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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Indigenous peoples hold unique fear of climate change's impact


Staff writer

SAPPORO — Indigenous peoples will be the hardest hit by climate change because of their dependence on "Mother Earth," Ben Powless, a native Mohawk from Canada, told a convention of nongovernmental organizations Monday.

In one of the subcommittees at the People's Summit 2008, also called the Alternative Summit, Powless said climate change will harm indigenous peoples all over the world with food insecurity, decreased water resources and loss of cultural sites and traditions.

Climate change will also force a large number of indigenous people off their land, turning them into climate refugees, Powless said.

"We depend on the Earth for our material, our nutritional, our economic, spiritual and cultural well-being," said Powless, who works with the Indigenous Environmental Network in Canada. "It is indigenous people who will often be least able to deal with the impact because they've often been so marginalized within their own societies."

Powless stressed that discussions on climate change should be made not only between the top national leaders but also with indigenous peoples because of the consequences it could have on their communities.

"The majority of mineral resource extraction around the world actually takes place in indigenous territories," Powless said. "Indigenous peoples are often negatively affected by these projects."

The Group of Eight summit is being held in Hokkaido, the homeland of the indigenous Ainu. And while it has been widely advertised that one of this year's key targets is climate change, some NGOs doubt there will be any major action.

Hideaki Uemura, who heads the Citizens' Diplomatic Center for the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, worried that the summit will only be "about technical discussions to fit the policies in line with each of the nations' interests" and will lack significance.

Uemura blamed the global environmental crisis on the G8, blaming the powers for robbing the indigenous peoples of their land and resources and forging the era of mass production, which has now backfired.

The G8 nations are now "saying they are in trouble," Uemura said.

"Unless (the G8 members) truly look at the fundamental model of modernization, they won't be able to solve (climate change)," he said.

Prior to the G8 summit in Toyako, a group of indigenous people from 11 countries gathered in Sapporo for the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir 2008.

In a resolution adopted by the group, it pressed the U.S., Canada and Russia to join the other G8 countries and adopt the 2007 U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.



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