The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest near in California began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is under investigation. The fire has consumed approximately 149, 780 acres and is 15% contained. U.S. Forest Service photo.
The world’s attention remains on Australia as forest fires continue to consume millions of acres of land and kill millions of animals across the country, according to CNN. Indigenous people and people of color have the ability to prevent catastrophes like the one we are all currently bearing witness Diverse groups have spearheaded solutions to climate change for centuries across the world.
Archaeologists believe that the Aboriginal people were one of the first people to inhabit Australia. According to the historian, Bill Gammage, the group holds a deep knowledge of the land and a solution to preventing large fires like the current one. The 50,000-year-old technique involves ridding the land of extra fuel by setting small-scale fires to prevent intense fires that are harder to fight.
Indigenous Practices Work
Non-Aboriginal firefighters do not possess the level of skill and expertise required to carry out the techniques. When early Europeans tried to copy Aboriginal techniques by lighting fires, they made the fires too hot and got even more of the flammable scrub, according to Gammage, This remains true today. There are no big fires where the Aborigines are in charge.
The environmental movement will benefit greatly when inclusion becomes widely championed. Indigenous people and people of color are privy to the most severe consequences of climate change posing a direct threat to their communities’ livelihoods. Yet, The United Nations acknowledges, that the plight of indigenous peoples and the role they play in combating climate change are rarely considered in public discourses on climate change.
Valérie Courtois is a Director at Indigenous Leadership Initiative, an organization dedicated to facilitating the strengthening of Indigenous nationhood in Canada. When asked about the value of indigenous practices in mitigating climate change, she explains, “My Nation, the Innu, have survived for nearly 10,000 years in one of the harshest climates on Earth. Surely we have something to offer the world in terms of possible approaches to managing our behaviors relationships and relationships with the Earth. In fact, over 85% of new conservation proposals in the last 20 years have been led or co-led by Indigenous Peoples.”
Championing Those Most Impacted
Additionally, women and girls are more likely to experience the largest environmental, economic and social burdens of climate change. Climate scientist and co-founder of Women Power Our Planet affirms through her work that “[W]omen are truly the ones who will channel trillions of dollars toward a just and sustainable habitat and women of color are leading the way, now and for the future.”
There is deep knowledge, commitment, and creativity for driving long-term solutions to protect our environment in communities most harmed by climate change.
Diverse Leaders of the Movement
Below are some of the leaders, organizations, and initiatives spearheading inclusive solutions to solve the climate crisis:
- Xiye Bastida: Xiye Bastida, also known as America’s Greta Thunberg is a leader of the Fridays for Future climate strike campaign and the Peoples Climate Movement. Bastida is part of the indigenous Otomí tribe, which nurtures reciprocity with the land and fights to ensure indigenous and marginalized groups are heard by the movement.
- 5-year Gender Action Plan: COP 25, is a plan focused on the implementation and scaling up gender-just climate solutions. It takes into account the challenges of indigenous people working to protect their communities.
- Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award: Rachel’s Network launched the Catalyst Award in 2019 to elevate women of color building a healthier, safer, and more just world. Awardees include Brionté McCorkle, the Executive Director of Georgina Conservation Voters and Heather Toney, former Mayor of Greenville, Mississippi and National Field Director at Mom’s Clean Air Force in Mississippi.
- WOC/CS Sustainability Pioneers Campaign: Women of Color Collective in Sustainability’s campaign highlights women of color championing inclusive sustainable initiatives across New York with plans to expand the campaign this year.
- Environmental Research Letters Journal Study: Research from this study highlights a decades-long link between racial, social and environmental justice including that most toxic-waste facilities in America are located in low-income Black or brown communities.
Centering the voices and practices of those most impacted and underrepresented will help governments, businesses, and industry stakeholders solve the climate crisis.