The Resilience of Indigenous Peoples to Environmental Change

Ford, J.D., King, N., Galappaththi, E.K., Pearce, T., McDowell, G., and Harper, S.L. 2020. The Resilience of Indigenous Peoples to Environmental Change. One Earth, 2(6), pp. 532-543.


Indigenous peoples globally have high exposure to environmental change and are often considered an “at-risk” population, although there is growing evidence of their resilience. In this Perspective, we examine the common factors affecting this resilience by illustrating how the interconnected roles of place, agency, institutions, collective action, Indigenous knowledge, and learning help Indigenous peoples to cope and adapt to environmental change. Relationships with place are particularly important in that they provide a foundation for belief systems, identity, knowledge, and livelihood practices that underlie mechanisms through which environmental change is experienced, understood, resisted, and responded to. Many Indigenous peoples also face significant vulnerabilities, whereby place dislocation due to land dispossession, resettlement, and landscape fragmentation has challenged the persistence of Indigenous knowledge systems and undermined Indigenous institutions, compounded by the speed of environmental change. These vulnerabilities are closely linked to colonization, globalization, and development patterns, underlying the importance of tackling these pervasive structural challenges.

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