Year of Climate Change and Health
"The responsibility of being a good relative is to act now and to become engaged in protecting Mother Earth. We have to do our part in our homes, in our work, in our communities and engage with the lawmakers that govern where we live." -- Jennifer Irving, Oglala Sioux Tribe
We need national attention focused on the environmental injustices and lack of health equity that affect American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
Climate change significantly impacts tribal air, water and food. It has resulted in: rising coastal water levels; more frequent forest and grass fires; increased pests and vector-borne disease; more extreme weather conditions; decreased food availability; lower inland water and underground aquifer levels and non-native plant encroachment.
Weather pattern changes and warming waters can disrupt traditional ways of life by threatening the health of local plants and animals. This affects the ability of Native communities to access traditional food sources and medicines and perform traditional ceremonies.
As climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather, pollution of surface waters — including reservoirs, lakes and streams — becomes more of a concern. Climate change is predicted to decrease snowpack, which threatens the availability of these surface waters as well.
To combat the effects of climate change, many tribal communities are looking to their own cultural knowledge and practices. Over generations, American Indian/Alaska Native people have gained a key understanding of the connection between human interaction with the environment and its impacts on human health and well-being.
This traditional ecological knowledge provides tribal communities with a holistic view of climate change effects and a unique approach to interpreting climate research. And the knowledge is an essential resource for anticipating climate change impacts and designing adaptation responses in tribal communities that include identifying food substitutions, adjusting hunting and fishing cycles and practices and more. Working in partnership with Native communities, including the 567 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., is essential to moving forward.
From Public Health Newswire: Climate changes tribal and indigenous health*
(*blog posts only represent the views of the author)
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YEAR OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH MONTHLY THEMES