Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an important reminder that we cannot hope to preserve nature and fight climate change without the inclusion of native people. Their communities disproportionately suffer the effects of a warming planet despite contributing little to climate change. Moreover, Indigenous people’s close ties to nature mean that their food systems and cultural heritage are especially threatened–this is most significantly felt by Inuit living in polar regions.

But, as the United Nations University wrote,

Comprising only 4% of the world’s population, [Indigenous people] utilize 22% of the world’s land surface. In doing so, they maintain 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

And as the journal Nature explained, “representatives of indigenous peoples have in fact since 2008 been actively seeking a role in contributing to combating climate change through their participation in international environmental conferences, as well as by means of activism and political engagement at local and national levels.”

Why This Matters: A day of observance isn’t nearly enough to right the wrongs that have been inflicted on Indigenous communities. However, driving better awareness to their needs and rights is crucial.

Go Deeper: Virginia’s Governor Rath Northam declared October 12th as Indigenous People’s Day in the Commonwealth explaining, “We have too often failed to live up to our commitments with those who were the first stewards of the lands we now call Virginia—now, we are taking an important step forward in our ongoing work to build a more inclusive and honest Commonwealth.”

It’s an example that in our current turbulent political climate, social and environmental justice cannot be forgotten. Leaders must recognize and do better by marginalized communities as we work toward a more sustainable future.

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