Using indigenous Pacific knowledge to fight climate change | Pacific Beat

Using indigenous Pacific knowledge to fight climate change

Using indigenous Pacific knowledge to fight climate change

Updated 23 July 2012, 10:10 AEST

A group of indigenous Pacific Islanders is pushing for traditional ecological knowledge to be used to combat climate change.

They have shared their ideas at the inaugural First Stewards' Symposium in the US capital Washington DC.

Indigenous communities from Hawaii, Guam, New Zealand, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas were all represented, as was the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Paulokaleioku Timmy Bailey, Hawaiin delegate, First Stewards' Symposium in Washington DC


BAILEY: All the indigenous communities that came to this symposium shared one common theme and that is we are aware that climate change is affecting everybody. The important thing about indigenous people is because we use the natural resources every day and we can observe the climate effects on these natural resources, it becomes observational based knowledge that we can share and actually bring to the table when it comes to the discussion of climate change.
COONEY: What sort of things did you hear about ways that it's been dealt with by other communities?
BAILEY: Well examples in Hawaii we have climate change that's been affecting our cultures for thousands of years, but what was unique was listening to the Alaskan tribes and how they have to deal with ever changing climate; rising rides, sea tides, changes in rivers and even movement of ice which has basically forced them to move from their areas that they have settled. And I think the common theme was because a little bit of the western values have been instilled in them for so long that they have stayed stationary, where in the past they might have moved with the animals, moved with the ice and things like that. So it's really interesting to hear that they're a little bit worried about moving or being relocated, and then more so the fact they don't have lands to get relocated on like they did in the old days.
COONEY: So I suppose they're being confronted with the fact that they may have to go back to maybe the more nomadic sort of lifestyle?
BAILEY: Yes and they're willing to do that, unfortunately some of the lands they just don't have or acquired anymore. But what's interesting is like our native culture in Hawaii we can adapt to climate change, we actually have to, and it's something that we've been doing for thousands and thousands of years. But I think this modern science has put a little bit of fear of how the effects of climate change are and maybe that might be too much of a focus. At the symposium we just shared a lot of ideas about how native indigenous cultures have learned to adapt and how that's been passed on through generational knowledge. And that they're not really fearful of the climate change, but fearful of the fact that we might not have the right tools to adapt to it.
COONEY: Well many of the people who were also there were of course other island states and island territories around the region; Guam, American Samoa, Northern Marianas, probably similar in the sort of climate issues that you're dealing with there. What did you hear about the way that they are dealing with it that you could perhaps use in Hawaii?
BAILEY: Well really climate change for our island people it's an important part but it's not the main part, it's not the main focus. So because of some of the issues like the rising sea, as the rising sea comes on to an island of course where do you relocate people on an island that's sinking? So that was definitely one concern that was brought up kind of blanketed througout the Pacific Islands. But really each island shared a little bit more on the human impacts that occur on the islands, and not so much the climate change impacts, because the human impacts have isolated the island people that if we had to adapt and move even on our island, the area is no longer there for us to adapt and relocate.
COONEY: Was there a thought that perhaps you might become a place where Hawaii, a big island, a lot of hills and that, that maybe for some of those people on coral atolls may look at perhaps relocating there? We've heard that from places like Kiribati and other small island states around the region?
BAILEY: Yeah that's a very good point and that's what kind of fears us as native Hawaiians because we don't really have that big of a place either. So migration to another island would just have a heavier impact on natural resources. And one of the big things, we all like this new go green theory to lower our emissions, but solar farms and windmill farms take up a lot of land use. And then therefore the development for those types of tools for alternative energy seem to take away our habitat. And if we had to adapt say for example windmill farm became the wettest spot or the best place to grow our food, we couldn't do that because now we have windmills all over the place.

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