Footsteps of the Indigenous Peoples

Written by Suraya Williams


Participating in the events at COP21 has been a great learning experience. I have been getting a glimpse of the entire world and how climate change affects it. From the conferences and presentations that I have analyzed over the past couple of days, I have gained a better understanding of what it is going to take to really slow down climate change. It’s going to take a change of mindset of how people view each other and the Earth. People need to be able to think beyond themselves and beyond the here-and-now. Individuals need to be aware of their differences and commonalities with each other. For example, indigenous peoples share this world with us and need to be recognized because climate change has the largest effect on their livelihoods and threatens their cultures. They are often ignored when it comes to fighting climate change, and I have realized that their traditional knowledge should be valued because it has sustained their lives for numerous generations. The knowledge of indigenous peoples has been passed down and evolved from their robust connection with the earth, which is a connection that all people should have. Indigenous people set the example of how to be in tune with the Earth and to be aware of their actions. Once people can do this, I believe true progress can be made. We need to follow in the footsteps of indigenous peoples.


“Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature”: Conservation International’s Approach to Climate Change

This is the fifth in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Zachary Reaver

Throughout COP21, I have been following the online presence of Conservation International (CI).  I usually wait until late in the evening to collect my data, making sure I don’t miss any tweets or Facebook posts that have been made throughout the day and evening.  I begrudgingly made a Twitter and Instagram account for this project, although I have been fascinated by how much all of these different types of social media are produced and consumed.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with CI, it is a very large environmental nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987 by Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann.  Mr. Seligmann still serves as CI’s CEO and is actually one of the attendees at COP21.  Starting with modest beginnings, CI now has offices in over 30 countries and works with more than 1,000 other organizations, including businesses such as Starbucks and Walmart.  CI tries to champion many different causes, but their main push is to emphasize the importance of nature.  In the context of COP21, CI has claimed that nature can provide up to 30% of the solution for climate change in terms of restoring and maintaining forests, coastlines, etc. for carbon sequestration.

Conservation International has been very active both leading up to and during COP21.  In preparation for the negotiations, CI actually released its own final position paper with specific goals, metrics, and recommended text for the final agreement on such areas as adaptation, mitigation, and finance.  In addition, CI started two major “campaigns” for COP21: the first is a video series called “Nature is Speaking”, in which CI has enlisted famous actors and actresses to voice various components of nature, such as Liam Neeson as Ice, Kevin Spacey as The Rainforest, and Harrison Ford as The Ocean.  These videos have been released over the past year leading up to COP21, with a final video, “Home” being debuted on December 10th at the conference (by the time you read this, you should probably be able to go watch it online!).  These videos are definitely worth a watch, and enforce the message that “Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature.”  The second campaign is through social media with the hashtag #INeedNature.  This campaign encourages anyone around the world to take a picture in nature and submit it to CI, either through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or their main website.  CI has been collecting these photos and will also be showcasing them on December 10th at COP21. Conservation International also hosted a session at COP21 on December 8th with CEOs and chairmen of Walmart, IKEA, Agropalm, and Kellogg to discuss the importance of businesses and corporations in contributing to climate change solutions.

I think it is impressive to see the presence and influence that a non-state actor such as Conservation International can have, bringing together celebrities, CEOs, and even heads of state (Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, which is one of the most at-risk nations due to sea level rise, is a prominent CI board member) to combat climate change.  I am very interested to see the final outcome of COP21 and hope that a strong agreement is made!

If you are interested in the “Nature is Speaking” and #INeedNature pictures, please see the following sites:

1.5 to stay alive, #blacklivesmatter

Written by Sarah Huang


As we come to the final days of the climate negotiations here in Paris, you can hear and see the presence of voices of masses coming together asking for more than what is currently on the table. Well as of right now, there is language to hold the temperature increase below 2 degrees C and to make efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C. But is 1.5 enough? On any given day you can hear the chant, “1.5 to stay alive”, calling for the climate agreement to set the limit to an increase of no more than 1.5 degrees C. But today, the chants and movement of people in Climate Generations was different. Instead today you could hear, “1.5 to stay alive, Black Lives Matter, We Can’t Breathe, We Gon Be All Right” as a group of young black and white individuals marched around with signs saying “My Life, My Fight” and other sign. And as the crowd marched around, I heard in the crowd, “Does this have anything to do with climate change?”. And to this person in the crowd, YES!

