Humans can mitigate climate change or lessen its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Actions taken by individuals, communities, states, and countries all influence climate. Practices and policies followed in homes, schools, businesses, and governments can affect climate. Climate-related decisions made by one generation can provide opportunities as well as limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation. Steps toward reducing the impact of climate change may influence the present generation by providing other benefits such as improved public health infrastructure and sustainable built environments. Jump to: “Humans can mitigate climate change impacts”
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Culture, Climate Science & Education
What You Need to Know About Principle 9: Humans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts
We can choose to minimize our impacts, build resilient communities, and protect the ecosystems that sustain us all. But it will require acknowledging the reality and the seriousness of human-caused climate change and addressing the important social, economic, and environmental issues climate change presents by implementing solutions based on the best available science. Read more…
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Understanding climate science and integrating that knowledge into human society is key
Climate information can be used to reduce the vulnerability of communities and ecosystems and to ensure they are more resilient. That’s why it important to improve our scientific understanding of the climate system and to get reliable information to policy makers.
Reducing human vulnerability to climate change depends not only on our ability to understand climate science, but also on our ability to integrate that knowledge into human society.
Decisions that involve Earth’s climate must be made with an understanding of the complex interconnections among the physical and biological parts of the environment and how the consequences of decisions will affect humans—socially, economically, and culturally.
Read about how the Shinnecock Indian Nation is Preparing and Adapting to Climate Change
Humans can mitigate climate change impacts
Humans may be able to mitigate climate change or lessen its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A combination of strategies is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read more…
For a good summary of mitigation:
Can You Fix The Climate?
Climate Change Mitigation’s Best-Kept Secret
Credit: Blue Spruce Farm
By Jim Motavalli, Ensia
At Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vt., the black-and-white dairy cows are used to the routine. In what looks like a choreographed dance, 1,400 milk cows delicately step over the scrapers that run along the concrete floors and collect their manure, which goes into a huge digester capable of holding 21 days’ worth of waste. Inside, highly flammable methane gas is built up under low pressure and then burned in a 600-kilowatt generator, with the capacity of powering 400 homes.
Blue Spruce doesn’t have to capture the methane, but taking that approach has turned waste into a profit center, bringing in a premium price for energy. Ernie Audet, one of the owners, says “cow power” has become an integral part of the dairy operation. “We wouldn’t run the farm without it,” he says, adding that after six years in place the $1.5 million digester was close to paying for itself. At least a dozen other Vermont farms are also selling cow power to eager buyers.
Methane gas from Blue Spruce Farm cow manure generates enough electricity to power 400 homes. Credit: Blue Spruce Farm
Stories like this are increasingly important in a warming world because methane is a bad climate actor. Produced by ruminants, energy production and rotting organic material, and the main ingredient in natural gas, methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. “It packs a heck of a wallop,” says David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Although methane comprises only about 14 percent of total climate emissions and has a lifespan in the atmosphere of only about 12 years — compared to roughly 100 years for CO2 — it is many times more potent than CO2 in the short term, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And global methane release has shown significant increases since 2007.
Methane is produced naturally by forest fires, permafrost, wild animals, rivers, lakes and wetlands. But more than half of the methane entering the atmosphere comes from human activities. According to the Global Methane Initiative, anthropogenic sources worldwide include the digestive process of ruminant animals (29 percent), oil and gas systems (20 percent), landfills (11 percent), rice paddies (10 percent, with other agricultural production at 7 percent), wastewater (9 percent), coal mining (6 percent) and manure from farmed animals (4 percent).
Estimate global anthropogenic methane emissions by source, 2010. Credit: Global Methane Initiative
The good news is that there are fairly easy ways to dramatically slow our methane emissions — if we make the commitment to do so.
Oil and Gas Production
Methane is a by-product of oil and gas production, and emissions come from widespread leakage and intentional venting when there’s no commercial use for it. Leaks occur at many points as wells are drilled and afterwards including from compressors, drilling rigs, pumps and storage tanks, as well as during delivery to power plants and distribution networks.
But experts say the oil and gas industry could clean up its act with fruit so low-hanging it’s essentially sitting on the ground. A 2014 ICF International report for the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that existing technology could reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 40 percent at a cost of one penny per 1,000 cubic feet. Industrywide, that would require an investment of $2.2 billion, which according to Oil and Gas Journal is less than 1 percent of the industry’s annual capital expenditure in the U.S. What’s more, the EDF report said, making those changes could save consumers $100 million per year if the full value of the recovered gas is realized.
A 2014 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Task Force and Sierra Clubsaid the industry’s methane emissions could be cut even further — by 50 percent.
“Yes, rice paddies and animal husbandry are sources of methane emissions, but the point is often lost that nations are scrambling for new sources of natural gas, and we have a simple solution to reduce leaks by installing new equipment,” says Mark Brownstein, associate vice president and chief counsel of the U.S. Climate and Energy Program at EDF. “It would be an easy thing to do.”
The urgency of reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production was underscored by the recent discovery of a large “hot spot” over northern New Mexico. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan.
The urgency of reducing these emissions was underscored by the recent discovery of a large methane “hot spot” visible from space and hovering over drilling operations in northern New Mexico. According to The Washington Post, oil and gas operations in the U.S “lose” 8 million metric tons of methane annually.
Some oil and gas producers have taken voluntary steps to reduce methane emissions by buying the new equipment recommended in the EDF report, and the American Petroleum Institute claims a 12 percent reduction since 2011. Last September, six international oil companies — including Statoil from Norway, Britain’s BG Group, Italy’s ENI, Mexico’s Pemex and Thailand’s PTT — said they would work with host countries on a major methane-cutting initiative. The U.S.-based global giants were not in the group, though Houston’s Southwestern Energy was included.
Despite these industry claims, the international picture is not encouraging. The United Nations and the World Bank worked together in the 1990s on a project to capture and use the commonly vented methane from Chinese mining operations, but the $10 million spent then would have to be increased dramatically to address the problem just in China, the world’s largest coal producer. And in 2014, a legal push for fracking regulation in the European Union that could have included guidelines on methane leaks was thwarted by Britain.
