Quantcast

Native Sámi People Face Perils of Climate Change

Climate
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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

JPM / Getty Images

Gluten is the collective name for a group of proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rye.

Read More Show Less
Denali national park. Domen Jakus / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

By Stephanie Gagnon

Happy National Parks Week! This year, between April 20 and 28, escape to the beautiful national parks — either in person or in your imagination — and celebrate the amazing wildlife that calls these spaces home.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
fstop123 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

At EcoWatch, our team knows that changing personal habits and taking actions that contribute to a better planet is an ongoing journey. Earth Day, happening on April 22, is a great reminder for all of us to learn more about the environmental costs of our behaviors like food waste or fast fashion.

To offer readers some inspiration this Earth Day, our team rounded up their top picks for films to watch. So, sit back and take in one of these documentary films this Earth Day. Maybe it will spark a small change you can make in your own life.

Read More Show Less
Sesame, three months old, at Seal Rescue Irleand. Screenshot / Seal Rescue Ireland Instagram

On Friday, Seal Rescue Ireland released Sesame the seal into the ocean after five months of rehabilitation at the Seal Rescue Ireland facility. Watch the release on EcoWatch's Facebook.

Read More Show Less
Beer packs of Guinness will now come in a cardboard box. Diageo

By Jordan Davidson

Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maskot / Getty Images

People of all ages are spending more of their day looking at their phones, computers and television screens, but parents now have another reason for limiting how much screen time their children get — it could lead to behavioral problems.

Read More Show Less

Rapper and comedian Lil Dicky released a 7-minute climate change awareness song and video today, ahead of Earth Day on Monday, with proceeds going to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

The New York City Council passed the world's "largest single carbon reduction effort that any city, anywhere, has ever put forward" on Thursday afternoon, marking a major milestone in the fight against the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less