Food Sovereignty & Climate Change

What is Food Sovereignty?
Food sovereignty is the right of individuals, communities and countries to define their own food, agriculture, fishing, labor and land policies. These food and land policies are socially, ecologically, economically and culturally appropriate to the people who define them. Food sovereignty also guarantees people the right to produce their own food and to have access to necessary food-producing resources like seeds, land and water.

Food security is different than food sovereignty in that it is not culturally specific, and it does not guarantee people the right to produce their own food under ecologically, socially, culturally and economically appropriate circumstances. (RAN factsheet)

What does Food Sovereignty have to do with Climate Change?
Before we let the energy companies colonize our agricultural land touting questionably climate friendly solutions like agrofuels, lets look a little at some of the deep seeded issues within our current food system that are not only perpetuating climate change but will be impacted and taxed greatly as the climate changes.

Our current food system relies heavily on fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides, gas guzzling farm machinery, and transporting farm inputs and products over long distances. The average food item bought at a supermarket has traveled on average over 1,500 miles. The modern agricultural system is completely unsustainable as the climate continues to change due to the excessive burning of fossil fuels by humans.

No one knows exactly what will happen as climate change takes shape, but we can predict that climate change will have an affect on how, what, and where we grow food. Many areas will be plagued by drought or floods or both and the acreage of the earth suitable for agriculture will shift, perhaps dramatically. To read more click here

What’s the Problem with Agrofuels?
What not call it “Biofuels”? “We believe that the prefix bio, which comes from the Greek word for “life”, is entirely inappropriate for such anti-life devastation. So, following the lead of non-governmental organisations and social movements in Latin America, we shall not be talking about biofuels and green energy. Agrofuels is a much better term, we believe, to express what is really happening: agribusiness producing fuel from plants to sustain a wasteful, destructive and unjust global economy.” (GRAIN)

For more information on Agrofuels and Climate Change click here to download Global Forest Coalition’s new report: The Real Cost of Agrofuels: Food, Forest and the Climate

Ecosystem Protection/Preservation, & Restoration

Intact Forest Ecosystems Critical to Climate Stability

Concerned scientists the world over have developed what is known as the Precautionary Principle. The Precautionary Principle states that, in the face of scientific uncertainty, humyns must take precautionary action. Shift the burden of proof onto the perpetrator. With any proposed course of action (or inaction) that may engender any possible harm to Life, 3 questions must be critically and thoroughly addressed:

-Is this harm preventable?

-Are there any alternatives?

-Do we know enough to act?

If these crucial questions cannot be definitively answered-then we should NOT move forward with the proposed action!

The mission of this working group is to join in all efforts everywhere to preserve, protect, and restore ecosystems and integrated complexes of ecosystems everywhere on Earth in an attempt to stabilize climate and mitigate the effects of climate change that are thus far unavoidable. Too little discussion has been forthcoming regarding the critical role that healthy, fully-functioning natural ecosystems play in influencing, stabilizing, and interacting with local, regional, continental-and ultimately global-climate regimes. Industrial/commercial roadbuilding, clearcutting, mining, drilling, livestock grazing, overharvesting, acid rain, paving, pollution, ozone depletion, urban sprawling-and the subsequent species extinctions-impact climate and weather on all spatial and temporal levels at least as much (if not more so than) “greenhouse gas” emissions. Many of the world’s women and Indigenous Peoples have recognized this fact for many decades (if not centuries)-and more recently so have many farmers, scientists, workers, and activists.
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Indigenous Solidarity

The mission of this working group is to promote critical alliance building between Traditional Indigenous People and non-Native activists to secure the survival of Native Culture and Sovereignty; preserve, protect, and restore healthy, intact ecosystems; support indigenous-led struggles for self-determination and cultural survival, and against fossil fuel-based colonialism; protect nonhuman wildlife through joint resistance along with a focus upon cooperation, sustainability, and ecocentrism; and renew and revive traditional Earth-based Spirituality to see us through the coming cataclysms.

