Monday, April 07, 2014

Maori and Climate change

The latest report from the IPCC firms up their previous conclusions on a) the planet warming, and b) this warming being primarily human-induced.

While the full report is a massive collaborative effort, I'll just make a few comments on the impacts on Indigenous Peoples. Chapter 25 is on Australasia with an impressive list of authors (that includes one of my Masters supervisors Prof. Jon Barnett). I know several of those authors cited (click on link for full references) and respect their work. My comments - in red... - are merely my own thoughts and challenges.

The projected impacts of climate change on Māori society are expected to be highly differentiated, reflecting complex economic, social, cultural, environmental and political factors (high confidence). Since the AR4, studies have been either sector-specific (e.g. Insley, 2007; Insley and Meade, 2008; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012) or more general, inferring risk and vulnerability based on exploratory engagements with varied stakeholders and existing social, economic, political and ecological conditions (e.g. MfE, 2007b; Te Aho, 2007; King et al., 2010).

The Māori economy depends on climate-sensitive primary industries with vulnerabilities to climate conditions (high confidence; Packman et al., 2001; NZIER, 2003; Cottrell et al., 2004; TPK, 2007; Tait et al., 2008b; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010; Nana et al., 2011a). I think this too narrow a framework to examine the impacts: most Maori are barely aware of this so-called 'Maori economy'. We are highly reliant on the wider NZ economy. Much of Māori-owned land is steep (>60%) and susceptible to damage from high intensity rainstorms, while many lowland areas are vulnerable to flooding and sedimentation (Harmsworth and Raynor, 2005; King et al., 2010). Land in the east and north is also drought prone, and this increases uncertainties for future agricultural performance, product quality and investment (medium confidence; Cottrell et al., 2004; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010). The fisheries and aquaculture sector faces substantial risks (and uncertainties) from changes in ocean temperature and chemistry, potential changes in species composition, condition and productivity levels (medium confidence; King et al., 2010; see also 25.6.2). At the community and individual level, Māori regularly utilize the natural environment for hunting and fishing, recreation, the maintenance of traditional skills and identity, and collection of cultural resources (King and Penny, 2006; King et al., 2012). Maori are 84% urban and pursue urban pastimes. This does not mean the natural environment is not important - reconnecting with marae and hapu lands and waters is regularly argued for by our rangatahi - but it does reflect a lifestyle choice and commitment.  Many of these activities are already compromised due to resource-competition, degradation and modification (Woodward et al., 2001; King et al., 2012). Climate change driven shifts in natural ecosystems will further challenge the capacities of some Māori to cope and adapt (medium confidence; King et al., 2012).

Māori organizations have sophisticated business structures HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, governance (e.g. trusts, incorporations) and networks (e.g. Iwi leadership groups) across the state and private sectors (Harmsworth et al., 2010; Insley, 2010; Nana et al., 2011b), critical for managing and adapting to climate change risks (Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012). Future opportunities will depend on partnerships in business, science, research and government (high confidence; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2010) as well as innovative technologies and new land management practices to better suit future climates and use opportunities from climate policy, especially in forestry (Carswell et al., 2002; Harmsworth, 2003; Funk and Kerr, 2007; Insley and Meade, 2008; Tait et al., 2008b; Penny and King, 2010). Māori knowledge of environmental processes and hazards (King et al., 2005; King et al., 2007) I think we have to be careful we don't paint ourselves in a methodological corner as our traditional knowledge is fragmented and a fraction of what we need to know about the world! as well as strong social-cultural networks are vital for adaptation and on-going risk management (King et al., 2008); however, choices and actions continue to be constrained by insufficient resourcing, shortages in social capital, and competing values (King et al., 2012). Competing values is a simple label hiding a complex dissonance between different Maori organisations and philosophies. Some would argue we are at war with ourselves. Combining traditional ways and knowledge with new and untried policies and strategies will be key to the long-term sustainability of climate-sensitive Māori communities, groups and activities (high confidence; Harmsworth et al., 2010; King et al., 2012).

So the emphasis is now on adaption, certainly less alarmist than previous reports (and perhaps a nod there to the difficult politics of climate change?). But the constraints on Maori adapting to massive environmental change has been irreparably altered by colonisation! While this is implicitly acknowledged (and the Australian situation is much worse; the section preceding Maori - 25..8.2.1 - presents the case for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders).

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Simon Lambert

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