Indigenous perspectives shed light on climate change |

On September 22, members of the Villanova community came together virtually for “Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change,” the latest event in the 2021-2022 “Turning Points” series of events presented by the Center Albert Lepage history in the public interest.

The event, co-sponsored by the University’s Department of Geography and Environment, was the second in September, in which the series highlighted environmental and climate issues.

Lepage Center Director Elizabeth Kolsky, Ph.D., discussed the meaning and purpose of this event and the overall series in her introduction.

“We look to history to help us make sense of the crazy world around us,” Kolsky explained.

To make sense of climate change in our mad world, the webinar brought together Clint Carroll, Elizabeth Hoover and Daniel Wildcat to discuss the issue from a Native American and Indigenous perspective, corresponding to their respective areas of expertise. Paul Rosier, Mary M. Birle Chair in American History at the University, served as the moderator to guide the conversation.

The evening’s speech was divided into several general thematic questions on climate change and the Indigenous experience. Each speaker approached the topics from their particular point of view. Rosier started the discussion by asking the speakers how they saw climate change already affecting Indigenous communities.

Wildcat, director of the Center for Environmental Research Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University, explained the unique burden of global warming and climate change on Indigenous communities.

“Native Americans are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of where we live and our cultural practices which are interconnected and dependent on the land,” said Wildcat.

Carroll, associate professor of Native American and Indigenous studies in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, added to Wildcat’s comments, noting the “paradox of vulnerability” to which these communities are subject.

“We in our communities are often the most sensitive to the effects of climate change despite having done the least to cause them,” Carroll explained.

Hoover, an associate professor in the department of environmental science, policy and management at the University of California-Berkeley, agrees. She zoomed in on the event from Alaska, where she conducts work and research on environmental health and Native American food sovereignty. She added that these ways in which indigenous peoples have already been affected by climate change are directly linked to present and future problems.

Speakers also discussed the complex need to mitigate climate change from an Indigenous perspective, largely by shifting cultural perspectives to traditional Indigenous practices and nature itself.

“Mitigation from an Indigenous perspective requires a radical worldview shift,” Carroll said.

Wildcat agreed, explaining that the main climate problems today are anthropogenic or have their origin in human activity, and are made worse by the delegitimization of indigenous voices at the mitigation table.

In terms of specific mitigation efforts, speakers discussed the interaction between Indigenous peoples, major environmental or political organizations, and federal or state governments. In this regard, Hoover particularly highlighted the importance of local indigenous efforts to bring about concrete change in their communities and beyond through advocacy.

Discussing advances at the federal, scientific and political levels, panellists seemed divided. On the one hand, they agreed that the United States and Western culture as a whole have a long way to go in legitimizing Indigenous voices in these areas.

Despite past and present shortcomings, however, Wildcat seemed optimistic about the future acceptance of Indigenous discoveries and expertise within the Western environmental scientific community.

“My hope lies in the fact that I think young scientists are much more open to understanding the epistemological pitfalls of the way science was taught,” explained Wildcat, referring to the westernized and narrow-minded science teaching for years. past.

Continuing the theme of the future, panelists spoke about what young people can do to address some of these issues and avoid falling into the trap of disillusionment or loss of hope.

“It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you see all this information and news that it’s too late, that we’ve passed that deadly tipping point,” Hoover said. “But it’s important to get out there and start small, with community projects near you. “

The event ended with a short question and answer period moderated by Rosier, during which the students were able to question the speakers on their fields of study and the topics covered during the discussion.

A recording of this discussion and all previous events in the virtual series is available on Villanova’s YouTube channel or on the Lepage Center website.

The “Turning Points” series of events will resume in October and its monthly focus will focus on the history of white supremacy and the threats it poses to today’s society. The first event of the month, “White Supremacy and Classical Athens: A Turning Point? will take place on October 6 at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

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Glenn Gosselin

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