Long before prominent scientists began to recognize and understand the human-induced changes taking place in the Earth’s climate, Indigenous Elders living in and around reasonably healthy, intact wilderness ecosystems already recognized the changes that had begun regarding weather and climate, as well as the ecological, geopolitical, & socioeconomic impacts of those changes. 85% of the world’s dialects are spoken by Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous Peoples inhabit 80% of the world’s remaining reasonably healthy, intact wild ecosystems. RTNA recognizes (along with many other non-Native activists) that the survival of humans and countless other species is contingent upon Indigenous wisdom & cultural preservation. It is the Indigenous Environmental Network that coined the term “climate justice” in recognition of the fact that it is the world’s poor and nonwhite peoples (as well as all other species) that are earliest and most severely impacted by human-caused climate change.

Currently, one important focus of this working group is to support the Traditional Dineh (“Navajo”) People of Black Mesa in northeastern Arizona. Here for over 30 years, the People have been resisting forced relocation (a brutally effective form of genocide) at the hands of the U.S. government and at the behest of Peabody Coal Company, who operate the world’s largest strip mine on the Navajo Reservation. Peabody seeks to expand this destructive mining operation even further, and is trying to force the remaining Traditional Dineh families from their ancestral homelands.

For many years, outside allies-both Native and non-Native-have worked to provide critical support to Dineh Resisters, and members of RTNA have linked with these ongoing efforts to provide resources (human, financial, logistical, infrastructural) to their resistance and community-building efforts. Several RTNA members involved with the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group have already been involved with these support efforts for many years, and they are working to bring more supporters into the struggle. RTNA members’ activities on Black Mesa thus far have included on-land support work. In the future we hope to do more in-depth work with elders and others on homesteading and land projects that would enable them to adapt to coming climate changes while they educate us on quite a number of subjects including the nature and future of climate change.humans’ relationship to Nature and the Earth, and appropriate responses to coming Earth changes.

Ultimately, RTNA will work to expand these skills-sharing efforts to other communities around the continent where our support and assistance is welcomed.

To get in touch with this working group, email

Related Links:

Stop Snowbowl
Save The Peaks

Black Mesa Indigenous Support:

Black Mesa Water Coalition:

Native Movement:

Indigenous Environmental Network:

Western Shoshone Defense Project:

