Traveller's Teacup

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Posts Tagged ‘Indigenous’

Energy Sovereignty film receives special mention at festival in Venice

Our latest collective UNU videobrief Energy Sovereignty has received a special mention at the Think Forward Film Festival in Venice, Italy (Nov 30-Dec 1, 2012). The work looks at energy innovation and traditional knowledge, and the various challenges for Indigenous peoples when facing the new energy revolution.

Stories include: tribal wind projects in the US; hydro-electric projects which have oppressed Guatemalan communities, solar project for cultural survival in Altai, and energy sovereignty in North-eastern Siberia. Made with dear friend Randall Wood and the UNU team in Tokyo, the work evolved through the collaborative efforts of several indigenous groups connected to UNU-IAS TKI and the generous creative commons community on Vimeo. It premiered in English with Italian subtitles. You can download your own version of the multilingual DVD here.

Well done everyone!

The Think Forward Film Festival was established in Venice in 2011, with the aim to study, discuss, and disseminate climate change as well as the issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energythrough both short and feature films. The Think Forward Film Festival is a project of the International Center for Climate Governance(ICCG), a joint initiative of Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and Fondazione Giorgio Cini, now an internationally renowned centre whose research activities focus on the design of climate policy and governance. The festival will feature films and documentaries as well as a selection of the best short films from the competition, new to this second edition. There will be side events such as meetings and discussions with directors and actors. Some activities will be aimed to inform both students and teachers on issues related to climate change and renewable energy sources in order to both increase awareness as well as to encourage discussions on these topics among young people. The Think Forward Film Festival has made sustainability its founding principle, for instance, by printing materials on FSC-certified recycled paperusing zero kilometre catering, and preferring to use digital communication to air travel when organising events.

the right to listen, to be heard and to adapt

Just got back from a whirlwind UN meeting in Mexcio City. Just when things couldn’t get anymore dissertation deadlined, I went and shot some interviews at a joint UN-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change workshop “Indigenous Peoples, Marginalized Populations and Climate Change“.

IPMPCC Opening address by Francisco Barnes-Regueiro from (Mexico's National Institute of Ecology), together on panel (Left to Right) Doug Nakashima (UNESCO), Sam Johnston (UNU) , Vincente Barros (IPCC), Terence Hay-Edie (UNDP), and Jaime Webbe (CBD)

And I was rewarded with what I heard. After doing one-man-band interviewing of community knowledge custodians, ethnographic academics, IPCC lead authors and the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, it was as though, all of the hard climate study so far was verified. The meeting’s technical report and outcomes plus the humbly created voxpop interviews are yet to come but in the meantime there were two things I wanted to share…

After listening to case studies from the Arctic Reindeer Herders and Inuit Ocean Hunters, African subtropical pastoralists, Andes-Amazonian watershed farmers to Micronesian ocean navigating fisher people, there was wide suggestion amongst the group that Indigenous seasonal calendars across the world are drastically changing and possibly systematically collapsing. It is worth thinking about because this emerging trend in global research evidence may have enormous institutional and structural implications for everyone (think both local and industrialised food systems and security).  Importantly, its also worth thinking about for Indigenous communities, because known traditional knowledge adaptation methods are already heavily stressed by factors such as development, anti-migration borders, socio-economic positioning and political marginalization. If we are serious about adaptation, there is much restructuring work to be done.

Closing speech by Myrna Cunningham, Chair of UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues[Closing speech by Myrna Cunningham, Chair of UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues]
Final IPMPCC plenary session

Secondly, in my view, it was evident, that in order to work with Indigenous cultural knowledge appropriately, there was enormous capacity building needed amongst higher education institutions. In particular, capacity building that centred around equity and authorship amongst both Indigenous and non-indigenous collaborators.  I think days should be numbered for the classic old school research methods of modern/western expert scientist and indigenous community research participant.  There is much to learn, share, mentor and support, but as wise Peruvian Dr Tirso Gonzales said to me, there is no google translator for an indigenous person’s environmental understanding. Perhaps an interesting capacity building transition phase may be similar to Indigenous film-making protocols, whereby seeking Indigenous collaborators/partners or rough draft approval with knowledge custodians is an essential element of the project’s funding process.

If we truly are to move to a post-enlightenment society, capacity building must start by institutional acknowledgment of Indigenous intellectual property, custodial rights, human rights, territorial rights and Indigenous self-determination.