Black and brown bodies are disproportionately discriminated against in the effects of climate change. Black and brown bodies are made criminal to their very existence on this earth and are put into scenarios where their lives, experiences, and histories are delegitimized as elite, privileged, wealthy, and white majorities continue a saga of oppression. Because if we are truly honest with ourselves, the economic and political order that is built on the oppressive, imperialist, and colonialist history of most of these wealthy nations will only continue to oppress these people. But most importantly, what the Black Lives Matter movement brings to the climate justice fight, is the intentional oppression and discrimination placed on black and brown bodies as wealthy nations continue to deny their responsibility towards the destruction of environments and livelihoods.

It has been hard to hear the stories and experiences of individuals, families, and communities of indigenous peoples from all over the world as they open their hearts and their lives to strangers here at COP21. I have struggled as I try to understand how we can live in a system that continues to be ignorant of the pathways of destruction that targets communities of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities while silencing their experiences and voices. But as I hear these voices being raised in the climate spaces and throughout Paris during these past two weeks, I know that people are not dying in silence. So listen when groups and movements are aligning and to the voices saying that we can’t breathe in contaminated air and we won’t be silenced.

Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network in Paris 2015

​Written by Dominique Fry
This is the fourth post in our digital ethnography series​

With the COP21 proceedings in Paris this week, we have been following a number of groups. My specific group is The Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus. The WECC has a project called Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International, or WECAN for short, which is a solutions-based, multi- faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. WECAN has been a powerful force in past environmental negotiations.

WECAN participated in COP20 in Lima Peru with the Women and Gender Constituency. The group worked inside the formal negotiations and also outside of the talks in the streets along with civil society. They had panels discussing the value of women in global change and also focused on the importance of indigenous women. WECAN participated in the Lima’s Peoples March along side their Indigenous allies.

In Paris, WECAN is collaborating with the same groups inside the negotiations and also in civil society again. So far during the talks, they have had a pretty large social media presence online The main themes of all communications from Paris include emphasizing the importance of women and indigenous people in solving environmental issues and making sure women’s voices are heard. WECAN has participated in panels discussing various topics and will continue to do so next week.
I am intrigued by this group because the values of WECAN are that women are the power holders. Women need to be better represented in negotiations as well as have a louder voice. I am inspired by the values they are trying to promote and excited to see what they can do to both empower women and also bring to the table at COP21 this week in Paris.


This is the third post in our digital ethnography series
Written by Rohit D Bhonagiri
​This blog is also posted on Rohit’s personal blog


As carbon sinks of the world, forests are the lungs of this planet and the waterways its veins. Monica Camacho, from the Rainforest Foundation Norway, provides the perfect slogan “One of the objectives of the new agreement is to reduce CO2 and the best way to do that is by conserving natural forests and natural ecosystems.” Indigenous people from around the world are trying to have their voice represented although they do not receive much representation in COP21.

Indigenous communities are leading the way to combat climate change.  #COP21
— WRI Governance (@WRIGovernance) December 2, 2015

I have been up early to catch up on the press briefings for the day. At 6.30AM, I’m in the library with my fellow colleagues facing a different crisis. I usually need a dose of coffee to invigorate all the five senses, today but Kelly Stone had me at ‘food insecurity’. As a background, I come from the state of Maharashtra in India which has faced massive droughts in the agricultural lands of the Vidarbha. According to the Hindu my state has sees about 10 farmer suicides every day due to climate change and water and energy intensive GM (genetically modified) cotton.  I consider farmers as Indigenous people especially after the rise of Big Agriculture.

Ms. Stone went on further to say that land mitigation techniques for biomass and biofuels as alternative energy sources could lead to family farmers being kicked off their lands. She also spoke on behalf of a young farmer by the name of Odunke from Nigeria who came to Paris to represent his farming community but could not address the press because he didn’t have a blue pass. Odunke’s community has been continuously impacted by floods and droughts and there have been years that he could only describe as “hell”. I sat in class thinking about <em>shetkaris</em> (Marathi for farmers), reminiscing back to the days when I would drive out to the countryside, just to have a fresh jowarichi <em>bhakri</em>(a type of Indian bread made of white millet) picked off the field. Shawn, presenting on the Wildlife Conservation Society, broke my nostalgia short and I realized that I’ve seen this happen before when he showed us the image below!

Farmers and Indigenous people are the new entries in the may face extinction due to climate change category. The #paddletoparis campaign says “We are all in this boat”, except this boat is the titanic and the icebergs are melting while you are on the other side, simply surviving.

Climate equity should not be a distant ideal but the fundamental basis to these negotiations. If you are reading this right now, I urge you to support the #paddletoparis movement and lend your voice to those that have none at COP21.

Conference mentioned: Moral Compass of the Paris Accord at Stake: Inter-constituency voices by Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)

When are we going to seriously consider gender?

