Q and A: What Can Indigenous People Tell us About Climate Change?

Erin Loury
Science Now

VANCOUVER, CANADAThe Arctic has become the frontline for observing the effects of anthropogenic climate change, from rising ocean temperatures to shrinking sea ice cover. These changes have greatly impacted the traditional practices of indigenous Arctic communities, which rely on sea ice for hunting and travel. In recent years, climate scientists have sought the multi-generational and intimate knowledge that indigenous people have of their environment. How can scientists use this knowledge to improve climate projections and models while respecting indigenous culture?

Igor Krupnik, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institution, has studied the indigenous communities of Alaska and northern Russia for 40 years. Yesterday, he gave a talk at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW) on environmental observations that indigenous experts recorded from 2000 to 2010. I sat down to chat with him about what scientists could learn from indigenous perspectives of climate change.

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