Dinner - (left to right) me, Edwin Castellanos, Doug Nakashima, Anne McDonald, Jaime Webbe, Igor Krupnik, Saul Vicente Vasquez [..and some cultural activities such as Mexician feasting with some of my colleagues]Edwin Castellanos, Doug Nakashima and Anne McDonald with two local musicians at dinner, Mexico City

Culture before fact? – exploring climate histories at Cambridge

Last week, i was lucky enough to present our Indigenous climate film project to interdisciplinary professors at Cambridge University.

The conference, “Climate Histories: Communicating Cultural Knowledge of Environmental Change“, was exploring diverse and seemingly contradicting climate histories that are shaped by the cultural goggles that people wear to understand the world.

I heard the term, “culture before fact” from Professor Hulme, and perhaps this simple phrase helps explain why we disagree (and continue to disagree) about climate change.

Discussions were diverse (if slightly euro-centric) touching on art history and notions of landscape framing; the histories of the scientific worldview, and the still enduring “enlightenment” quest to conquer/summit and take apart the ‘mechanisms” of the world; to ecologists from Mexico exploring local ecological understandings of ocean/earth/sky systems in preparation for future extreme hurricane events; to geologists exploring the environmental history of a place through UK soil layers; to archeologists tracing bronze age societal frameworks as sea levels, river systems, diets and dwelling structure changes in Britain; to a British anthropologist and American bird neuro-endocrinologist working together on the Tibetan plateau discovering the deep importance of Indigenous climate/environment histories and cultural worldviews within the research material.

How we have evolved to relate to climate and its previous effects on us, shapes how we view and engage with future climates. Perhaps your ideas and cultural ways of interpreting and relating to climate “evidence”, differs from a woman in the Mongolian Gobi.

At the finale of two days, I had a strong intuition to continue exploring these ideas, perhaps being part of a movement to help “crowbar” apart the climate discussion which is currently nailed as a “discovery” and problem of scientists and economists , and further open it out for the fresh air of our “humanitarian” scientists (and maybe farmers, healers, poets, chefs, women’s knitting circles, taxi drivers, kindergarteners, hunters, navigators and storytellers)

But just how this will happen, is a hard vision to grasp.

What can multiple climate histories and the different cultural goggles we wear, tell us about ourselves and our relationship with nature? But more importantly, how can these differing cultural perspectives be respected and seated next to each other, in order to create new forms of governance, environmental understanding, science, worldview approaches… or consciousness…  shared and diverse understandings from the past, that inform us of what we progressively could do.

To find out more about the conference speakers, or to read any of the session papers.

“Entering the snow leopards lair” story

A short story, I wrote about my recent snow leopard horse trek in Russian Altai’s remote Argut Valley was published today on the UNU’s Our World 2.0 site.  Enjoy and please share with friends!!

“The Altai mountain pony below me stumbles on a wobbly rock. I breathe in sharply as loose shale slides off the cliff’s edge and bounces towards the frozen Argut River below. Aduchy, my indigenous Altaian guide, twists around in his saddle and re-counts his travel companions. He motions for me to lean forward. Over the Siberian wind’s howl, my interpreter Irena loudly translates in her thick Russian accent: “Sit forward to help the climbing horse.” … read more here

And a rather wild and woolly shot from the field… here we are in the back country of Argut valley, Siberian Altai, Feb 2010. About -20 and Irena my beautiful Altaian friend and translator, is following on horseback. it was one of those days….the sun was shining and the heart was free and happy.

snow leopards on my mind

As some of you know, I was in Russian Altai (again) in March. This time, learning about the UNDP conservation and tracking of snow leopards in a remote valley about 40km from the Kazakh/Chinese border.

The story (with slideshow) is due to be published this week on Our World 2.0, and I promise to update it here for you as well.

I was really compelled to share this particular wilderness adventuress story. It left a lasting impression on me and I hope in some small way, I can eventually contribute to a larger climate biodiversity adaptation project being discussed.

During the trip, I learnt the Altai mountains are also full of wild wolves. As we slept in our pup tent, they sniffed about our camp at night leaving tracks which our guide Adduchee later pointed out. We never heard them, but as @andibartz points out on her blog, this little video is 500 times more rad than Wolf parade!! heehheeheee

Movies in Moscow – 27th-30th May

To follow on from the previous post… an invite has been extended for 3 of the Our World 2.0 Indigenous climate films to screen in Moscow at the H20 film festival from the  27-30th May, 2010. I think our 3 films will be screening on the Friday night (28th May) around 7:30pm. For more information check out the festival’s site:

I also found a short Moscow times article listing the 4 day program. After finally finishing the Russian subtitles for these beauties, oh, how I wish I could be there to cheer everybody’s stories along! Raaaaa!!!!!