01/21/2016 02:03 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2017

Local Knowledge as a Model of Climate Change Mitigation

The Inuit Circumpolar Council - Alaska (ICC-AK) recently released a report that strongly tied the protection of traditional aspects of culture to the protection of the natural environment. In its latest study on food security, the report indicates that environmental conservation and protection may successfully be done through the adherence to indigenous knowledge. This may very well be an interesting conclusion because it offers yet another suggestion to address our mounting ecological crises; especially one problem Arctic peoples are beginning to understand all too well: climate change.

Indigenous knowledge systems are ways of interacting with the local environment that is uniquely fitted to a specific culture or community. These knowledge systems emphasize local understandings that maintain and protect ways of living. Understanding and engaging in these local knowledge may be an important aspect of sustainability, which is a way of behaving indefinitely. To do this, community members develop ways of thinking and existing that protect the natural environment because it also means protecting oneself. For the Inuit, and other members of Native communities across the world, ecological systems include humans intricately. This stands in contrast to the Euro-centric placement of humans in the environment since the Industrial Revolution.

With regards to this particular study, the report highlights the importance of food security. This is something a very important issue, for all communities and for a variety of reasons, but it should be noted that the most extreme climates also are among the most sensitive. This certainly is the case in the Arctic where the effects of climate change are more rapidly changing the natural environment than anywhere else in the world. And, while Indigenous peoples are among the most resilient in the world, a quickly changing environment creates challenges to cultural - or human - protection and survival. One way Inuit communities appear to be dealing with assaults on their culture are increasing cultural education programs that centralize local knowledge.

This is a positive movement for Inuit communities because larger state and federal policies in the United States do little or nothing to protect Indigenous peoples or their livelihoods. This may even serve as an example to our state and federal governments as yet another way to cope with a changing climate. Mitigating human-induced climate change necessitates a diverse portfolio of options addressing many areas of impact. If we place a greater emphasis on local decision-making, then we may be better able to give attention to the areas that lack sufficiency. It also would be helpful to have implemented a more supportive framework from our state and federal governments. When it comes to environmental policy, everyone is affected.

How may local knowledge be used in your community to be used to protect your environment?