Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Indigenous Voices: The market oriented model is the main cause for climate change

In Japan yesterday a group of indigenous leaders from around the world urged the leaders of the world's richest nations to allow them to participate in the G8 discussions on climate change. There are no indication that any of the 26 leaders had their voices heard in the closed door discussions of the G8, discussions which produced a tepid commitment to halve CO2 emissions by 2050.

By refusing to open their doors (or their ears) to the indigenous perspective, the G8 leaders missed the opportunity to move the discussion from symptomatic solutions to fundamental ones.

In the view of these indigenous leaders "the market-oriented economic model of the G8 nations is the main cause for climate change, the global food crisis, and rising oil prices."

"We believe the economic growth model and modernization promoted by the G8, which suggests that we can control and dominate nature, is flawed," reads the group's statement.

The best ecological economics supports their case. Markets uninformed by the limits of the planet or the needs of communities will ultimately undermine the very conditions they depend upon.

There is an ethical reason why indigenous people should have a voice in the world's climate negotiations: They represent communities that have done little to create climate change but are already disproportionately impacted by it.

There is also a survival reason: If ever there was a time for wisdom, a time to let go of the illusions and myths of our economic system so that we can take the kind of action required for survival of our species, now is that time.

Indigenous leaders, coming out of their own worldviews and traditions, are clearly seeing through these myths. Their words hold out no illusions that we can find a way out of climate change without re-thinking the relative importance of markets, communities, and nature. They remind us that this crisis is primarily about repairing our relationships with nature and each other. These voices, so far excluded from official discussion have essential widsom to contribute to a path forward toward a livable world.

In Copenhagen at the end of 2009 the next round of international climate change negotiations will conclude. Calls are rising around the world for those negotiations to be informed by the best science - with a target for CO2 in the atmosphere of no more than 350 ppm, the highest level consistent with avoiding the most disastrous consequences of climate change.

The voice of science needs to be loud and clear in Copenhagen. So do the voices of the world's indigenous leaders.

You don't have to be a scientist or an indigenous leader to use your voice as a citizen to demand that both perspectives – science and indigenous wisdom – and not flawed markets, provided the underpinnings of climate policy and the route back to a safe planet for all of us.