The impacts of the climate crisis, and of the destructive practices related to fossil fuel exploitation and transportation, have severe and palpable impacts on frontline communities. These impacts include reduced food security for communities, the disruption of necessary transportation systems, loss of land and homes, and the forced relocation of communities and populations.
Indigenous communities at the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel exploitation also experience impacts to their cultures, spiritualities, and languages. Indigenous peoples around the world have special relationships with the lands to which they belong. For these people culture and spirituality are intimately linked to the natural environment. Cultural and spiritual communions exist with certain species that have been harvested since time immemorial (for example, between caribou and Arctic Indigenous peoples). Sites on the land that to an outsider may seem innocuous, like a rock or a small island, can have spiritual significance expressed through certain rituals that have been passed down since time immemorial. Similarly, the languages of Indigenous peoples are also connected to the land, and the learning of these languages often requires the learner to experience these natural environments by frequenting the same places their ancestors have frequented and by participating in the same cultural and spiritual practices as their ancestors.
Fossil fuel exploitation and the climate crisis cause irreversible changes to the land and to natural environments, such as species extinction, erosion and loss of land, and changes in weather patterns. Changes of this kind contribute to the loss of Indigenous peoples cultures, languages, and spiritualites.
The loss of a staple species can result in an Indigenous population not being able to practice their culture by harvesting and communing with this animal. The loss of a sacred site means they are denied their spirituality. The loss of a particular manifestation of the climate, like winds that blow in a certain direction at specific times of the year, for which they have related words and terms in their language prevents them from passing on their language to future generations in its entirety.
In our activism we often have a tendency to shy away from actions that confront and inconvenience the public and instead opt for creative actions designed to educate the general public. We must consider that these tactics can be combined, and that creative actions designed to inconvenience and confront the public can be an effective way to educate them about the impacts of climate change on frontline and Indigenous communities.
Disrupting peoples enjoyment of culturally significant sites or disrupting culturally significant practices can demonstrate to them how Indigenous cultures are being impacted. Creative challenges to spiritual and linguistic rights can also help communicate this message. Impacting transportation, restricting access to space, and limiting access to specific sources of food can demonstrate the impacts frontline communities are experiencing.
These types of tactics are confrontational and must be considered carefully as they elicit a strong emotional response, but that is also the strength of such tactics. By eliciting an emotional response we can show, and not just tell, people what the impacts of climate change are on the world's most vulnerable populations.
This is not an endorsement of violence, hatespeech, or disrespect. Nor is it an endorsement of limiting religious freedom or oppressing linguistic minorities.
This is a request for the consideration of tactics that focus on non-violent confrontation. These tactics must be considered very carefully and require serious planning and messaging