HYPERLINK “”http://www.bosto

Indians speak forcefully on climate US tribes join discourse on global warming By John Donnelly, Globe Staff | June 17, 2007 WEST FACE OF MT. MOOSILAUKE, N.H. — Talking Hawk stood above the South Branch of the Baker River one warm spring day recently and grimaced. “It’s August color,” he said of the tea-colored river. “It’s not normal.” The Mohawk Indian, along with members of five other Native American tribes, was preparing for a sacred ceremony by the river to pray for “Earth Mother.” He said the planet was reacting to the overwhelming amount of pollution humans have produced that caused changes around the globe, even in the river at his doorstep. “Earth Mother is fighting back — not only from the four winds but also from underneath,” he said. “Scientists call it global warming. We call it Earth Mother getting angry.” In recent months, some Native American leaders have spoken out more forcefully from New Hampshire to California about the danger of climate change from greenhouse gases, joining a growing national discourse on what to do about the warming planet. Scientists have documented climate change, but Native Americans speak of it in spiritual terms and remind others that their elders prophesized environmental tragedy many generations ago. Those who study Native American culture believe their presence in the debate could be influential. They point to “The Crying Indian,” one of the country’s most influential public-service TV ads. In the spot, actor Iron Eyes Cody, in a buckskin suit, paddles a canoe up a trash-strewn urban creek, then stands by a busy highway cluttered with litter. The ad ends with a close-up of Cody, shedding a single tear after a passing motorist throws trash at his feet. The “Keep America Beautiful” public service announcement , which aired in the 1970s and can be seen on, helped usher in landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. “Within the last six months, there’s just been a loss of faith in the insistence [by some politicians] that global warming isn’t happening, and that we have nothing to do with it,” said Shepard Krech III , an anthropology and environmental studies professor at Brown University. Krech is the author of “The Ecological Indian,” which examines the relationship between Native Americans and nature. Though many citizens will look for “a consensus in the scientific community” to convince them of climate change, Krech said, others will seek “perspectives from Indian society . . . Native Americans have a rich tradition that springs from this belief they have always been close to the land, and always treated the land well.” At a United Nations meeting last month, several Native American leaders spoke at a session called “Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change. ” Also in May, tribal representatives from Alaska and northern Canada — where pack ice has vanished earlier and earlier each spring — traveled to Washington to press their case. In California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and elsewhere, tribes have used some of their casino profits to start alternative or renewable energy projects, including biomass-fueled power plants. Here in the White Mountains, where Native Americans have become integrated in the broader society, some have questioned the impact of local development. Jan Osgood , an Abenaki Indian who lives in Lincoln, N.H., and who attended the sacred ceremony on the Baker River, said she worries about several proposals that would clear acres of national forest on Loon Mountain for luxury homes. “It breaks my heart,” she said. She approached Ted Sutton , Lincoln’s town manager, about the project and gave him a book called “Touch the Earth: A Self-Portrait of Indian Existence ,” a collection of writings by North American Indians that detailed the history of the US government’s unfulfilled promises to their tribes. The gift spurred their friendship, and an exchange of ideas of how to ensure development does not ruin the mountains. After reading the book, Sutton said he agrees with the Native American philosophy of life: Use nature respectfully, never taking more than is needed. “American Natives have been telling us all along that this was going to happen to the earth,” Sutton said. “They were telling us hundreds of years ago that what we were doing [to the environment] would come back and haunt us. They have been proven right. But hopefully we’ve started to listen to them and move back to some better management of our lives.” Christopher McLeod , a filmmaker who produced “In the Light of Reverence,” a documentary about Native American sacred sites, said that many tribal leaders were now trying to craft messages about global warming for the wider population. “Their feeling is, ‘We need to work that much harder to protect the earth, because you guys are killing the earth,’ ” McLeod said. “But at the same time, they are trying to strategize internally about what message to send, how to survive themselves, and how to get non indigenous people to realize that the people on the front lines — the Inuit, the [Arctic] coastal people — have to be listened to.” At the United Nations forum, McLeod noted that several tribal leaders said the current global warming trends were “nothing new, nothing different, a manifestation of what we’ve been telling you guys for [hundreds of] years of what is going to go wrong.” Henrietta Mann , a leader of the Southern Cheyenne Sioux tribe, told the conference, “Day and night are out of sync. We know that Mother Earth, that beautiful, loving, most generous of all mothers, that her body has been violently treated. We live in an increasingly polluted land.” Wahela Johns , a member of the Dine’ tribe, who helped form the Black Mesa Water Coalition , an environmental group, joined the fight against carbon trading — a system to control greenhouse gases in which a polluting company or industry compensates for its carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing credits from a company that invests in alternative energies. In Johns’ s view, companies paid for “planting trees . . . in South America, so we can pollute more as an industry in the Northern region. That is not a solution. “Our people are being first and foremost affected by climate change,” she said. “We have the knowledge as indigenous peoples, we understand the caretaking we need to do, we need to share that with the rest of the world.” Alongside Baker River, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Talking Hawk, who asked to be identified by his Indian name, prepared for the “Medicine Wheel Ceremony.” The ceremony is based on the belief that “all of life is a circle . . . and human beings travel around a great wheel” in sync with nature, he said. He blackened his face as “a sign,” he said, “of humility that I am one with Earth Mother.” Around the circle were members of the Passamaquoddy, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Micmaq, Lakota Sioux, and Abenaki tribes. Osgood, the Abenaki, played the flute. Thunderbull , a Lakota Sioux, banged on drums. And Talking Hawk addressed the group, and the spirits. “We’ve come here to pray for Earth Mother,” he said. “We pray for the healing of Earth Mother in these troubled times.” Thunderbull offered a prayer for people who had suffered from recent flooding in the Midwest. Talking Hawk prayed for those who would suffer from natural disasters ahead. “Think of the people who will die in the cleansing of Earth Mother, all around the world,” he said. “Think of their spirits.”

John Donnelly can be reached at HYPERLINK “”donnelly@globe.-com