Virtually every Fourth World nation has experienced a form of climate change since the beginning of global colonization in the 11th century. It was then that Skanians (sometimes called Vikings) followed the westward currents in the north Atlantic to what became known as “new found land.” Changes brought on by colonizing populations in eastern Africa (Arabs), western India (Han Chinese), and the western and eastern coasts of the Western Hemisphere (English, Spanish, French, Dutch) slowly, but vigorously reduced the numbers of Fourth World peoples (disease) and changed the environment (introduced plants and agricultural practices). While Fourth World nations world wide “managed” lands, waters, jungles and forests through selective decisions, their “management” was and is in some parts of the world still aimed at balance between the needs and wants of the human beings and the capacity of nature to reproduce. An example of Fourth World knowledge needed to support human life is “inter-cropping,” a cultural process of selective interaction between humans and plant life and animal life that produces 40% more nutritious food than “row-cropping” introduced by European agriculturalists. “Inter-cropping” has the virtue of not requiring fertilizer, insecticides or herbicides while producing foods more nutritious that industrial agriculture.
The colonists, settlers and their descendants (or what I have come to describe as “eternal tourists” have continued to ravage the environment such that where ever the “eternal tourists” reside they denude the earth. They take what was green and produce what is brown or no longer life producing. Since the end of World War II the idea of “development” has accelerated the process of denuding the earth and fouling the air, waters and the land. The greedy presumption of “development” is that all living things (plants, animals, soils, water, air, etc) are “free for the taking.” This attitude naturally flows from the experience of the “eternal tourist.” A tourist “uses” and does not produce anything. The earth’s bounty, as it is described, clearly costs a great deal as evidence for global warming is beginning to demonstrate. Cutting forests to the ground, dumping waste into rivers, and spewing carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases into the air are directly responsible for the very serious challenge that is now coming to a head: major changes in the climate, water levels and food productivity.
Fourth World nations that remain faithful to dynamically and evolving cultures reside in regions of the world that are “green.” To the extent that these nations have prevented occupation by the “eternal tourist” they have managed to continue life in their lands.
The United Nations Development Program asserts that 80% of the world’s last remaining biodiversity is located in Fourth World territories. The connection between human cultures and living green regions in the world is stunning, but essential for all human beings to understand. Fourth World peoples are essential to the continuation of living environments in the world.
With the debate over Climate Change now opening following the Bali, Indonesia session in early December and continuing for the next five years (culminating in Copenhagen, Denmark) it is important that Fourth World nations sit with the world’s state government decision-makers, non-governmental organizations, corporations and others to produce a credible Copenhagen Protocol on Climate Change. Fourth World nations must now step up to the table and demand a place there next to other decision-makers.
The Kyoto Protocol failed to recognize the significant part Fourth World nations play in the health of the world’s environments. No nation was invited to contribute to the dialog. The consequence was that from 1998 to 2012 states’ governments could confiscate with impunity Fourth World territories as if these living regions were truly part of the debate. Only Fourth World nations can make decisions in relation to their territories. Sovereignty over these territories must be in each Fourth World nation. States’ governments are makers of the problem we call Climate Change. Fourth World nations have solutions to what is an old problem if they will be heard.
Fourth World nations must now become a part of the global dialog. Without their participation as active decision-makers, the Copenhagen Protocol on Climate Change will fail. All of humanity will suffer.
(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies
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The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here