Indigenous Insights on Healing Land and Sky
According to the World Bank, land managed by Indigenous peoples is associated with lower rates of deforestation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and better biodiversity protection. But in many places, Indigenous people have been displaced from their ancestral lands through outright theft, land grabs, violence and war. The Land Back movement advocates for returning Indigneous lands to Indigenous hands, to dismantle white supremacy and systems of oppression, but that can be difficult to achieve in practice.
Dr. Jessica Hernandez says a Western settler colonial mentality has contributed to the climate crisis and environmental degradation, partly through the separation of humans from nature. She advocates for a more bottom-up approach to research and conservation between scientists and local communities, particularly Indigenous ones, where the focus of research is driven by what communities need and want, rather than what satisfies the funding opportunities within academia.
For many, living with the impacts of climate disruptions is further complicated by long-standing systems of oppression. Julia Fay Bernal is an enrolled member of the Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico and director of the Pueblo Action Alliance. Her group advocates for the restoration of Indigenous water management practices, which involves what she describes as “the decolonization of water policy.” She draws a lot of inspiration from the long history of her people’s connection to the Rio Grande and their relationship with water as a sacred entity.
The Commonwealth Club of California
Julia Fay Bernal
Director, Pueblo Action Alliance
Dr. Jessica Hernandez
Scientist, Author, Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science
President and CEO, Save the Redwoods League
Board Chairwoman, Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council
Founder and Host, Climate One