Voices from two places in the world where The Nature Conservancy works closely helping local communities prepare for their changing environments are represented in a new exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
“This exhibit is so important because indigenous people are often the first to experience climate change, and they are also part of the solution. Measures that protect and prepare people for climate change must incorporate approaches that fully represent the voices of the people on the front lines of this problem,” said Frank Lowenstein, climate adaptation strategy leader at The Nature Conservancy.
From the Smithsonian’s blog about the exhibit:
On Manus Island, off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the indigenous community has lived off the sea for generations. But in recent years, unpredictable winds and sudden storms have confounded traditional methods of navigation and threatened their way of life. The fisheries surrounding their island have shrunken precipitously, while rising sea levels and erosion have made farming on Manus more difficult than ever. In December of 2008, a storm of unprecedented size — they named it “King Tide” — devastated the island, destroying homes and natural habitats. Community leaders are now discussing a mass emigration to the mainland, but despite the slowly rising tide, many elders simply refuse to leave.
Some 10,000 people live in and around the Guaraqueçaba forest on Brazil’s southeastern coast. After centuries of development, just 7 percent of the original Atlantic forest jungle remains. Many people whose families have lived in the forest for generations are now forced to resettle in the state capitol of Curitiba.
Jorge Gonzales Wochnicki, a resident of the Guaraqueçaba forest, said, “The indigenous people are the true environmentalists. It’s the Indians that preserve the land. Locations where you have the most jungle, best preserved, are the indigenous lands. It’s because nature to us, the Guarani, is living and has to be respected. All this richness that you see was preserved because the people have been here.”
Hopefully the exhibit will provide more exposure to the needs and preservation of these important communities. Check it out online or visit if you’re in the area.
Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change runs through January 2, 2012 and displays photographs, video, and audio of people from tribal communities that have been collected by the non-profit group, Conversations with the Earth.
Paul Mackie is an associate director of communications and a blogger at The Nature Conservancy
Photo by Flickr user OZinOH (The outside of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.)
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