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Experts link local knowledge with climate change

Experts link local knowledge with climate change

Press Release – UNESCO New Zealand

29 May 2013

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is proud to co-host with UNESCO’s Climate Frontlines programme, an international experts meeting ‘Te hurihuri o te Ao: Cycles of Change’ in Auckland from 4 to 7 June 2013.

Cycles of Change is the first event of its kind to be held in New Zealand. It brings together a group of indigenous and scientific knowledge holders to discuss how indigenous knowledge can inform policies and scientific perspectives on climate change.

“Traditional environmental knowledge – such as seasonal and astronomical calendars – is built up through generations. It provides layers of observations on local shifts in the environment relevant to climate change issues today,” says Elizabeth Rose, Secretary General and Natural Sciences Senior Advisor for UNESCO New Zealand.

“Many communities, particularly in the Pacific, are already facing the first impacts of climate change. Their voices have remained largely on the sidelines of climate change debates. UNESCO wants to change that and provide opportunities for local and indigenous knowledge holders to have a voice in future policy-making.

“The insights that are shared at this event will help address the gap that is created when the science of climate change is based on abstract data and separated from local and cultural considerations.

“Participants will share their knowledge and experience to highlight the contribution community-level observations and traditional knowledge can make in the design of tools to adapt to climate change at both national and global levels.

“The event leads up to Matariki celebrations, commencing on 10 June, New Zealand’s own special traditional calendar of events.”

Participants in the event include indigenous peoples from New Zealand and Pacific communities, scientific researchers across multiple disciplines, and community-based project partners from UNESCO’s Climate Frontlines – all with a particular interest in seasonal calendars and environmental change.


Key speakers

CARLOS MONDRAGÓN: is an anthropologist and historian with interdisciplinary interests that cut across anthropology, politics, history and cultural production in Oceania and the broader Asia-Pacific region. For the past 15 years he has carried out research in Vanuatu regarding the many ways in which ni-Vanuatu islanders adapt and relate to their regional environments. Recently, he was co-organiser, with Fred Damon (University of Virginia) and Wang Mingming (University of Beijing) of a series of workshops held in the USA, China and Mexico, with the support of the National Science Foundation, regarding seasonal practices, traditional calendars and food production systems across the Pacific Rim and Islands. He is currently publishing the results of research into the cultural dimensions of long term climate fluctuations and hazards, notably, the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the frequent occurrence of strong earthquakes, in Vanuatu.

JENNIFER RUBIS: is a Krokong-Jagoi (Jagoi are an indigenous Dayak people in Borneo) from Sarawak, Malaysia. Jen coordinates UNESCO's Climate Frontlines – an interagency partnership on local knowledge and climate change. Since 1999, she has focused on supporting the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in decision-making on the environment (including REDD+ and tropical forest issues, biodiversity and climate change), through work at indigenous peoples' organisations, international and UN agencies.

HANS DENCKER THULSTRUP: originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, Hans has worked with UNESCO's Division of Science Policy and Sustainable Development since 2008, focusing on interdisciplinary activities in small island developing states. Prior to this, he spent 12 years with UNESCO's natural science programmes based in field offices in the Pacific islands and Southeast Asia – serving as Pacific science adviser with the UNESCO Apia Office in Samoa for more than 8 years. He holds a postgraduate degree in science and development studies from Roskilde University in Denmark, and currently undertakes research towards a PhD in science communication.

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