Because the available data are poor, Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental earth science at Stanford, said, “we don’t know as much as people think” about how much methane is actually emitted by industry. “When scientists really dig in and look,” he says, “the inventories are often higher than they should be, about 50 percent higher. In worst-case scenarios, it’s two to three times higher.” Meanwhile, looking at the production side, the oil and gas industry has been selling the exact counter-narrative — a 2012 American Petroleum Institute study claims that the EPA has been “significantly overestimating methane emissions from natural gas operations.”
API, which represents both oil and gas interests, declined several requests to be interviewed for this story, but in a 2014 primer on hydraulic fracking, the group said industry is “developing and implementing new technologies to reduce methane released during production.” Citing EPA estimates in the same report, API said the methane leakage rate for natural gas systems is below 2 percent, which is “less than the 3 percent cited as necessary for immediate climate benefits for the use of natural gas in power plants and well under the 8 percent estimate cited for delivering long-term benefits as compared to coal.”
Investigators measure methane levels in a Boston neighborhood. Credit: Robin Lubbock/WBUR via Ensia.com
In the U.S., two bills introduced by Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey would address yet another major source of methane leaks — those from the aging pipeline networks under American cities. In many cases, the cast-iron and corroded steel lines are more than 100 years old, and modern technology is showing us just how bad the problem is. EDF and Google Earth Outreach teamed up to build colorful interactive maps of leak points that show Boston to be thickly populated with hot spots, while Indianapolis — which recently updated its infrastructure — is relatively clean. A new study led by Harvard graduate student Kathryn McKain concludes that in a one-year period beginning in 2012, approximately 3 percent of the gas being delivered to customers in greater Boston was leaked to the atmosphere.
Stanford’s Jackson was a pioneer in developing pipeline leak mapping in 2012. He says that cutting off the flow “means more money in the pockets of the producers, or in the pockets of consumers who pay for the lost gas.” But as Jackson points out, gas companies would have more incentive to fix leaks were it not for the fact that in many communities they’re allowed to estimate leakage and then bill the end users — us — for natural gas that goes missing. Also dampening their ardor in some places are mandated caps on the cost recovery for pipeline repairs.
Interactive maps highlight methane leaks in natural gas pipes beneath Boston, where infrastructure is aging, and Indianapolis, where pipes are newer. Credit: Screenshots via Environmental Defense Fund.
Kathryn Clay, vice president for policy strategy at the American Gas Association, said at the 2014 SXSW Eco conference in Austin that 3,000 to 4,000 miles of cast iron (or bare uncoated steel) pipelines are being replaced annually across the country, and that the “rate of emissions per mile is down 40 percent since 1990.” But Jackson says the record is spotty: The state of Ohio has replaced nearly all its cast iron, but Baltimore, he says, “is on track to replace its last old pipes in 2150.”
Whichever claims are more accurate, at least oil and gas leaks can most likely be fixed. Methane hydrates, on the other hand, are a much more difficult problem. The frozen deposits, formed from the long-ago decomposition of plankton, are mostly at the bottom of deep oceans. This methane is being released into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate as the world warms. In 2013, for example, an international research team reported that the East Siberian Arctic Shelf — or ESAS — is venting at least 17 million tons of methane annually, which Natalia Shakhova, a member of the team and professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, says is equal to the gas emitted by the arctic tundra — long considered one of the Northern Hemisphere’s principal sources.
According to a 2014 article in Scientific American, however, it might be possible to derive benefit from this burden. Undersea hydrate deposits have attracted considerable attention from energy producers — they could, writer Lisa Margonelli noted, “hold at least as much carbon as all the coal, oil and natural gas reserves on the planet.” Just in the waters off the contiguous United States, hydrates could hold what amounts to a 2,000-year supply of natural gas. And Japan, without significant oil and gas reserves of its own, has shown strong research interest in hydrate mining.
But the promise is counterbalanced by nightmare climate scenarios in which, as part of a warming world, methane hydrates vent into the atmosphere. According to the EPA, “Pound for pound, the comparative impact of [methane] on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”
“Emissions will continue to grow, because warming in the Arctic region is occurring twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and this trend is continuing,” Shakhova says. “‘Hot spots’ — and we believe the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is the world’s hottest spot — occur where permafrost has reached the thaw point.”
The possibility of a massive release of hydrate methane “could not be excluded,” Shakhova says. In a 2008 scientific paper she and colleagues wrote, “We consider release of up to 50 gigatons [10 times the current amount of methane in the atmosphere] of predicted amount of hydrate storage as highly possible for abrupt release at any time.” That would cause “consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.” In 2013, she co-wrote a paper in Nature Geoscience concluding, “significant quantities of methane are escaping the East Siberian Shelf.”
A Nature commentary by three European scientists estimated that a release of 50 gigatons between 2015 and 2025 could cost a whopping $60 trillion in global economic damage and adaptation costs. Of course, many scientists think methane releases will occur over centuries, not in an abrupt and catastrophic event.
Keep in mind that Earth’s methane hydrate deposits are estimated to be 1,800 gigatons (1,400 in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf alone), so a 50-gigaton release is just, as it were, the tip of the iceberg for a global problem. Changes in the Gulf Stream are “rapidly destabilizing methane hydrate along a broad swathe of the North American margin,” Southern Methodist University scientists Benjamin Phrampus and Matthew Hornbach wrote in 2012 in Nature. Deep deposits are relatively safe from small-scale warming, but shallower hydrates — like those under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf — are vulnerable.
In the meantime, the 29 percent of human-related global methane production attributable to those black-and-white dairy cows and other ruminant livestock offers a more hopeful opportunity for near-term reductions.
Farmers in China are working with scientists on rice-growing methods that cut emissions. Instead of flooding fields throughout the growing season, rice farmers are draining them halfway through, which cuts both water use and to a great extent methane production. Since Chinese paddies release an estimated 5.1 million tons of methane annually, it’s a really big benefit. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and its partners are working with rice farmers in Bangladesh, Colombia and Vietnam to reduce methane intensity 30 percent by 2019, a process that also brings food security and adaptation benefits.
And changes to what livestock eat (increasing dietary fat intake, for instance) could, along with variations on cow power, significantly reduce agricultural methane output. A feed high in omega-3 fatty acids, for example, is in use at 600 French farms (some of them large industrial operations), the New York Times reported, and has yielded 30 percent methane reductions.
