Dec. 3, 2009 A delegation of more than 20 indigenous teens, women, elders and shamen heading to historic Copenhagen climate talks today offered the world self-created video evidence and testimonials of climate change problems in their far-flung home communities.
The videos include scenes of cows and zebra dead or dying of drought in Kenya; parched landscapes and stunted crop growth in Cameroon; destructive, unseasonal summer downpours in Peru, and a dry, rerouted river in the Philippines among other images and personal accounts of the impact climate change and development are having on indigenous people.
The testimonials also describe the unintended consequences of imposed climate change mitigation efforts on local livelihoods, and examples of the value of traditional knowledge in responding to climate change.
Created with the support the California-based Christensen Foundation, award-winning community video trainers, photographers and non-governmental organizations, the vignettes, entitled Conversations with the Earth (CWE), debuted online at www.conversationsearth.org
The Conversations with the Earth videos, together with complementary documentaries prepared by Tokyo-based United Nations University, also form part of an Indigenous-led film and multimedia exhibition at the National Museum of Copenhagen, to start Dec. 8 as delegates gather for the landmark UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference.
The indigenous peoples delegation, some members traveling overseas for the first time, will be aided by interpreters to participate at the UN talks Dec. 7 to 18. Their agenda includes discussion of the controversial international REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program, adaptation strategies and other topics at a special Indigenous Day symposium Dec. 12th
Conversations with the Earth is a collaboration between Land Is Life of Boston, an indigenous rights advocacy group, and UK-based community video trainers InsightShare, in collaboration with photographer, Nicolas Villaume.
The effort has connected indigenous groups and communities living in critical ecosystems around the world, including the Atlantic rainforest, Central Asia, the Philippines, the Andes, the Arctic, and Africa.
The Kenya video is particularly compelling, documenting the impact of an intense drought hitting the Maasai community. During these extremely hard times, pastoralists have been losing their cattle -- their main and sometimes only livelihood -- while the elderly and the sick have begun dying from malnutrition and other causes.
Post-Copenhagen, CWE will launch a series of presentations worldwide to expand the success of connecting indigenous communities to share adaptation strategies and link with rest of the world around key climate change issues.
"Indigenous Peoples have contributed little to climate change. Yet, they suffer from the brunt of direct and immediate effects of escalating global warming," says Inupiat leader Patricia Cochran, Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change.
"Despite the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they continue to have little say in the UN climate negotiations, epitomizing the climate injustice."
"At this critical time of global decision-making, indigenous voices have an important message for the global community and future generations," she adds. "From Papua New Guineans working to save their seaside homes, to Maasai villagers responding to cattle-killing drought, Conversations with the Earth enables indigenous communities to give dramatic first-hand accounts of their experience with climate change."
"We are a harbinger of what is to come, what the rest of the world can expect."
"Traditional and indigenous communities depend on a relationship with healthy ecosystems and possess a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and practical experience in adapting to long-term changes in their environment," says Brian Keane, Director of Land is Life.
"The pace of change is such, however, that indigenous communities are struggling to adapt to what's happening," he adds.
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