What Indigenous Peoples Can Teach Us About Fighting Climate Change

Julian Brave Noisecat

Photo courtesy of Emily Kassie

Julian Brave NoiseChat is a writer and advocate for Indigenous peoples. He is himself a member of the Secwepemc First Nation and a descendant of the LílMount Currie wat Nation of British Columbia.

NoiseCat suggests that climate change is a call for humans to reevaluate our relationships with the world, starting on a very intimate and personal basis.

In addition to its work as an advocate for indigenous peoples, NoiseCat is a strategic political operator. He is credited with the spearhead of the campaign for President Biden to nominate Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead an agency at the cabinet level.

NoiseCat is also the Vice President of Policy and Strategy at Data for Progress, a progressive think tank. And last year, despite all his leadership with his writing and politically, he was included on the “TIME 100 Next” list of emerging leaders.

Here, in this edition of CNBC’s series on tackling climate anxiety, Noisecat discusses how Indigenous Peoples’ framework for relating to the natural world is worth learning and why it’s important for responding to climate change. in a sustainable way.

Here’s a selection of Noisecat’s conversation with CNBC, slightly edited and condensed for brevity.

Man is part of nature

The conceptualization of humanity and the natural environment as separate is one of the fundamental theoretical movements of Western political philosophy.

In my opinion, this separation of these two things – humans and the world we live in – allows for exploitation and extraction from nature because we are seen as separate from it.

And that’s a very distinct system of epistemology from what you might see in an Indigenous context.

We see ourselves as being in relation to specific places, and perhaps even in some cases see those places themselves as having spirit and consciousness.

I went fishing several times in August. Went dip net for salmon at Farwell Canyon on the Chilcotin River with Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars, Hereditary Chief Esk’ and Francis Johnson Jr. and their families. And when we fish, we pray to the river ahead, and give thanks for what we’re going to bring home.

Julian Brave NoiseCat (L) and Darryl Sellars fishing for salmon at Farwell Canyon on the Chilcotin River.

Photo courtesy of Emily Kassie

There is power and agency in honoring and acknowledging who you are and where you come from. I think this is a very basic but important point. There is strength in that.

An attachment to place and respect for a place and where you are in the environment, in the natural world, creates an imperative to defend, protect and preserve these places.

This is what we see indigenous peoples and movements doing all over the world. And in the broadest sense, that’s what everyone should be called upon to do right now, is to protect and preserve our world.

In the fast-paced modern world, we have no idea that we relate to the natural world.

We don’t have the idea that we should really give thanks for the things we get from the natural world.

It looks really hokey and a bit basic. But if you really work to act on this in your life, profound changes can come from these very simple places.

A return to old ways

I’m not saying that’s enough to fight climate change.

We need to increase the share of renewable energy on the grid. We need to figure out how to transition some of these industrial processes like steel and cement production to carbon-free forms of manufacturing. We have to figure out how to clean up the agricultural sector.

But I think more simply, we also have to figure out how to have a more reciprocal and fair relationship with the resources and the natural world that sustain us.

And we are way off the mark right now. We are far from equilibrium.

There really were other ways of doing things that seemed to work. And in some contexts, in fact, ironically, we’re already starting to pursue those other avenues again as better ways to conduct ourselves and do things.

In California, there is currently a very serious conversation about controlled burns and forest management it would be much more like how indigenous peoples managed the forest than how colonial economies did. The way we manage fishing has actually come much closer to how indigenous peoples managed fisheries before colonization than it did in the highly extractive overfishing relationship that has brought us to a point where fisheries are on the verge of collapse.

Additionally, there are places in the world like Canada, like parts of the Amazon, and potentially now parts of the United States, where to preserve the land as a carbon sink, one of the strategies and policies pursued is like Indigenous land conservation, land protection to ensure carbon stays in the forest and in the soil.

In Indigenous contexts, the idea that we are related, that we have many relatives, is very important.

At first it extends to your blood relatives, but there is also an understanding that we are all related, which is biologically true, and that we are also related to parts of the natural world.

My people regard the black bear as a relative, for example. My family from a particular part of British Columbia — our earthly relative is the black bear.

And this idea that we have to treat each other with reciprocity and love and compassion, because ultimately we’re all connected, I think that’s really, really important.

To truly have love and compassion and to believe that we truly have a responsibility to protect the non-human world from destruction.

As humans, we struggle to have compassion for each other, not to mention the salmon, the wildlife, the birds, the water, the mountains, the forest…

But maybe we should. Maybe we should care about these things because we are tied to them. It’s also quite a different way to engage with the world, and for me, a compelling way.

Also in this series:

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