The Obama administration released a methane blueprint in 2014 that called for, among other things, updated standards for landfill methane, a capture plan for emissions from coal mines and voluntary strategies to reduce dairy sector methane by 25 percent by 2020. Earlier this month, the administration got tougher and said it would impose new rules to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector up to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Final regulations are expected in 2016.
Getting a comprehensive methane bill through Congress would be difficult, but the President’s action relies on his authority to act independently under the Clean Air Act. Doniger says that methane regulations could legally be adopted by the EPA under current law, as has been done to control auto fuel economy and emissions from current power plants.
Internationally, there’s hope that the U.N. climate change conference to be held in Paris at the end of 2015 will result in an agreement that includes strong initiatives on reducing methane. Already, there are programs in place all over the world, including introduction of a new sheep breed in New Zealand estimated to produce 10 percent lower emissions and a Carbon Farming Initiative in Australia that includes carbon credits for methane cuts. A pilot project in Kenya is focused on reducing emissions by improving the diet of dairy cows.
As a global warming actor, methane is both deeply worrying and poorly understood. It’s also a moving target, arising with varying levels of intensity from many sources, both human — agriculture and the oil and gas sector — and natural — wetlands and hydrates in the depths of the ocean. At the same time, it’s one area where big impacts can be made in the very near future.
All that means that no comprehensive plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions can afford to ignore this major player.
Reprinted from Ensia with permission.
Hydrogen, hydrogen everywhere...
By Matthew Wall
Business reporter, BBC News
26 March 2015 Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31926995
Hydrogen is most commonly found in water - H2O - and in fossil fuels
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. And when you burn it or use it to produce electricity, the only waste product is water.
In the era of global warming, it would seem to be the perfect fuel.
So why aren't we all driving round in hydrogen-powered cars, moving our goods in hydrogen-powered lorries, and heating our homes and offices with this wonder element?
In short, fossil fuels got there first.
Oil, coal and gas were easily accessible and powered the industrial revolution. Around them, entire economies and transport infrastructures were built.
It was only much later that we realised the potentially catastrophic effects hydrocarbon waste products could have on the environment.
"In the Seventies, the oil crisis made people realise that oil-based economies were vulnerable, so people started to get excited about the potential for the hydrogen economy," says Alex Hart, hydrogen expert at the Carbon Trust.
"But then climate change saw a push towards electricity as the answer to hydrocarbons and hydrogen seemed like a distraction."
Now hydrogen is staging something of a comeback.
Fuel cell tech
Hydrogen fuel cells have been around for decades, but they have always been heavy and expensive.
1998: Peter Lehman, Schatz Energy Research Center, driving the first US road-legal hydrogen fuel cell car
Toyota's Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car will cost about €66,000 (£47,000)
Fuel cells are now smaller, cheaper and more efficient
Now Japanese car manufacturers in particular, like Honda, Toyota and Nissan, as well as Korea's Hyundai, believe they have finally made the fuel cell commercially viable and much more efficient.
Toyota's Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), for example, is being rolled out in the US, Japan, Denmark, Germany and the UK this year.
With a range of about 300-400 miles (480-640km) and a tank that can be filled in a matter of minutes, Toyota is hoping FCEVs can give conventional electric vehicles (EVs) a run for their money.
How does a hydrogen fuel cell work?
A fuel cell is composed of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte membrane. Hydrogen is passed through the anode and oxygen through the cathode. At the anode, the hydrogen molecules are split into electrons and protons.
The protons pass through the electrolyte membrane, while the electrons are driven through a circuit, generating an electric current and heat. At the cathode, the protons, electrons and oxygen combine to produce water molecules.
Fuel cells are clean - the only by-products are electricity, heat and water - and they are quiet, because they have no moving parts.
The proton exchange membrane fuel cell is currently the most suitable for vehicles because it can operate at lower temperatures than other fuel cells, but it is not the most efficient.
"In Japan we have a three-year waiting list for the car - demand is outstripping supply," says Toyota's Nik Pearson.
Earlier this year, Toyota announced that it would share nearly 6,000 of its hydrogen fuel cell patents in a bid to boost FCEV development.
The patent portfolio covers fuel cell stacks, high-pressure hydrogen tanks, software control systems and the industrial processes involved in generating and supplying the gas.
But will all the other manufacturers develop FCEVs - and consumers buy them - without a filling station network already in place?
"There are already 100 hydrogen stations in California," says Mr Pearson, "and in the UK the government has given £11m of backing for a small network of 15 stations in the South East."
This is still small beer compared to the hundreds of thousands of petrol and diesel stations worldwide.
Hydrogen cars can be refuelled in a matter of minutes, whereas electric battery vehicles take hours to recharge
"The technology of HFCEV has come on in leaps and bounds," says Dr Hamish Nichol, innovation manager for hydrogen at industrial gases giant BOC, part of the Linde Group. "But you need the infrastructure to fuel those cars - it's a chicken and egg situation.
"We're a commercial business - we're not going to build a hydrogen network just for the good of mankind. So we're going to need subsidy from the government."
Industrial gases companies, energy companies, vehicle manufacturers and governments are beginning to realise that they have to work together to build the infrastructure, otherwise each stakeholder will be waiting for the other to make the first move.
For example, in Germany just such a consortium - H2 Mobility - is building 100 hydrogen stations over the next two years, with a target of 400 by 2023. The project will cost about €350m (£250m).
And in the north-east of the US, Air Liquide is co-operating with Toyota to build 12 filling stations as a way of boosting interest in hydrogen cars.
But building a comprehensive network will cost billions, experts believe.
Grey or green?
Hydrogen may be a fuel with water as the only waste product, but producing it - most commonly by "cracking" hydrocarbons such as methane - uses a lot of energy and creates greenhouse gases as by-products.
"One of the reasons for using hydrogen is to reduce the carbon footprint, so splitting methane leaves you with the problem of what to do with the CO2 produced," says Dr Nichol.
This German power station can produce electricity, heat and hydrogen from renewable energy sources
This industrially produced "grey hydrogen" currently accounts for about 95% of total production, says Pierre-Etienne Franc, head of advanced business and technology for Air Liquide, another big industrial gases company.
Far more eco-friendly is hydrogen produced through electrolysis - splitting water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen molecules - particularly if the electricity used has come from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.
This is the ideal zero-carbon solution.
