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Indigenous Peoples Can Show the Path to Low-Carbon Living If Their Land Rights Are Recognized

  Many indigenous peoples are living examples of societies thriving with sustainable, low-carbon lifestyles. Successfully meeting the global climate change challenge requires that much of the world shift from high carbon-living to low. This shift is daunting. Current emissions for Australia and the United States average about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person. In…

REDD: The New Beast in the Forest Brings Hope and Threats to Indigenous Peoples

“REDD is the new beast in the forest,” said Patrick Anderson of the Forest Peoples Programme in Indonesia here at Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop in Cairns, Australia. Deforestation gobbles up an area the size of Greece (13 million hectares) every year. As if that loss wasn’t bad enough, it…

‘Abriculture’ Using Forests to Feed Indigenous Peoples and Fight Climate Change

Forests can not only suck climate-heating carbon out of the atmosphere, they are also an important source of food for many Indigenous peoples. “Western food is making our people sick. Our bodies are adapted to eating bush foods,” said Seith Fourmile of the Gimuy-Walubarra Yidinji Nation of Cairns. Australia’s Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples…

Indigenous Peoples Needed to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change

  “Planning is not part of our culture. You just get up in the morning and do what you need to do for the day,” said Marilyn Wallace of the Kuku Nyungka ‘mob’ (aboriginal nation) in northern Queensland, Australia. “Bama,” people caring for their local territory, is an important part of aboriginal culture and identity,…

The Key to Addressing Climate Change – Indigenous Knowledge

We have the knowledge that can contribute to finding solutions to the crisis of climate change. But if you’re not prepared to listen, how can we communicate this to you? — Marcos Terena, Xané leader, Brazil. The precipitous rise in the world’s human population and humankind’s ever-increasing dependence on fossil fuel-based ways of living have…

Restoring the Sacred Web of Life in Siberia’s Golden Mountains

For millennia, Altai people herded their livestock across what is now known as the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, in Russia’s southern Siberia. They endured many obstacles–from Mongol hordes to Soviet oppression. Now they face a new challenge–climate change.

Indigenous Lessons for Everyone

As part of the All Roads Film Project here at National Geographic,  four films are being presented March 31-April 2, made by women from and about indigenous cultures. Among these are two by celebrated filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin of the Abenaki Nation. While many of her films deal directly with issues of First Nations people in…

Uncontacted Tribes: The Last Free People on Earth

The remaining hundred uncontacted tribes in the world capture the imagination of millions of “civilized” people. Yet they are the last cultures fully engaged with their natural environment. If they are stripped of their ancestral land, all of humankind will have lost the last people who truly understand our connections with the Earth.

Will a UN Climate-Change Solution Help Kuna Yala?

Faced with sea level rising, one indigenous community weighs a plan to mitigate climate change. In northeast Panama’s lush tropical forests, a sovereign indigenous comarca is raising the same question that delegates at the Cancún climate conference are raising about a plan for avoided deforestation: how is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) supposed…

The Missing Delegate at Cancún: Indigenous Peoples

Forest set-asides are at the heart of the United Nations’ climate negotiations, but a Native American restoration specialist says it will get the wrong people out of the woods. As nearly 200 delegates gather at the Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico, writer Dennis Martinez points out that Indigenous peoples and their advocates have no official…

Cancun 101

Like other nations with tropical forests, Panama is preparing for the chance that the United Nations will include the program REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”) in a UN-sanctioned carbon market. Such a market would ultimately have to conform to any agreement approved at Cancún — a gathering of the United Nations Framework…

REDD and Land Tenure: the Rights Issue

In Panama, where many land-tenure issues have gone unresolved for a long time, the nation’s indigenous communities are closely watching the climate-mitigation plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”). According to most interpretations of the documents involved, REDD’s role in a carbon market in Panama would undermine sovereignty, mostly by providing incentives for…

Investing in Cancún: Behind the Carbon Market, a Money Trail

In the debate over the climate-plan REDD (“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”), the wealthy players have no shortage of chips on the poker table. Partly to appeal to private investors and partly to establish a cheaper way to reduce their carbon footprint, developed nations want any Cancún agreement to embed REDD in a…