Nearly every country has committed to preserving 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030 to protect against biodiversity loss.

This is an urgent and necessary commitment. But as governments work to meet this and other environmental goals, Indigenous populations — who manage, use or occupy at least a quarter of the planet’s land area — are facing displacement and violence. A recent article in The Atlantic noted that more than 250,000 Indigenous people have been evicted in the name of ecotourism, carbon-offset activities and “other activities that fall under the banner of conservation” over the past two decades. The number of people is expected to rise. 

As the climate crisis intensifies, we must not turn our backs on Indigenous communities. Rather, we must support and learn from them — and incorporate their environmental knowledge into policy.

Indigenous communities are the stewards of 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Although for generations they “have sustained themselves through their ability to work with nature and climate variance, relying primarily on precipitation patterns, temperature variances and local biodiversity” (UNESCO), the extent of their localized knowledge has often not been recognized on larger national platformsHistorically, policymakers and government officials have ignored Indigenous methods of resilience and community perceptions of climate-related natural disasters and hazards. If left ignored, Indigenous communities will continue to suffer the brunt of increased climate-related natural disasters while failing to receive adequate support. Governments will be forced to reckon with their complicity in the widespread devastation of these communities.

While there has been a loss of valuable localized resilience practices, there is also an opportunity to address shortcomings in climate resilience policy. To better integrate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into all aspects of climate policy, governments must pursue the following actions:

  1. Invest in women and young Indigenous leaders
  2. Craft inclusive climate governance
  3. Strengthen capacity within Indigenous communities through training and leadership opportunities

Read the full article about Indigenous communities by Betty Nen at Degrees.