Pathways to Resilience on Multiple Scales

Pathways to Resilience on Multiple Scales


San Francisco State University, USA

Plenty of evidence indicates significant and widespread climate-related impacts are already affecting indigenous populations.  While the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed in 2007, UNFCCC policymakers have been reticent to fully embrace indigenous rights in climate policy.  Notably, they have systematically rejected the principle of free, prior, informed consent, putting several peoples and communities at greater risks.  For example, the governments of Ecuador and Guyana have been actively seeking international aid for reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) projects while simultaneously supporting unprecedented expansions of extractive developments in oil and mining.  This enthusiasm for rushing to secure global partnerships is obscuring the status of dozens of indigenous peoples, threatening a dual appropriation of their land and territories. Pathways to biocultural resilience cover extreme ends of the spectrum.  Some regions include trained indigenous communities collecting data for biodiversity and/or biomass monitoring while others situate indigenous communities as active participants in a damaging extractive economy.  These extremes raise an important challenge for policymakers.  Indigenous communities are well-prepared to use traditional ecological knowledge as partners in habitat conservation, restoration, and monitoring, but resilience hinges on expanding the policy framework to prioritize indigenous rights and reversing destructive feedback cycles.  By rejecting the concept of free, prior, informed consent, UNFCCC policymakers, states, and many non-governmental organizations have not only dismissed a key principle in collective rights for indigenous peoples, but have denied the very core of their paradigm for sustainability.  The embedded ecological knowledge of indigenous communities can inform more inclusive, place-based interdisciplinary frameworks for implementing climate policy and building lasting solutions through a holistic approach.



I study social and environmental impacts of development in indigenous communities.   I became interested in indigenous rights through first-hand experience in Huaorani territory of Ecuador in the mid-1990s.  Studying their struggles uncovered the legacy of oil exploitation and injustice throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon.  I expanded my interests to look at the Amerindian movement against mining in Guyana in the early 2000s, working closely with the Amerindian Peoples Association and the Akawaio peoples.  I also worked with several northern non-profit organizations, including Pacific Environment, the International Forum on Globalization, and the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense.  These experiences laid a foundation for deep, structural critiques of extractive development, particularly at a time when the industry was exploring “sustainable mining.”  With the passage of UNDRIP in 2007, and the heightened attention to climate change, I became interested in understanding how global scale policymakers would address indigenous rights in key international agreements.  I am an Associate Professor at San Francisco State University. I hold a Ph.D in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from University of California, Berkeley. I teach interdisciplinary courses on international development and resources, forest ecology and conservation, climate change, indigenous peoples and natural resources.  I am currently focusing on FPIC in climate change debates and REDD+.

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