recognize the adverse effects of climate change on indigenous peoples. Delegates called for the UN to understand that indigenous peoples contribute little to the climate change problem, but experience extreme effects.
In other words, Fourth World nations have been making an appeal to those who created the problem (and who cannot figure out how to solve the problem) to step forward and solve the climate change problem for Fourth World peoples. Twenty six representatives of indigenous peoples traveled to the G8 meeting in July 2008 to plead with the economic power house states to solve the climate change problem. Again those who are being most dramatically affected by global warming are turning to those who created the problem to solve theirs. Again, I suggest, Fourth World nations must become contributors to the solution by generating their own ideas–their own proposals for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
States’ governments, corporations, and selected non-governmental organizations have met in Bali, Indonesia in late 2007; Bangkok, Thailand in the Spring of 2008 and Accra, Ghana in late summer 2008 wrestling with an agenda for the Conference of Parties to use for negotiating a new set of protocols to replace the Kyoto Protocols. The agreement that is supposed to be completed in 2009 is supposed to be finally ratified by governments in 2012. Fourth World nations are not now scheduled to sit at the table as full participants in negotiations intended to define solutions to the problem of climate change.
Here are some suggestions for Fourth World nations to consider proposing for mitigation and adaptation to climate change:
1. Tribal Lifeways Risk Assessments: that follow a “native holistic approach.” Each nation must define its own environmental risks and the necessary adaptations appropriate to the ecology and culture. This requires that each nation draw on its own historic knowledge-base, its own traditional systems for evaluating risk.
2. Maintaining BioCultural Diversity There is a mutually dependent relationship between an indigenous people and the environment in most regions of the world. Adopting this policy will promote nation’s subsistence economy where human productive activities are primarily focused on producing and protecting life. Each Nation has individual families participating in hunting, fishing, foraging, and “wildcrafting” with the natural environment. These cultural practices regulating social interactions between animals, plants, soils, air, and water have the benefit of enhancing the natural environment through the mechanism of BioCultural Diversity. BioCultural diversity encompasses biological diversity, cultural diversity, and the geographically coterminous, mutually dependent relationship between them.
3. Capacity Building The indigenous nations should make major adjustments in their current technical, organizational and political capacity to address both Global Warming issues. Training and retraining opportunities should be developed to maximize each nation’s ability to function as a leading influence on Climate Change Policy within a state and in the international community as well as its ability to undertake the necessary internal changes and adjustments of social, economic and political practices.
4. Native Carbon Dividend that rewards those who systematically reduce their contribution of carbon to the atmosphere and those who succeed in achieving the absolute minimum for life. Where it can be determined that a family in the nation produces less carbon emissions and hazardous waste, that family should receive a Carbon Dividend from the nations decision-makers in government on behalf of the nation. If there is a relationship with the state government, and that state government has a policy to reduce carbon emissions, and the nation uses a currency based economy, the nation should receive funds to provide for family carbon dividends.
6. Each Nation should Participate in UN Sponsored Negotiations Each Nation should fully participate in the replacement agreement for the Kyoto Protocols, due to be tabled in 2009. All native governments should be invited to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to act as reviewers of extant scientific knowledge and as participants in the UN sponsored negotiations offering their own solutions. The Conference of Parties meeting in Poland in December 2008 and in December 2009 in Copenhagen should become venues for Fourth World nations to offer their own proposals for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
7. Division Policy vs. Growth Policy. When anything becomes too large, it becomes a threat to life and the maintenance of a relative balance between human need and the environment’s capacity to produce. Within a division policy, the maximum size of an organization or organism is determined and upon growth to that size, it is systematically divided it into smaller parts. This policy has emerged in response to the “perpetual growth” arguments issued by “market economy” advocates. This approach should be advocated vigorously at the Conference of Parties (14 and 15) meetings. Fourth World nations and states’ governments must control growth and limit demands on earth’s life.
These are only a few policies Fourth World nations could advocate for themselves and for the world. Each nation is in a locality where variations on these approaches may be applied, but the Seven Climate Change Policies can be introduced with the necessary variations.
These approaches can provide effective mitigation as well as support for adaptation. Fourth World nations do have solutions. There is a deep well of knowledge in Fourth World nations that must now be explored. The world’s ancient nations must step forward and offer that knowledge to solve the most threatening problem humanity faces.
(c) 2008 Center for World Indigenous Studies
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The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here