- Hydrogen is the first, lightest and simplest element in the periodic table
- It is the most abundant element in the universe
- Most of the hydrogen on earth exists in the form of water and organic compounds
- The sun converts hydrogen into helium, producing vast amounts of energy
- Hydrogen reacts explosively with oxygen, chlorine and fluorine
- Henry Cavendish discovered hydrogen, or "inflammable air" as he called it, in the 18th Century
- Hydrogen means "water producing"
Another big advantage of electrolysis is that it allows hydrogen to be produced on site, cutting out distribution costs.
Denmark already has five hydrogen filling stations with embedded electrolysers, and Aberdeen City Council recently opened the UK's largest hydrogen production and bus refuelling station, owned and operated by BOC.
Aberdeen is now home to Europe's largest hydrogen bus fleet
The station will fuel 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses.
"But [electrolysis] is about 10 times more expensive than industrial production," admits Mr Franc.
These costs could come down if night-time wind power electricity were used to produce hydrogen when domestic demand is at its lowest, he argues. Oil companies like Shell are currently exploring this option.
So are we well on the road to a fully-fledged hydrogen economy, weaned off our dependence on damaging hydrocarbons?
Possibly, but most industry experts believe that road will be a long one.
"It's going to take a long time because you're completely changing the paradigm - the infrastructure, the regulations - everything," says Mr Franc. "We're on a journey, but we can't go too fast."
The Carbon Trust's Alex Hart is similarly cautious: "Vehicles will definitely be fuelled differently in future, but whether by hydrogen, electricity or biofuel is less clear. We just don't know what the dominant technology will be.
"But we will decarbonise our world - we have to."
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Humans can Take Measures to Reduce their Vulnerabilities
Humans can reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Actions such as moving to higher ground to avoid rising sea levels, planting new crops that will thrive under new climate conditions, or using new building technologies represent adaptation strategies. Adaptation often requires financial investment in new or enhanced research, technology, and infrastructure.
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For a good summary of climate change vulnerabilities for indigenous peoples in the U.S., visit the National Climate Assessment:
For a summary of how the Great Plains Region is adapting to climate change impacts and vulnerabilities, click the button below:
Reducing Vulnerabilities: Tribal Profiles
Tribes across the United States are leading the way with innovative efforts to address climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies. The Tribal Climate Change Profiles are intended to be a pathway to increasing knowledge among tribal and non-tribal organizations interested in learning about climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals also publishes these profiles, as well as additional profiles they generate on their Tribes & Climate Change website: www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest.asp.
Nooksack Indian Tribe: Rivers and Glaciers —Keeping salmon and the ecosystem healthy in light of climate change and distressed ecosystems. In response to concerns about the Nooksack River and the glaciers that drain into it, the Nooksack Indian Tribe is undertaking efforts to address climate change and its impacts on Nooksack Usual and Accustomed lands and its people. Specifically, the Tribe is exploring climate impacts facing their lands as a way to address the continued health of salmon: riparian ecosystem health, stream and river temperatures, sediment loading in the watershed, and impacts of climate change on glaciers and the hydrology of the Nooksack River. Salmon in the Nooksack River are already severely stressed by a variety of factors including wide scale-watershed alteration by forest practices, channelization of the river, pollution and human-induced habitat loss. Climate impacts, therefore, have the potential to cause major additional harm to salmonid populations in the Nooksack River. Mitigating the impacts of climate change is therefore an integral part of ensuring that the Nooksack watershed is able to continue supporting salmon at harvestable levels. This profile draws on the work of the Nooksack Indian Tribe to address climate change impacts on the hydrology of the Nooksack River and salmon survival and recovery.
Nez Perce Tribe: Clearwater River Subbasin Climate Change Adaptation Plan. In an effort to prepare for changes to their homelands’ ecology, the Nez Perce Tribe’s Water Resources Division created a climate change adaptation plan for the Clearwater River Subbasin in 2011. The plan focuses on climate impacts to water and forestry resources, two areas of natural resource management that are both culturally and economically important to the Nez Perce Tribe. The adaptation plan includes an assessment of existing conditions in the subbasin, and data on how changes in climate may impact forests, waters, and the local economy. This profile highlights the efforts of the Nez Perce Tribe to increase awareness of climate change issues in their region through this plan, as well as their strategies for integrating adaptation into existing and future management plans. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_nezperce_clearwater.asp
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes: Climate Change Strategic Plan In response to growing concerns about the impacts of climate change on tribal members and on their homelands, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have developed a Climate Change Strategic Plan. The Tribes worked with several partners, including Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, Kootenai Culture Committee, Next Seven Group LLC, the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC), the Kresge Foundation, and the Roundtable of the Crown Continent Adaptive Management Initiative, to develop a plan to inform the tribal policy and actions moving forward. This plan brings together the knowledge of elders with scientific observations to document existing impacts and prepare for future changes. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_kootenai.asp
Jamestown S’Klallam Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan In order to promote climate resilience in their community, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has developed a Climate Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan. Drawing on an Environmental Protection Agency Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP) grant, and in collaboration with Adaptation International and Washington Sea Grant, the Tribe developed a plan that addresses sea level rise, ocean acidification, salmon health, natural disasters and shifts in species ranges. The plan drew on input from tribal leaders, elders and technical staff to ensure that tribal concerns were considered. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe sees climate adaptation as a process, not an outcome; this plan is part of an ongoing effort by the Tribe to prepare for climate impacts on their community. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_skallam.asp
The Swinomish Tribe and Tsleil Waututh First Nation Correlation and Climate Sensitivity of Human Health and Environmental Indicators in the Salish Sea In 2012, the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative awarded over $300,000 to seven projects aimed at increasing the use of TEK in climate change adaptation and natural and cultural management. The Swinomish Tribe and Tsleil Waututh First Nation, two peoples of the Salish Sea, collaborated together on one of these projects. By bringing together data on environmental, cultural and human health impacts, the project partners are refining their understanding about what areas within their communities may be most sensitive to climate impacts. In doing so, the Swinomish Tribe and Tsleil Waututh First Nation are gaining a more complete understanding of how climate change may affect their communities. This innovative approach builds upon previous work done by the Swinomish Tribe and has potential as a model for other tribal communities aiming to better understand climate impacts to their people and homelands. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_swinomish_tsleil.asp
South Central Climate Science Center: Tribal Climate Change Variability Workshops In the South Central US, particularly severe climate impacts are projected to occur. With support from the South Central Climate Science Center (SCCSC) and Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP), the University of Oklahoma (OU) hosted a series of five intertribal workshops on climate impacts. Paulette Blanchard, a Master’s candidate at OU who played an instrumental role in organizing the workshops, brought together native filmmakers with tribal participants to discuss ways that native people can document their experiences and challenges with climate impacts. These workshops also provided an opportunity for tribes and governmental agencies such as the SCCSC to establish working relationships. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/plains_sccsc.asp
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians: Climate Change and Environmental Management Programs Concerned about the effects of climate change on their homeland and surrounding environment, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have taken numerous steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change on tribal peoples, land, and resources. This profile describes the climate change programs implemented by the Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office and the Chumash Casino Resort to address climate change adaptation and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/southwest_chumash.asp
