Indigenous Voices Needed in Climate Change Discussions

Dr. Ally Menzies studies climate change in Canada’s North.

Climate change profoundly affects Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad, but their concerns continue to gox unheard, according to a new University of Guelph study led by First Nations communities in Ontario.

The study urges decision makers to include Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in discussions about climate change impacts, said Dr. Ally Menzies, a post-doc in the School of Environmental Sciences (SES).

“There are only so many generations that knowledge is passed down,” Menzies said. “When an Elder dies, a chunk of culture and knowledge dies with them. We’re running out of time to have that knowledge and culture
passed down to current generations.”

The study was published in FACETS, the journal of the Royal Society of Canada’s Academy of Science. Co-authors include Dr. Jesse Popp and Dr. Sue Chiblow, both Anishinaabe professors in SES, along with Uof G students and researchers.

The report pinpoints climate change impacts on the environment and on traditional culture and ways of life and calls for further research on those impacts combining Indigenous knowledge and Western science.

The paper highlights how climate change is increasingly throwing off seasonal timing of life cycles of animals and plants that are key to Indigenous culture and traditional practices.

Those practices are also being affected by changes in water quality, biodiversity, and spread of disease and parasites.

Climate change is making it more difficult for Indigenous people to predict the landscape and ecosystems, said Menzies. “Their knowledge no longer matches what’s happening around them.”

Earlier studies have often focused on climate change impacts in the North, said Menzies. This new report was based on a 2019 workshop with 12 Anishinaabek communities around the Great Lakes involving almost 40 Elders, youth and environmental experts.

Besides calling for more integration of Indigenous knowledge and Western science, the group recommended long term monitoring of plants and animals and more holistic, ecosystem-level approaches to assessing climate change effects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.