Climate change affects indigenous wisdom

Aug. 16, 2011 at 3:42 PM

BOGOTA, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Traditional knowledge of nature held since ancient times by Colombia's indigenous peoples is being challenged by global climate change, a researcher says.

Brigitte Baptiste, director of Colombia's Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, says the phenomenon is deeply troubling to the keepers of this knowledge, known as sabedores, literally "those who know."

Fortunately, she says, these problems of the unnatural effects of climate change on long-held and useful knowledge are being discussed by the sabedores.

"There are signs that are varying from the usual patterns which have traditionally been used for making decisions," Baptiste told Inter Press Service in an interview.

"The indigenous system of monitoring is based on people's memory, fed by all of their ancestral knowledge, but it is very local."

"When certain plants stop flowering for three or four years, they say, we have no memory of this ever happening before. When this happens, they say, they need to 'converse' to see if anyone remembers this ever happening anywhere else."

"The good thing is that they are doing it. There is active discussion among indigenous sabedores."

Baptiste, 47, says her observations are based on personal contacts with indigenous elders since the government "has no concrete policy to promote traditional knowledge or to recognize its importance."

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