Indigenous Peoples and Northwest Climate Initiatives: Exploring the Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Resource Management In 2012, the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NPLCC) and the Northwest Climate Science Center (NW CSC) awarded funds to seven projects that facilitate the use of traditional ecological knowledge to help inform natural and cultural resource management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funds to the NPLCC for these projects, with two of the projects co-sponsored by the Northwest Climate Science Center. This profile is the first step in an ongoing effort to share information about these tribally led projects. It provides information on each of the grants awarded to tribes and First Nations in the NPLCC, and includes an overview of the NPLCC and the NW CSC. The profile showcases projects and shares the diverse ways in which tribal, First Nations and Alaska Native communities are gathering TEK, integrating this knowledge into resource management, and addressing gaps in climate change information. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/tdk_nplcc.asp
Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Healthy Ecosystems Summit
In August 2012, the Snoqualmie Tribe of Washington celebrated indigenous knowledge systems by hosting the Traditional Knowledge and Healthy Ecosystems Summit. The Summit, held at the Skamania Lodge near Stevenson, WA, brought together indigenous leaders, tribal members, resource managers, academics and students to discuss and learn about the importance of traditional knowledge in natural resource management and in everyday ways of life. Participants came from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and British Columbia to partake in the various presentations, roundtables, panels, and workshops that formed part of this event. This profile describes some of the highlights from the event, including talks from keynote speakers Daniel Wildcat and Larry Merculiefff, storytelling by elders, presentations on traditional knowledge in contemporary resource management and indigenous health, and field trips featuring traditional sites and activities.
Vulnerability of Coastal Louisiana Tribes in a Climate Change Context
Living among the bayous in southern Louisiana, coastal tribes have a long history of vulnerability to and impacts from a range of environmental and human-caused events, including storms, subsidence, land sinking and shrinking, sea-level rise and oil spills. These events have posed uncommon challenges to these indigenous communities. In January 2012, several tribal communities from coastal Louisiana (including Grand Bayou Village, Grand Caillou/Dulac, Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribes) met to “share knowledge, support, cultural connectivity and adaption strategies” in response to the significant environmental changes they face. This meeting, convened by the tribes and attended by the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), brought together local tribal members, national tribal leaders, faith leaders, government agency representatives, and resource specialists to share information on the various opportunities, resources, and programs available to tribal communities experiencing the impacts of large-scale environmental change. This profile explores the ways in which climate change may exacerbate the challenges already facing coastal Louisiana tribes and potential strategies to assist these tribes in addressing their vulnerability. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/gulfcoast_lacoastal.asp
First Stewards Symposium: Coastal Peoples Address Climate Change
In July 2012, four coastal treaty tribes from Washington State: the Hoh, Makah, and Quileute Tribes and Quinault Indian Nation, hosted the First Stewards Symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC in recognition of the rapid changes coastal tribes are experiencing from climate change and changes in marine ecosystems. The Symposium convened coastal people from across the United States to discuss the impacts of climate change and strategies for mitigation and adaptation. Tribal leaders, governmental and non-governmental agency representatives, academics, and non-profit indigenous advocates came together to demonstrate the impacts of climate change in regions throughout the U.S. and its territories and how indigenous adaptations to climate change can guide society moving forward. The Symposium emphasized strategies to promote actions in society-at-large to adapt to climate change and discussed the opportunity for native people to be leaders and provide models for other native and non-native communities. The First Stewards Symposium led to a resolution illustrating the impacts of climate change on traditional ways of life and culture and calling for the formal recognition and inclusion of indigenous communities in the formation of policies, management and other government action. This profile highlights the speakers, issues and outcomes from the First Stewards Symposium. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/tdk_firststwrds.asp
Siletz Tribal Energy Program The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, located on the Oregon coast, have created an innovative renewable energy program. The Siletz Tribal Planning Department created the Siletz Tribal Energy Program (STEP) through a grant from the Administration for Native Americans in 2009. STEP works within the tribal community to encourage efficient energy use and reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Much of their work is focused on improving tribal buildings and homes. STEP prioritizes community involvement as a way to increase awareness of tribal members, promote skills-training in the tribal community and promote tribal independence in energy; tribal outreach is a major aspect of STEP’s work. This profile examines the ranges of their programs, including weatherization and energy efficiency, conservation, renewable power and solar. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_siletz.asp
Karuk Tribe: Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge within Natural Resource Management Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) plays a significant role in the Karuk Tribe’s approach to natural resource management, which is guided by a respect for the relationships between species, their habitats and the belief that fostering ecosystem resilience is critical to ensuring sustainability. In 2010, the Karuk Tribe released a draft Eco-Cultural Resources Management Plan to create a long-term adaptation strategy for the protection, enhancement and utilization of cultural and natural resources. The Eco-Cultural Resources Management Plan establishes a framework for considering a wide range of human and environmental stressors to the Karuk Tribe, including climate change. This profile explores the role of traditional ecological knowledge in the Karuk Tribe’s Eco-Cultural Resource Management Plan, the ways in which this unique approach may contribute to tribal efforts to address climate change, and the importance of the federal-tribal relationship in addressing climate change. http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_karuk.asp
First Foods and Climate Change (Download First Foods Profile) Indigenous populations in North America face significant threats from climate change. One area of great concern is how first foods will be impacted by climate change. Because of the vital role that first foods play in the physical, mental and spiritual health of native communities, impacts from climate change on first foods may negatively affect tribal culture and livelihood. This profile explores the challenges that indigenous peoples face in maintaining their historically important relationships with first foods in the context of climate change. The profile also outlines the impacts that climate change may have on many first foods, describes challenges facing indigenous peoples in continuing their relationship with first foods, and explore ways in which they have adapted or responded to these challenges. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/tdk_firstfoods.asp
The Lummi Nation: Pursuing Clean Renewable Energy (Download Lummi Nation Profile) The Lummi Nation has launched a number of renewable energy projects to reduce its environmental impact and to contribute to its goal of energy self-sufficiency. These projects include conducting a wind energy development feasibility assessment, lighting a walking trail with solar LEDs, installing a geothermal heat pump system for a new administrative building, and developing a strategic energy plan to coordinate future efforts. This profile provides detailed information on the wind energy development feasibility assessment project and also examines the opportunities and motivation that inspired the Lummi Nation to explore the options for renewable energy on their tribal lands. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_lummi.asp
Climate Change: Realities of Relocation for Alaska Native Villages (Download Alaska Native Relocation Profile) As temperatures across the Arctic rise at twice the global average, the impacts of climate change in Alaska are already being felt (IPCC 2007). Alaska Natives are among the most impacted in this region, and, according to the Government Accountability Office in 2004, flooding and erosion affected 86% of Alaska Native villages to some extent, and by 2009, the GAO reported that flooding and erosion imminently threatened thirty-one villages. This profile examines the challenges of relocation and offers examples from three Alaska Native villages working to protect their people, culture and natural resources. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/ak_inupiaq_AkRelocation.asp.
