Adivasis are crucial to any conversation involving the climate. Their worldview professes respect and reverence for the forests, mountains, waterbodies, and wildlife. Several indigenous climate activists from around the world are currently participating at the ongoing Glasgow climate summit (COP 26) demanding the inclusion of indigenous communities in the fight for climate justice.
From India, two activists Archana Soreng and Alice Barwa among others, are representing Adivasi voices at the summit. In a Zoom interview to Vikalp Sangam, a collective that works towards alternative solutions to conserving the ecosystem, Soreng said that the inclusion of indigenous people at the summit is a sign that the access to decision-making space is opening up for them. According to her, an important element of this inclusion must involve the realisation that the Adivasi way of life protects nature and that there is a need to support and enable it on a global scale.
“The first step in the fight for climate justice is recognizing and respecting the worldview of indigenous people. Indigenous communities are not part of nature but we are nature itself. Our lives used to be termed backward and we were made to feel inferior because of it but now the world is realizing our importance,” said Archana. The climate activist belongs to the Kharia tribe of Odisha and is part of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ advisory group.
At the interview, she placed special emphasis on the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement of 2015 that is being discussed at COP 26. It involves creating a framework for international transfer of climate mitigation outcomes and a new sustainable development mechanism program. Archana says that the policies stemming from Article 6 must be implemented with the needs and rights of Adivasis in mind. Adivasis mostly reside in forested areas and are often displaced and exploited in the name of developmental projects. “Ownership should be with the people instead of companies,” she said.
Adivasi lives and cultures have always respected nature and have evolved techniques through which the environment stays protected. Archana listed out some of the ways in which Adivasis have always resisted the use of plastic, one of the world’s leading pollutant. “Adivasis use twigs to brush teeth instead of a plastic brush, they dry hollowed out pumpkins and gourds to store water, and they use leaves for making cutleries. They also practice sustainable agriculture,” she said, hoping that these activities can be emulated by others to counter pollution.
Archana welcomed India’s commitments at the COP 26 but also said that while India has declared “what” it will do, it is yet to devise the “how” part of the plan. “We urge that the policies keep indigenous communities at the center of these commitments,” she said.
Other than Archana, the other woman indigenous activist from India at COP 26 is Alice Barwa. Talking to Mongabay, she said that she is at Glasgow “to assert her identity as an indigenous young woman.” The 23-year-old woman is quoted as saying, “Adivasis and their rights are not recognised. We need to be given a platform and the solutions should be intersectional in nature. The real voices are here – outside the COP venue. There are several red tapes to cross to get our voices heard at COP 26.” She was a part of the protest by the youth to demand more inclusivity in the fight against climate change.
First published by Adivasi Lives Matter on 11 Nov 2021.