Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Native Sámi People Face Perils of Climate Change

Climate
Native Sámi People Face Perils of Climate Change
Environmental Justice Foundation

By Daisy Brickhill, Environmental Justice Foundation

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.

Environmental Justice Foundation

Maxida Märak, a Sámi activist and artist. "I am a Sámi activist mainly because I have no choice. I feel a huge responsibility to use [my] voice for my people and the important issues that we struggle with," she said. "If we don't start to really take the climate issue seriously, the future is not bright for anyone. We will probably be the first ones that get really affected by it. But I do see hope, my generation is the first that is allowed to get into powerful positions [and can] speak for ourselves."

Environmental Justice Foundation

Lars-Ánte Kuhmunen a Sámi reindeer herder and community leader in northern Sweden, lost much of his herd last year, as unpredictable weather made grazing difficult for the reindeer.

Environmental Justice Foundation

Lars-Ánte Kuhmunen finding a reindeer calf in the snow. "This one was starving to death," he said. "That's the climate change."

Environmental Justice Foundation

Kenneth Pittja lives in Jokkmokk in northern Sweden during the winter. Each spring and summer he takes his reindeer herd 60 miles north to Ruokto, Sweden to graze. "I live for the reindeer, and they mean everything to me," he said. "I don't need anything else. I am Sámi. It's me, and I'm proud of it. It's hard for me to really know what the rest of the world should do. But if we all stop chasing something far away, and just start to be, I think it would be a good start."

Environmental Justice Foundation

To survive in the changing climate, Sámi herders are purchasing supplementary feed to sustain reindeer through winter. The extra feed is costly, and the Sámi have observed a higher rate of disease among reindeer fed with pellets.

Environmental Justice Foundation

Aslat Simma, a reindeer herder in Sweden, worries about losing his livelihood to climate change. "If I can't live like this, then what do I do?" he said. "I have to change my way of life, and if I change my way of life, the culture and the way of doing things is going to change. It's my job, but also my life. Now is the time to do something about climate change. It is not in the future. It is happening now."

Environmental Justice Foundation

A Sámi reindeer herder.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

A sign indicates that glyphosate has been used on a farmer's field. Jo Zimny / Flickr

More than half the bacteria in the human gut microbiome are sensitive to glyphosate, the mostly commonly used herbicide in the world, reported scientists this month in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is seen on October 19, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. Denis Doyle / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that former Secretary of State John Kerry will sit on his National Security Council (NSC) as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Susanna Pershern / Submerged Resources Center/ National Park Service / public domain

By Melissa Gaskill

Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.

Read More Show Less
Fridays for Future climate activists demonstrate in Bonn, Germany on Sept. 25, 2020. Roberto Pfeil / picture alliance via Getty Images

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2019 and have continued climbing this year, despite lockdowns and other measures to curb the pandemic, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Monday, citing preliminary data.

Read More Show Less
The Argentine black-and-white tegu is an invasive species that can reach four-feet long. Mark Newman / Getty Images

These black-and-white lizards could be the punchline of a joke, except the situation is no laughing matter.

Read More Show Less