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Too Late for Indigenous Climate Justice: Ecological and
Relational Tipping Points
By Kyle Whyte
It may be too late to achieve environmental justice for some indigenous peoples,
and other groups, in terms of avoiding dangerous climate change. People in the
indigenous climate justice movement agree resolutely on the urgency of action to
stop dangerous climate change. However, the qualities of relationships connecting
indigenous peoples with other societies' governments, nongovernmental organizations,
and corporations are not conducive to coordinated action that would avoid
further injustice against indigenous peoples in the process of responding to climate
change. The required qualities include, among others, consent, trust, accountability,
and reciprocity. Indigenous traditions of climate change view the very topic of climate
change as connected to these qualities, which are sometimes referred to as kin
relationships. The entwinement of colonialism, capitalism, and industrialization
failed to affirm or establish these qualities or kinship relationships across societies.
While qualities like consent or reciprocity may be critical for taking coordinated
action urgently and justly, they require a long time to establish or repair. A relational
tipping point, in a certain respect, has already been crossed, before the ecological
tipping point. The time it takes to address the passage of this relational
tipping point may be too slow to generate the coordinated action to halt certain
dangers related to climate change. While no possibilities for better futures should
be left unconsidered, it's critical to center environmental justice in any analysis of
whether it's too late to stop dangerous climate change.
Whyte, K.P. 2019. Too Late for Indigenous Climate Justice: Ecological and Relational Tipping Points.
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change (WIREs Climate Change). Early View. Appearing in
volume 11(1) in 2020.