In anticipation of Earth Day, Winona LaDuke will be speaking on campus the evening of April 11. Her topic: “Climate Change, Carbon, and Sustainable Futures – Re-Indigenizing Economics.” Take a break from last-minute studies and come listen to this inspiring and prescient American Indian author, activist and visionary hosted by the Society of American Indian Graduate Students (SAIGS).
She was nominated by Time magazine in 1994 as one of America’s 50 most promising leaders under 40 years of age and has lived up to the billing. The recipient of many awards, she used the proceeds from the Reebok Human Rights Award to launch the exemplary White Earth Land Recovery Project. In 1998, she received the Woman of the Year Award from Ms. Magazine. In 1996 and 2000, she campaigned across the country as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Green Party. Currently, she serves as Co-Chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network.
Here are three reasons why we need to pay attention to what LaDuke has to tell us about tackling climate change:
First, Indigenous peoples are a key, cost-effective, and overlooked link to curbing global warming. Land use (primarily deforestation) is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, amounting to an estimated 20 percent of overall emissions globally. By preserving 86 percent of the world’s remaining forests, indigenous peoples are making an enormous and highly effective contribution toward reducing emissions from deforestation, an important contribution to climate change mitigation efforts.
Indigenous peoples can make even greater contributions to curb global warming if they are empowered to apply their traditional ecological knowledge to enhance environmental protection of biodiversity, ecosystem services and forest-related livelihoods.
There are more than 300 million indigenous peoples worldwide (roughly 5 percent of the world’s population), but they constitute 90 percent of the world’s cultural diversity. Indigenous territories encompass as much as 24 percent of the Earth’s land surface and contain more than 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. The greatest biodiversity generally exists where there is the greatest cultural diversity and both are vital to human survival.
Hence, essential U.S. interests can be advanced by greater partnering with indigenous peoples to enhance their capacities for the protection and measured harvesting of natural resources within territories where they live. 11 percent of the Earth’s land surface is now park land. The estimated cost of maintaining one hectare of park land by non-indigenous entities is $3,500 compared to $3.50/hectare of parkland preserved and managed by indigenous peoples.
Finally, we urgently need to support new ideas such as Indigenous Steward Areas (ISAs) that are initiated and managed by IP applying their ecological knowledge to overcome self-defeating conflicts to protecting our shared environment. We have to stop pitting the acquisition of private property rights and commercial exploitation, on the one hand, versus respect for the communal rights and survival of traditional cultures on the other.
Yet, indigenous peoples and their cultures remain the most marginalized in the global community. They are poorest within every country where they reside and have the world’s worst health indicators. Currently, there exists no global organization that is led or controlled by indigenous peoples. I suspect LaDuke will ask the question: Can we find the courage to change, especially when it is in our unacknowledged self-interest?