Swinomish Climate Change Initiative: At the Forefront of Planning for Climate Change (Download Swinomish Profile)
In 2007, the Swinomish Tribe passed a climate change proclamation in response to growing concerns about potential impacts of climate change on the Swinomish Indian Reservation. This profile highlights the projected climate change impacts on the tribe, the tribe’s planning process for the impact assessment and action plan development, as well as key partners and project successes and challenges. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_swinomish.asp
Climate Change and the Coquille Indian Tribe: Planning for the Effects of Climate Change and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Download Coquille Profile) In 2008, the Coquille Indian Tribe established a Climate Change Committee to engage tribal government, tribal members, and natural and cultural resource managers in the development of a Climate Change Action Plan. This profile highlights key concerns and potential climate change impacts to the Coquille Tribe, and initial tribal strategies to address climate change. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_coquille.asp
Nez Perce Tribe: Carbon Sequestration Program (Download Nez Perce Profile) In the 1990’s, the Nez Perce Forestry & Fire Management Division began developing a carbon offset strategy to market Carbon Sequestration Credits. This profile describes the tribe’s initial trial afforestation project, and their strategies for reinvesting revenue from the sale of carbon to invest in additional afforestation projects, wildlife rehabilitation and forest development. Also available at: http://www4.nau.edu/tribalclimatechange/tribes/northwest_nezperce.asp
Tribes can Lead the Way
Much of the world's plant and animal communities has been in the hands of traditional peoples—societies of hunters and gatherers, herders, fishers, agriculturists—for a great many generations. In fact, pre-scientific, traditional systems of knowledge and management have been the main way that societies have managed the land and natural resources for many thousands of years. Those uses of the land and systems of management allowed indigenous cultures to thrive for millennia without compromising the interests of future generations because they enable societies to use their environment in a way that maintains the integrity of their local ecosystems.
In that sense, traditional systems of knowledge are not just curiosities, but are important for rediscovering principles and techniques for how our modern societies, in the face of a major climate crisis, can mitigate and adapt and in the end develop sustainable ways of living. Tribes throughout the Americas and around the world are working hard to deliver this message as the video below shows.
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It's not just talk: The Evidence Speaks for Itself
TEK Complements Western Science
Reclaiming Native Ground
Native Americans are losing their ability to live off the land as it has crumbled into the Gulf of Mexico. Some of them are trying to figure out how to survive on what's left.
BARRY YEOMAN / 24 FEB 2017 Source: https://www.sapiens.org/culture/louisiana-native-americans-climate-change/
Theresa Dardar stands for a portrait on her dock in Louisiana's Pointe-au-Chien Indian community in January 2017. Edmund D. Fountain
This article was originally published at FERN and has been republished with permission.
When Theresa Dardar was growing up in Houma, her mother used to take her to visit relatives in the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe community. They would drive 20 miles toward the Gulf of Mexico, park at the local grocery store, and ask someone to ferry them across the bayou. From there, they’d walk across land thick with oak, hackberry, and palmetto until they reached her grandfather’s house.
Dardar’s grandfather raised chickens and pigs. Next door, her uncle raised cattle. Even at 62, Dardar carries a vivid memory of her grandfather dipping a cup into the blood of a freshly slaughtered pig and drinking it. He would send some of the pork home with Dardar’s mother, who would make it into boudin sausages. She would also bring home some of the redfish he caught in the waters near his home.
Back then, tribal members fed themselves well—with seafood, of course, but also with the livestock they raised, the fruits and vegetables they planted, and the marsh hens they extricated from their fur traps. They hunted for turtle and alligator, too, and gathered medicinal plants from the land.
Theresa Dardar and her mother-in-law Nazia Dardar in their garden. Edmund D. Fountain
That’s because there was land. Viewed from above in the early 20th century, Pointe-au-Chien was surrounded by a dense thicket of green, broken up by splashes of blue. Those proportions flipped over Dardar’s lifetime. The land vanished until the community became a narrow neck of high ground surrounded almost entirely by open water. The area immediately around Terrebonne Bay, which includes Pointe-au-Chien, went from 10 percent water in 1916 to 90 percent in 2016, according to geographer Rebekah Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University. The U.S. Geological Survey said the larger Terrebonne Basin lost almost 30 percent of its land from 1932 to 2010.
Today, the property surrounding Dardar’s grandfather’s home bears little resemblance to the place she visited as a child. “There’s no more trees,” she said. “There’s a little strip of land where he and my uncle lived. … The piece of land is so small now that I don’t think anyone would be able to live there.”
