Commonality Among Unique Indigenous Communities: An Introduction to Climate Change and Its Impacts on Indigenous Peoples
Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies, Randall S. Abate and Elizabeth Ann Kronk, eds., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013
16 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 7, 2013
This book (Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies) explores how climate change affects the rights of indigenous peoples. Climate change is a global environmental problem caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Although the causes of this problem are global, the adverse impacts of climate change are disproportionately burdening indigenous peoples.
In recognition of the growing global problem of climate change, legal strategies to address climate change through mitigation and adaptation have been undertaken. This book recognizes that indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to climate change, both physically and legally, and addresses the challenges that these communities face in responding to climate change impacts.
In defining “indigenous peoples” it is important to note that the term covers a widely diverse group of people and that no two communities of indigenous people are the same. That being said, however, there are some commonalities that exist between groups of indigenous peoples. For example, most indigenous communities existed as autonomous communities and nations before contact with foreign societies. As a result of contact with foreign, dominant societies, many indigenous communities suffered generations of abuse and subjugation. As a result, many modern indigenous communities lack the economic and political clout of dominant societies. Beyond this history of oppression, many indigenous communities also share unique legal and spiritual connections to their environment. Moreover, because of their unique histories, the law affecting indigenous communities is different in many localities.
Although indigenous communities throughout the world differ, Part I of this chapter addresses some of the commonalities between indigenous peoples in greater depth: (1) increased vulnerability to climate change related to the location of indigenous communities; (2) a unique connection to the land for legal, spiritual, and cultural reasons; (3) a history of colonization and oppression that has potentially increased the vulnerability of many indigenous communities; and (4) recognition under public international law that there are basic rights owed to indigenous communities. Recognizing these commonalities is crucial to understanding the legal mechanisms available to assist indigenous communities in adapting to the threats posed by climate change. Part II of this chapter addresses three of these legal responses: (1) law suits based on procedural rights; (2) law suits based on common law legal principles; and (3) law suits based on public international law.
Keywords: climate change, indigenous, American Indian, tribal, tribe, Native American, Indian
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