Mix modern science, indigenous wisdom to mitigate climate crisis
- During the last few years, temperatures have started shifting from high to low rapidly, which forces the snow on top to melt and freeze back into ice.
Climate change is altering our planet irreversibly. Yet, rarely do we get the opportunity to talk to people whose everyday lives are viscerally tied to nature. Last week, I met with Keith Wolfe Smarch, a 60-year-old indigenous carver and hunter in the Canada’s Yukon territory.
The wise man talked about mice. During the last few years, temperatures have started shifting from high to low rapidly, which forces the snow on top to melt and freeze back into ice. The mice continue to feed under the snow, but under a sheath of ice. Many don’t even survive. Nor do the iconic Great Grey Owls, who prey on mice. With the new ice layer, they can no longer hear the mice, as they once did, under the snow. And if they discern dinner, they can’t break the ice to serve themselves. The numbers of both the owls and the mice have dropped, Keith says. Till five years ago, he’d hear the birds hoot all night. Now, its down to a few times a year.
That’s only one story, but it underscores how little we listen to and amplify indigenous knowledge and observations around climate change. Science is key, but it doesn’t capture every shift. If we respected, learned from and combined both kinds of knowledge, we stand a better chance to adapt, if not somewhat mitigate the climate crisis. India is lucky to be populated by so many communities who can offer us this knowledge. We must grab this opportunity and learn from them.
(The writer is a founder director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)