The levee just beyond the Dardars’ backyard. Edmund D. Fountain
This is the dilemma Dardar spends much of her time agonizing over. She has lived in Pointe-au-Chien for more than 40 years, in a house overlooking a bayou lined with shrimp boats. (Pointe-au-Chien means “Dog Point”; the larger rural community is often called Pointe-aux-Chenes, or “Oak Point.”) She has served as a deckhand on her husband Donald’s shrimping boat and has skinned the nutria he once trapped in the winters. She’s watched that shrimping business dwindle, and the trapping business disappear altogether. And she’s seen neighbors give up on their gardens and animals.
Dardar isn’t sitting back, though. She and her tribe are trying out new ways to grow vegetables and medicinal plants even as the land around them vanishes. She heads an intertribal effort to restore food sovereignty—the sustainable production of healthy and culturally appropriate food—to a half dozen of Louisiana’s Native American communities. That effort might inform all of us about how to feed ourselves during these times of environmental stress.
Nazia Dardar handles bags of beans and okra seeds from her freezer. Edmund D. Fountain
The land loss faced by the 680-member Pointe-au-Chien tribe is one of the central facts of life south of New Orleans. Each year, about 16 square miles vanish from the Louisiana coast. The levees along the Mississippi River have starved the area of the sediment needed to replenish a sinking delta. The dredging of 10,000 miles of canals by the oil and gas industry has sucked saltwater inland, killing the vegetation that holds the mud together. And climate change is accelerating global sea-level rise, which promises to overtake subsidence as a key factor in land loss during the next century.
What’s more, as the barrier islands to the south have disappeared, Pointe-au-Chien has become more open to storm damage. In 1985, Hurricane Juan flooded the Dardars’ mobile home; the couple, along with Donald’s grandmother, took shelter in a small boat. The couple built an elevated house after that—it’s now common to see houses built up on stilts—and a small levee went up in their backyard. But they remain vulnerable: 2008’s Hurricane Gustav blew off part of the Dardars’ porch, tore a hole in their roof, and destroyed other houses. Less than two weeks later, the community was flooded by storm surge from Hurricane Ike.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to protect communities like Pointe-au-Chien with a controversial US$13 billion project called Morganza to the Gulf—98 miles of earthen levees punctuated by floodgates. A levee is going up immediately behind the tribal headquarters, at the edge of open water that used to be cattle pasture. Dardar believes the levee will “buy us a few years,” but only if the community doesn’t suffer a direct hit by a fearsome storm. “It’s in God’s hands; let’s put it that way,” she said. Some scientists agree the project will have limited benefit, particularly considering the price tag.
Nazia Dardar, 83, in her kitchen with oranges from her daughter’s trees. Edmund D. Fountain
Sitting on the back porch of her tribe’s headquarters, Dardar looked over a small, scrubby yard with a row of small trees at the back. Beyond that, a dump truck revved and beeped as it poured dirt for the levee. Dardar recalled wondering why the project was called Morganza to the Gulf, “because the levee doesn’t go to the Gulf.” Then she realized: “The Gulf of Mexico will come to us.”
Not only do land loss and flooding make it harder to raise livestock, planting fruits and vegetables also gets tricky. “When I grew up, everybody had a garden,” said tribal council member Christine Verdin, who is 57. “My grandma had probably five different species of figs. She had orange trees, satsumas, navels. She had lemon trees. She had her own peaches. And because of the water coming in, it just ruined all her plants and all her trees.”
Theresa Dardar’s 83-year-old mother-in-law, Nazia Dardar, maintains a large garden in a backyard filled with fruit trees, Muscovy ducks, and roosters. She sells her surplus produce to neighbors. But she’s one of the few holdouts who aren’t discouraged by repeated flooding.
That leaves the tribe’s traditional mainstay, seafood. But even that is becoming a luxury. Imports of cheap shrimp have driven prices so low at the dock that commercial shrimpers like Donald Dardar can hardly justify the cost of fuel and ice. Local crabbers report significant drops in their yields since the 2010 BP oil spill. (It is one of several possible causes.) And the federal government warns that accelerating wetlands loss in Louisiana endangers the “nurseries for many species of fish and shellfish.”
Christine Verdin’s childhood home was damaged by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Edmund D. Fountain
With residents replacing seafood with store-bought chicken, pork, and beef, the tribal culture is suffering, too. “We don’t see each other as much,” Dardar said. “Before the spill, Donald’s brother used to do a crab boil at least three, four times a week on the side of the bayou.” No invitation was needed: “The community would pass by, and they would stop and we’d visit. They’d eat.” That tradition ended after the crab haul became sporadic. “It all fell apart,” she said.
It’s not just Pointe-au-Chien. Across southeastern Louisiana, tribes are grappling with what land loss means for their dinner plates, their traditions, and their health.
“We are stewards of the environment: protect first, use second,” said Shirell Parfait-Dardar, traditional chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. (Dardar is a common name across tribes.) The 450-member tribe, which has fanned north from its original home at the edge of the Gulf, used to raise dairy cattle and poultry, she said. But flooding has ruled out ethical husbandry.
“We will not suffer any animal,” said Parfait-Dardar, who lives in Chauvin, southeast of Houma. “A south wind comes through here, and that’s it—you’ve got yards covered. We can get out of the way of the waters. Animals don’t have that benefit. They’re stuck where you put them. And we will not subject them to that.”
As the tribe has moved away from self-reliance, family diets have shifted toward processed food. “The boxed dinners, they are very convenient,” Parfait-Dardar said. “You can get a ton of them, 10 for $10. And for a family as big as mine—I have four children [and] my husband doesn’t make all that much money—we’ve got to stretch that dollar to feed our kids.” The health consequences, though, have been predictable. “We have a very high rate of high cholesterol,” she said of the tribe. “Diabetes is rampant. And it’s all got to do with our diet.”
Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians, at her home. Edmund D. Fountain
These are issues that Native Americans deal with nationally. “If you take the food desert map and overlay it with where tribal lands are, there is pretty much a direct correlation,” said Lea Zeise, a New Orleans–based staffer for the Intertribal Agriculture Council. It’s no coincidence, experts say, that Native Americans are twice as likely as whites to be diagnosed with diabetes and are at high risk for heart disease and stroke. “The disruption of traditional agriculture and hunting has resulted in increased consumption of fat—typical of the contemporary western diet,” writes physician Dorothy Gohdes in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ reference book Diabetes in America.
