Europe’s only recognized indigenous people are losing their culture to climate change.
One of the key findings of the most recent UN report on the mounting perils of climate change is that rising temperatures pose a distinct risk to indigenous people, who are often small farmers, fishers or herders. The report noted that punishing storms, lasting drought and stifling heat threaten the lives and livelihoods of aboriginal groups from the Amazon rainforest to the Arctic Circle.
The Sámi people offer a case in point. The only recognized indigenous group in Europe has lived in the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia since records began, primarily herding reindeer. But climate change now threatens their way of life — and their basic rights. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as temperatures elsewhere. High temperatures have produced more rain, which freezes to form a thick barrier of ice on top of the snow. Unable to dig through it to reach the lichen below, the reindeer starve. The decline of reindeer has contributed to a mental health crisis among indigenous herders.
The Sámi have fought hard to protect their rights. February 6 marked the 102nd anniversary of the first Sámi national assembly, which addressed encroaching threats to their land and culture. Today, more than a century later, the Sámi are speaking out about the carbon crisis. The photos below offer a glimpse of the Sámi people and their struggle with climate change.
Daisy Brickhill, PhD, is a science writer with the Environmental Justice Foundation. She produced this story for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.
Daisy Brickhill, Ph.D., is the communications manager at the Environmental Justice Foundation, which works at the intersection of the environment and human rights to ensure sustainable security for all. Daisy belongs to the Association of British Science Writers. In her free time, she divides her time between scaling mountains and pottering about in her veg patch.