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Understanding one point five

– Livelihoods are a living challenge, you see. Skills and knowledges will die out forever

Last May, I visited the UN's annual "summer summit" on climate change in Bonn, Germany. This was my first personal meeting with the UNFCCC (the United Nations Convention on Climate Change) and as many before me, I was overwhelmed. Not only by the multiple rooms, corridors and various formal and informal meetings taking place at all hours, but by the stories I found on my quest for the origin of the 1.5°C target. Below is one of these interviews.

- Monica Bjermeland, CICERO communications advisor

In this story

 

Tunga Bhadra Rai, national coordinator at the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities

Very often climate change discourse talks about so-called scientific knowledge. Science. Universal science.

TUNGA BHADRA RAI

Your field hasn't been overly visible in climate change debates, right?

Yes, anthropology doesn’t talk about climate change, doesn’t talk about the sciences and everything. What anthropology does talk about, is natural resources management, different people, different cultures – how people are part of the globe – which climate change needs to understand.

We share our only home, planet Earth. Very often climate change discourse talks about so-called scientific knowledge. Science. Universal science. It forgets that the planet inhabits diverse communities, diverse cultures and contexts. Anthropology helps to bring these different realities, voices, and ways of mitigating and adapting to a changing climate, together.

How did the 1.5°C target originate?

I cannot say exactly who coined it, but the most important discussions of 1.5°C was, of course, in Paris. That was when and where all the member states of the UNFCCC, civil society and indigenous peoples from different constituents came together around this high ambition. COP21 in Paris was when the 1.5°C target got official recognition.

I would say it was a joint effort among all the member states, and particularly the developing countries and indigenous peoples, those who have contributed the least to the problem but are the most severely impacted.

What is important for the people you represent in Nepal?

We also need to inform decision makers on how indigenous peoples contribute to mitigation in their different ways.

TUNGA BHADRA RAI

Important to indigenous peoples in Nepal is that they have multiple relations with nature and natural resources. Environmental, economic, spiritual …

Having these multiple relations with nature and natural resources, indigenous peoples really feel the heavy impacts of climate change. We need to lay these realities on the ground for various decision makers. We also need to inform decision makers on how indigenous peoples contribute to mitigation in their different ways, and how they have been practicing adaptation to diverse impacts of climate change in their everyday life.

I did research for my MA dissertation in the Himalayan Mountains, for example, where people practice a very small irrigation system in their agriculture. Impacts from climate change is hitting these people already, but the communities are adapting to the changing climate through changing the irrigation system, through their own beliefs and traditions, and through their own village government practice.

Their culture regards water as a deity, you know? They have different rituals and festivals that worships land and water as sacred. They don’t want to overuse it or misuse it, abuse it. To them, belief, practice, and rituals balance the consumption of natural resources.

 

They have different rituals and festivals that worships land and water as sacred. They don’t want to overuse it or misuse it.

TUNGA BHADRA RAI

 

This practice doesn’t allow certain villages to overexploit natural resources. Their value maintains the relations between nature, natural resources, and communities. The problem, the cause of climate change, is the industrialized, human-made activities. The small practices in these communities are really environment-friendly.

My own family comes from the mountains too, and our traditional occupation is jack herding. However, the climate is getting hotter, and the mountain is getting hotter, and this mountain jack – a kind of cow – cannot live in hot places. The question for my family is whether we should find another occupation and stay or move to a different place and do something new.

If we give up jack herding, then our knowledge and our skills will die out. And it will take time for us to learn another skill, adapt to another ecosystem. Livelihoods are a living challenge, you see. Skills and knowledges will die out forever.