Some Louisiana tribes have decided they can’t tackle the problems alone. Six have joined together to discuss innovative ways to reclaim their food sovereignty. Calling themselves the First People’s Conservation Council, they meet every three months, along with representatives from nonprofits and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Theresa Dardar serves as president.
At high tide, school buses can’t drive down the submerged Island Road, connecting Pointe-au-Chien with Isle de Jean Charles. Edmund D. Fountain
Five of the tribes are coastal. None of them is recognized by the U.S. government, though most are recognized by the state of Louisiana, which has less restrictive standards. Besides Pointe-au-Chien and Grand Caillou/Dulac, they include the 600-member Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, which has lost 98 percent of its island home since 1955 and last year received a $48 million federal grant to relocate inland. (Isle de Jean Charles is three miles from Pointe-au-Chien but considerably more exposed. Most of the members, including the chief, have already left the island.) Rounding out the council’s coastal members are the Bayou Lafourche Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha, whose 600 members have been forced inland by devastating hurricanes, and the Grand Bayou Village Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha tribe, whose 14 homes in Plaquemines Parish are accessible only by boat. Grand Bayou’s tribe has 400 members, but most live away from the village, in part because of the challenges of living with land loss.
These meetings are hours-long brainstorming sessions that draw from the collective wisdom of the tribes and the technical expertise of the government and nonprofit groups. Some of the discussions center around programs the Agriculture Department funds, like plastic-covered hoop houses to protect vegetable gardens. (The U-shaped metal structures extend growing seasons, minimize soil erosion, and protect against pests and wind.) They talk about lobbying for federal recognition of soft-shell crab as a farm commodity, which could make producers eligible for crop insurance, disaster loans, and federal subsidies. And they discuss 21st-century ways to share traditional knowledge, like an Excel spreadsheet to record changes in growing seasons.
On a December morning at the Agriculture Department’s office in the St. Charles Parish town of Luling, representatives from four tribes got together for the final First People’s Conservation Council meeting of 2016. There were greetings in French, a prayer in English, and a business agenda that extended well beyond lunchtime.
Zeise of the Intertribal Agriculture Council reported on a federal grant her organization had received to develop marketing cooperatives, which the tribes could use to sell products like dried shrimp. “We’d have to start small,” said Rosina Philippe, an elder from Grand Bayou Village. “We know the process of drying shrimp. But as far as the business side of it, that’s something that we’d have to learn.”
“But is there interest in learning that kind of stuff?” Zeise asked.
“Yes,” Philippe said. “We talk about it all the time. We just don’t know how to put the next foot forward.”
Philippe also talked about a project her tribe, which is not protected by levees, is working on: gardens in boxes that can be lifted with pulleys. Grand Bayou Village has tried traditional raised-bed gardens, but they have proven impractical. “Tides have been higher,” she explained to me afterward. “In storm events, we get more water, so they get inundated with saltwater.” That kills the plants. Hence the idea of gardens that can be raised and lowered mechanically. They could grow typical vegetables like tomatoes, along with traditional medicines and indigenous plants like wild celery and parsley. Philippe also described plans to create a floating garden by mounting a container on top of a 4-foot-by-8-foot section of plastic dock.
Like their ancestors did, the tribes are thinking about their children’s children—seven generations down the line. The council’s conversations are starting to bear fruit now, albeit on a modest scale. Down in Chauvin, Shirell Parfait-Dardar—inspired by discussions of raised-bed gardens—has built one of her own using recycled materials, including old trampoline parts that serve as a trellis for green beans. In Pointe-au-Chien, Theresa Dardar’s husband Donald has started growing vegetables under a federally subsidized hoop house behind the couple’s home. The couple was spurred to act after Theresa talked with a Department of Agriculture staffer who attends council meetings.
A boater passes a floodgate under construction in Bayou Pointe-au-Chien, Louisiana. Edmund D. Fountain
Pointe-au-Chien’s big project, still in its early phases, is to build a greenhouse for medicinal plants and possibly vegetables. Christine Verdin, the tribal council member, hopes the effort will teach children about gardening and will produce crops that people can transfer to their own yards. “If we can get things started here in this greenhouse,” she said, “I’m hoping it will multiply.”
More than any individual project, what’s instructive about the First People’s Conservation Council is the pooling of wisdom. Federal staffers provide technical guidance but don’t steer the conversation. This, Zeise said, is refreshing. “It’s a solutions-based relationship—and not just the solutions that the [Agriculture Department] already has in mind, but the solutions that actually match the cultural and subsistence needs of the community,” she said.
One of those staffers, conservationist Randolph Joseph, said that’s the principle: People with a wide range of experiences, working in collaboration, stand the best chance of coming up with innovative responses to threats like land loss and saltwater intrusion.
“It’s going to take their creativity to solve that problem,” he said. “Once they get it down, then maybe we can help them to perfect it, to expand on it, to make it more efficient—and maybe [we can] adopt some of the practices that they’re using, that we may not have knowledge of. We don’t have all the answers to their issues. But I think working together, we can find some practices that will work.”
Joseph hopes the conservation council can become a model for tribal and nontribal communities. Louisiana’s coastal tribes are some of North America’s first responders: They’re dealing with disaster ahead of most of us. But these environmental problems won’t remain isolated: In the Terrebonne Basin alone, the coastline could eventually creep north to the suburbs of Houma, according to state and federal coastal experts.
Indeed, other communities will have to contend with how to feed themselves in the face of climate change and coastal erosion. “We’re on the front lines and it’s going to spread,” Parfait-Dardar said. By trying solutions and sharing what works, she added, “we can help make a difference. We have to consider what we’re leaving behind for the next seven generations.”
Misconceptions about this Principle
CO2 limits that will mitigate climate change will harm the economy.
The misconception or myth goes something like this: “Passing laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions hurt the economy and damage the Gross Domestic Product “GDP” growth of developing countries [...] This in turn will increase poverty.”
Economic studies show that, while environmental regulations (like reducing CO2 emissions) may cost companies money, their net benefits often greatly exceed their costs.
In recent years, the U.S. set a 17% target [for emissions reduction]; the country is on track to meet that. At the same time, the U.S. has doubled our production of clean energy — wind-energy production is up three-fold, solar is up twenty-fold (as of 2015). All this while we have come out of the worst recession in the nation’s history. So, we've been able to grow the economy from the depths of a deep recession while emitting less carbon than we did previously. Read more…