Letter from the Publisher: Indigenous Voices at the COP21 Climate Summit

Posted by – December 09, 2015
Categories: Ecology & Sustainability Indigenous Cultures & Anthropology

Hello friends,

It has been a remarkable 2015. There has been an incredible range of major events this year, from the heartbreaking tragedies in Syria, Paris, Mecca, and San Bernardino to the hopeful directions of the Iran nuclear deal and the people of Greece calling for new directions for their country. And as the year draws to a close, arguably the most important series of meetings in the history of humanity is taking place in Paris: the COP21 Climate Summit.

It is hard to draw many conclusions on the results of the talks as they are ongoing, but the news coming out of Paris is intriguing. Based on what journalists, activists, and participants are reporting, there is a palpable shift in the tone of discussions from previous climate talks—particularly the 2009 Copenhagen Summit—creating the real possibility for meaningful action. Based on reports, there is a new openness on the part of industrial countries like Germany, Canada, and France to acknowledge that a two-degree target for climate stabilization may not be adequate when considering the more immediate issues facing low-lying countries like the Maldives and Bangladesh, among other concerns. And while the majority party of the United States Congress is distressingly opposed to meaningful efforts to embrace climate solutions, the other governments represented at the summit are unified in their goal to arrive at an agreement.

The feeling is summarized well by Jack Cushman, an editor and journalist for Inside Climate News. He reported from Paris this past week that “there is a kind of can-do spirit at this conference where despite all the differences that people have, I really believe that these delegates and participants are all completely committed to somehow finding a way to get ourselves a world where we won’t have to apologize to our grandchildren.”

In addition to the dedication and engagement of the official delegations, there has been a groundswell of action with progressive groups, climate change activists, and indigenous peoples, resulting in major efforts to highlight climate challenges leading up to and during the summit. And while it is troubling to see the Parisian government cracking down on demonstrations, it is very heartening to see these efforts having some impact on the talks directly. As the primary documents at the United Nations Framework Convention take shape, it was just reported that language declaring “the rights of indigenous peoples” has been incorporated, though the language was moved to an “annex” of the materials. While this is a promising development, it falls short of the needed inclusion. In the long run, it is critical to acknowledge the rights of indigenous peoples, who are often the biggest losers when extractive industry targets their ancestral lands.

But beyond the obvious concerns on the sovereignty of indigenous groups, these questions have deeper implications. As world leaders work together to craft a climate agreement, they would be well served to engage with native elders to draw on their wisdom regarding how to live in harmony with the earth. Native peoples worldwide have lived for countless generations with a deep understanding of the rhythms of Pachamama and how to listen to these messages. Activists are raising these ideas more vigorously than ever and calling for a change in humanity’s relationship with Mother Earth. Paris has seen an unprecedented gathering of native peoples who have made their presence felt, from the kayak protest to highlight the lack of indigenous rights in the primary climate documents, to the landmark treaty, signed by indigenous women leaders, who pledge their solidarity to protect Mother Earth from exploitation.

Image courtesy of Indigenous Environmental Network http://indigenousrising.org/

Released for the Paris meetings, the Rights of Nature and Mother Earth report, authored by Movement Rights, Global Exchange, and the Indigenous Environmental Network, is another excellent example of this call for a new way. In the report, multiple authors detail new approaches for conservation and economics that are rooted in the rights of nature and native wisdom, presenting “a call for Earth’s real revolution, a reawakening of the Sacred, and a legal framework to support real system change based on the inalienable rights of nature—of Mother Earth—of which our own human rights and the fate of humanity cannot be separated.” These are exciting new directions that can help bridge from our current structures to new systems that factor in the full “costs” of our actions.

These deeper reflections that incorporate indigenous rights and perspectives into the inquiries surrounding the climate crisis are critical. They begin to get to the root of our challenges and provide real clues for lasting solutions. This approach is at the heart of our mission at North Atlantic Books/the Society for the Study of Native Arts and Sciences , as is nicely articulated by our Founding Publisher, Richard Grossinger: “From the beginning, the Society has focused on primary source materials and tools for personal development and cultural evolution. The premise has been that tools for veridical practices, both indigenous and Western, provide paths ultimately to the creative resolution of the current human and planetary crisis. Those tools and paths are nonsectarian and, when trained, raise consciousness, spirit, hope, and capacity for compassion and service.” As more people awaken to the true extent of the issues and the wider solutions, our goal is to continue to present teachings and tools that reflect timeless wisdom so we can address our collective challenges and be at peace with our world, ourselves, and each other.

Thank you for your interest in and support of North Atlantic Books and our authors this past year and best wishes for a healthy and peaceful 2016.

Douglas Reil
Publisher/Executive Director
North Atlantic Books

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Tags: Climate Change Global Politics Letter from the Publisher

About the Author

Douglas Reil is a publishing industry veteran with more than twenty-five years served in various roles. Formerly the Publisher and Executive Director at the nonprofit trade publisher North Atlantic Books, he began his career with a six-year stint at Inland Book Company followed by a decade at Publishers Group West. Prior to joining North Atlantic, he built a web-based CRM system at Interschola, a B-Corp that assists schools in distributing surplus assets. In 2011 he founded Bay Food Shed, a community-based organization that creates initiatives at the intersection of local food and the gift economy.