Written by Sarah Huang

I am writing this blog post firstly as a woman attending COP21. As I have been attending various events in the Climate Generations space, I have become very attuned to the ways in which various events and speakers incorporate a conversation about gender in relation to climate change.

After attending some events during REDD+ day at Rio Pavilion, I became really disheartened after the same perspective on gender was once again displayed at a prominent event funded by United Nations Development Programme. The man came across his slide on gender perspectives and actually said that we didn’t need to talk about this slide because it was self explanatory and then proceeded with his presentation.

The consideration of gender equity and gendered policies within climate change should not be an afterthought, nor should it just be another item on a checklist for addressing climate solutions. Women and indigenous peoples are affected most by environmental change and climate change. Rather than aligning gendered policies with only women, we must understand that gender is an incorporation of all gendered identities, and not just male and female. We must also understand the ways in which women and LGBTQ are disproportionately impacted by climate policies that do not take into account the ways that these people are left out of the conversation, left out of protection, and left out of recognition for their roles in communities.

There are many conversations about the ways in which women are closely aligned with nature, natural resources and thus the protection of children, families and Mother Earth. There are also conversations about how women hold very specific knowledge to the use of these resources. But as one woman from Kenya put it, we need to stop valorizing women’s contributions and provide them with resources to conduct action.

This perspective emphasizes the campaign for women’s rights in a way that calls for recognition of the role of women, but also for the call to action that provides women with resources and tools to implement change in their communities. This is also a perspective that is seen in the many women’s movements surrounded around environmental justice, climate justice, and grassroots activism. Women are on the ground implementing programs in their communities, fighting for their rights at the forefront, but oftentimes it is just their bodies that are represented at the front lines and not their voices.

I will close with this last thought: we must recognize that gendered identities, are not meant to be a box on your checklist of peoples that are included in your organizational programs and projects. Gender identities and the right of women fighting for climate justice is a movement and mobilization of strong women allied in their fight for recognition and access to resources, land, and the tools to continue their work. But what is really needed is the recognition of women’s voices within policy, within negotiations, within their communities, and lastly within the COP. Let this be the moment where we actually seriously consider women and gender smart climate policy where women are at the table, where their voices are the ones implementing policies that will directly impact their communities, livelihoods, and environments. So I ask, what does the actual inclusion of gender and women’s rights in climate policy really look like and what steps can we take to get there?

#EarthtoParis: How Rainforest Alliance Shares Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change

This is the second blog in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Chad Rachubinski 

In 1987, the Rainforest Alliance was founded with the mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land use practices, business practices and consumer. Since launching a certification program for forests in the 1990s, and expanding that certification program into a labeling mark for consumer products in the 1990s, the Rainforest Alliance has emerged as a large multinational NGO (non-governmental organization) with over 300 employees today.

Although the Rainforest Alliance still continues its primary mission of certifying farming practices and agriculture products, primarily coffee, bananas and cocoa, in recent years, Rainforest Alliance has expanded in scope and now is advocating for a larger response to climate change in addition to highlighting successful projects it has been involved in at the COP21 negotiations in Paris.

In the weeks leading up to the Paris negotiations, the Rainforest Alliance has promoted their work, as well as advocated for additional responses to climate change both digitally and in person in the Climate Generations area of the COP21 venue. The theme for Rainforest Alliance’s presence in the COP 21 arena, both physically and socially has been “stories from the front lines of climate change” in which they have been highlighting the experiences with REDD+ Projects, sustainable farming practices workshops and other initiatives by sharing the stories of farmers and forest dependent people who have been affected by climate change, or are improving farming practices to be more sustainable.

Seven days prior to the start of the COP21 negotiations, Rainforest Alliance ‘handed over’ their social media accounts to photographer and environmental filmmaker James Balog, who featured daily pictures of the effects of climate change, including melting ice caps, endangered species and forest fires. This tactic primarily evoked a sense of urgency before the negotiations and was only featured on Instagram, before the larger COP 21 theme became prevalent on all of their digital channels. Since the negotiations began, Rainforest Alliance has shifted to a storytelling approach, highlighting the forest dependent farmers and other people affected by climate change. Rainforest Alliance has also highlighted this approach in the physical space in Paris with ten delegates and a booth in the Climate Generations civil society space. In addition, Rainforest Alliance has participated in a number of panel discussions, particularly highlighting local forest governance projects in Guatemala, which have, according to the Rainforest Alliance, reduced deforestation to almost zero. By focusing on the people impacted by deforestation instead of the economics involved with climate issues, Rainforest Alliance has so far directed attention to their projects and positions, as well as their vision for the future.