Friday, December 20, 2013

News from the Human Rights/Climate Change Nexus: +Heat = +Native Cultural Losses, +Conflict

The Dec. 18, 2013, Al-Jazeera article "How climate change destroys human rights" by Jon Letman offers an interesting sampler plate of five recent studies and organizing efforts to illustrate the human rights/climate change nexus.


The Letman article was brought to my attention by a friend and former colleague, now at Tebtebba, because another friend and former colleague, Rodion Syulandziga from the Russian indigenous rights network RAIPON, contributed to it. (Click here for info on RAIPON in English, from the Arctic Council's website.)

Rodion points out to Letman that "[i]ncreasingly unpredictable weather and unreliable sea ice directly impacts animal migration, which affects subsistence hunting for traditional food sources like reindeer and sea mammals. Warmer temperatures ... also hasten the introduction of plant and animal diseases as southern species of fish and birds move north." And, "[i]n addition to a warming Arctic, Russia’s indigenous peoples also face the rush to exploit vast energy and mineral resources. Oil, gas, coal, nickel, iron ore, platinum and other minerals draw multi-national corporations to Russia’s most remote regions where highly restricted access makes monitoring health and safety practices, damage and pollution mitigation and other conditions difficult or impossible."

Rodion also touches on how RAIPON is being subjected to increasing threats from the Russian government. In 2012-2013 this involved using technicalities of the law to suspend the group's activities during a critical period of time (when a national RAIPON gathering was supposed to happen), ordering the arrest of a staff member on specious grounds when he was abroad at a conference, and using political pressure to increase the influence of Kremlin-friendly indigenous representatives in the organization. Indigenous communities whose cultures are predicated on the existence of permafrost and sea ice are existentially threatened by climate change, and in Russia, also by the government's repression of civil society.


I see another familiar reference in this article-- a link to a study of how heat correlates with aggression in Kenya, led by Solomon Hsiang, now a professor at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, my alma mater. He did the study with Ted Miguel of the UC Berkeley-based Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), which analyzes the impact of development projects, and Marshall Burke, also at UC Berkeley (in Ag and Resource Economics). The study supports the idea demonstrated in other studies "that climatic events which produce temporary warming are associated with a temporary increase in violent intergroup conflict..." (p. 2). Sol Hsiang has a fascinating body of work on the social implications of climate threats.
Some highlights of Sol's work:
  • Click here for a six and a half-minute interview where he summarizes some of his findings on heat's correlation with aggression for the PBS Newshour from August 2013.

Other studies/articles referenced in the Letman article:

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