Policy and Regulation

Indigenous people, justice and climate change

For indigenous people who depend on often-fragile natural resources for their spiritual, ecological and cultural well-being, climate change not only threatens their environment but also their livelihoods.

Through their Presence2Influence project, Purdue Climate Change Research Center faculty members Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya and Laura Zanotti study how groups, who are often marginalized and underrepresented in international decision-making arenas, influence environmental policy that impact their way of living. This project is supported by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and the Center for the Environment in Discovery Park, and the Departments of Political Science and  Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts.

They took their research to the Paris Climate Summit (COP21) in 2015 to see how these groups addressed pressing justice, equity, and rights issues within international environmental negotiations.

"The United Nations has identified indigenous peoples and women as two groups most affected by environmental change, including climate change," says Marion Suiseeya, an assistant professor of political science. "Although indigenous peoples make up approximately 5 percent of the global population, they constitute more than one-third of the world's poorest people and govern, occupy or use nearly 22 percent of global land area, thus suggesting that indigenous peoples, and indigenous women in particular, are key stakeholders in global environmental governance."

The researchers, along with five graduate students, used collaborative event ethnography, a team-based approach to studying mega-events that uses a common set of analytics to guide observations and analysis. "We sat in on official COP21 negotiations as well as civil society events,” says Zanotti, an associate professor of anthropology. “We were especially interested in aspects related to tension, negotiation and debate as a part of how underrepresented and marginalized groups pursue justice and influence international environmental negotiations."

As soon as the event ended, team members were back at Purdue to analyze audio recordings of the proceedings, meetings and interviews; photos; documents; field notes; screenshots of key actor websites; social media data; downloaded videos and reports.

- Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue News Service http://bit.ly/1oMVc1D

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