Friday, November 25, 2011

Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change

Where: National Museum of the American Indian

When: through January 2, 2012

This exhibit is a result of a collaboration between 15 indigenous communities in 13 different countries.  These people are the first to deal with the momentous results of climate change.  Each community is facing a different challenge, but all of them may be harbingers of what is to come for the rest of the world's population.

One of the communities is the People of the Caribou.  They have noticed that the caribou herds are declining; the permafrost is melting and the foods they eat are disappearing.  It used to reach -70 degrees in the winter (sounds dreadful frankly, but I realize this is how they live and my notions of what constitutes pleasant winter weather do not apply), but now it is no longer that cold.

Peoples in Peru and Ethiopia are working together, across an ocean, to promote indigenous agriculture.  The hope is that they will be able to find new crops to grow, as old ones are no longer feasible.  In Zanskari, India, they are moving the entire village from their 1000 year location to a new place.  Obviously, there are many people who are opposed to the move, but there are others who realize they can no longer live there, and are eager to move somewhere more hospitable.

In South America, the environmental efforts to save the forests are preventing the Guarani from living as they have traditionally done.  The conflict between saving the trees and saving the people's way of life is real, and it seems as if the Guarani are paying the price for others' pillaging of the landscape.

Verdict: Go and see this exhibit.  I was unaware of the devastation that climate change is already causing in various parts of the world.  As people are forced to leave their native areas, one fears that culture clash may be the result.  One hopes for better. 

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