OOS 29-1
Resilience as an integrating framework: Indigenous and scientific contributions to fostering ecological-social health in the face of environmental change

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 1:30 PM
327, Baltimore Convention Center
Brenda G. Bergman, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI

What can we learn about resilience to climate change from indigenous peoples who have endured environmental changes for millennia? How can Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and ecological science complement one another to enhance the understanding and practice of resilience? By addressing these questions and developing a framework for ways TEK and Ecology can inform theory and practice toward climate change resilience, this presentation offers an overview for the entire session. Central to resilience is a systems perspective that emphasizes relationships between people, other species, and physical conditions rather than addressing the impact of climate on individual components in isolation. In this way, resilience aligns with foundational principles of both ecology and traditional knowledge, but fundamentally differs from many modern approaches to climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation. Insights from indigenous peoples of the arctic and other session presentations illustrate conceptual and practical lessons emerging from efforts to prepare human and ecological systems for climate change.


A resilience framework, together with experiences of indigenous peoples, highlights opportunities and limitations of current efforts to prepare for climate change. Key observations suggest that: (a) Flexibility in a system is enhanced with the existence of alternative options. Modern constraints on indigenous peoples’ rights and access to natural resources reduce resilience to climate-related stressors. Success stories in climate resilience often involve new livelihood options and/or ecological rehabilitation that increase flexibility in the face of constraints. (b) Increasing the resilience of social-ecological systems involves fostering healthy relationships not only across ecosystem components, but also among humans. Fundamental to resilience is a need for mechanisms that build trust and accountability among resource stewards, allow multi-directional engagement, and promote mutually-beneficial relationships within and among indigenous and local peoples and organizations engaged in climate change science and policy. (c) The relationship is often tenuous between ecological research, TEK, and decision-making with respect to climate resilience. Many local decision-makers have limited opportunity to make use of extensive ecological research findings or in-depth indigenous knowledge of ecological patterns. As governance systems invite the incorporation of such findings and knowledge, they enhance the potential to adaptively manage human and natural systems in a way that promotes social-ecological resilience.