Western Science vs. Indigenous Knowledge: Combating Climate Change

Western science has always pushed aside indigenous knowledge, but in facing climate change and its impacts they are beginning to seek Aboriginal help. In order to tackle land and sea management, Aborigines and western investors are creating conservation partnerships. Natural resource scientists and managers increasingly recognize traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) for its potential contribution to contemporary natural resource management (NRM) and, through this, to more resilient social-ecological systems (Prober, 2011).

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Combining two ways of knowing.

Aboriginal knowledge of the seasons, weather patterns, growing cycles of plants, and other links to the land is of extreme importance recently to western science. The indigenous groups in Australia found it necessary to have a close relationship with the land, and their knowledge of the seasons helped ensure they had a reliable supply of food and medicine (Prober, 2011). These groups also based their cultural activities and rituals on the stars and weather patterns.

Beginning around the 1980s, the term “Indigenous land and sea management” (ILSM) has emerged as a contemporary expression of the relationships between Indigenous Australians and their traditional lands and seas (Austin, 2018). These practices include a range of activities undertaken by individuals or groups for customary, community, conservation and economic reasons. ILSM manifests itself as indigenous groups find innovative ways to engage in ‘caring for country.’

As partnerships between Indigenous peoples and conservation practitioners mature, new methods are being sought to assess their effectiveness (Austin, 2018). Indigenous land and sea management practices are being used more and more commonly. By facilitating the combination of experiential with experimental knowledge and fostering complementarity of different knowledge systems, Aboriginal seasonal knowledge can increasingly contribute to more resilient social-ecological outcomes in NRM (Prober, 2011).


Works Cited

Austin, Beau J., et al. “Integrated Measures of Indigenous Land and Sea Management Effectiveness: Challenges and Opportunities for Improved Conservation Partnerships in Australia.” Conservation and Society, vol. 16, no. 3, 2018, pp. 372–384. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26500648

Heathcote, Angela. “How Indigenous knowledge might inform our response to climate change”. Australia Geographic. 2015. www.australiangeographic.com.au

Petheram, L., Zander, K., et al. “‘Strange changes’: Indigenous perspectives of climate change and adaptation in NE Arnhem Land (Australia)”. Global Environmental Change. Vo. 20, Iss. 4. Pgs. 681-692. 2010.

Prober, Suzanne M., et al. “Australian Aboriginal Peoples’ Seasonal Knowledge: a Potential Basis for Shared Understanding in Environmental Management.” Ecology and Society, vol. 16, no. 2, 2011. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26268886.