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What do indigenous people’s rights have to do with sustainability? #rethinkingthesystem

During ReGeneration Week 2021, hundreds of young people from around the Nordic and Baltic Sea region got together to make our voices heard on the climate crisis. We collectively wrote a Declaration listing what must be done to achieve sustainability in the short time frame necessary. In this series, ReGeneration 2030 volunteer Ugnė explores each of the seven articles of the Declaration.

Over 40 percent of the human population is already suffering from climate breakdown. Most of them are declared as indigenous communities and live closely with the natural environment directly; they are feeling the impacts of climate directly. They are also experts on how to live sustainably in their land. That’s why we need to recognise indigenous authority over land, resources and populations.

In our region, these numbers include most importantly Sami people who have experienced severe cultural and political oppression and encroachment on their way of life. There are also important lessons to learn from folk practices of other groups, many of which have been lost during industrialisation.

Achieving environmental and economic sustainability is not enough. We also have to achieve social sustainability. Every citizen of this planet deserves to have a chance to live a dignified and respectable life by entitling them to make their own economic and social choices. If we can empower people to make sustainable choices locally, we can accomplish a fully sustainable planet by utilising knowledge and gaining local buy-in to the process. Restoring authority over land regions and political processes not only allows sustainable production and consumption to flourish but also achieves this social empowerment.

Indeed, we not only have to give back authority to indigenous groups and indigenous societies but also learn from them. Over the years, indigenous people have developed sophisticated codes of conservation to stop overhunting and preserve biodiversity. Recent “modern”/”Western” forms of livelihoods have failed to provide a proper environment to conserve various species, and many of us have suffered cultural memory loss around traditional sustainable practices. By recognising and valuing indigenous knowledge we can exchange knowledge between ourselves and revitalise sustainable production and consumption practices well-tailored to our natural environment.

To achieve this, our actions have to include:

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market

  • Fair working conditions

  • Social protection and inclusion

We need to rethink our strategies for different countries and regions and start collaborating for a more sustainable future.

ReGeneration 2030 is currently formulating position papers on issues like these to help the youth sustainability movement push for change in our region. If you’re under 30 and want to be a part, email or sign up through our volunteer form.


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