Pope upholds Indigenous knowledge to address climate crisis

Addressing participants in a Vatican workshop on Indigenous and scientific knowledge, Pope Francis stresses the need to preserve and value indigenous expertise to address the climate and environmental crises.

Mar 15, 2024

Pope Francis meets participants in the workshop on Indigenous knowledge in the Clementine Hall (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged a closer collaboration between Indigenous and scientific knowledge to address climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and threats to food and health security facing the world today.

Indigenous knowledge offers crucial contribution to tackle climate crisis
Indigenous’ unique experience in matters related to the environment can offer a crucial contribution to tackle these urgent critical issues, he said.

The Pope addressed participants in a workshop organized in the Vatican on March 14–15 by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to discuss the role of ethnoecological knowledge in developing local solutions that can have global consequences for climate and biodiversity agendas.

Titled “Indigenous Peoples' Knowledge and the Sciences. Combining knowledge and science on vulnerabilities and solutions for resilience", the conference will explore opportunities for cooperation between Indigenous Peoples and the science community on these issues.

In his address, which was read for him by Father Pierluigi Giroli due to his ongoing cold, Pope Francis welcomed the initiative, noting that it “makes a significant contribution to acknowledging the great value of the wisdom of Indigenous peoples and to advancing an integral and sustainable human development.”

An opportunity for reciprocal listening
The Pope remarked that the workshop first of all represents an opportunity to grow in reciprocal listening: “Listening to indigenous peoples in order to learn from their wisdom and from their lifestyles, and at the same time listening to scientists, in order to benefit from their research.”

He further highlighted that the workshop also sends a message to government leaders and to international organizations, “encouraging them to acknowledge and respect the rich diversity within the great human family."

He said this diversity must be protected, since the loss of cultures, traditions, spiritualities and languages would represent an “impoverishment of knowledge, identity and memory for all of us.” 

“For this reason," Pope Francis said, "projects of scientific research, and accordingly investments, ought to be directed decisively to the promotion of human fraternity, justice and peace, so that resources can be coordinated and allocated to respond to the urgent challenges facing the earth, our common home, and the family of peoples.”

An alternative vision to the one driving our world to increased conflict
The Holy Father went on to remark that an open dialogue between indigenous knowledge and the sciences is all the more important today, as it suggests “an alternative vision to the one that is presently driving our world to increased conflict.”

“Open dialogue between communities of ancestral wisdom and those of the sciences, can help to confront in a new, more integral, and more effective way such crucial issues as water, climate change, hunger, and biodiversity,"  which “are all interconnected," he said.

Noting that there are also positive signs in this regard, such as the United Nations’ inclusion of indigenous knowledge as a core component of the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development, Pope Francis insisted that the “entire patrimony of knowledge should be employed as a means of overcoming conflicts in a nonviolent manner and combating poverty and the new forms of slavery.”

We are not masters of the planet
“God has made us stewards, not masters of the planet," he reiterated, citing his Encyclical Letter Laudato si'.

“All of us are called to an ecological conversion: a commitment to saving our common home and to fostering intergenerational solidarity in order to preserve the life of future generations, rather than wasting resources and aggravating inequality, exploitation, and destruction.”

Concluding, Pope Francis encouraged the representatives of indigenous communities and scientists attending the workshop to continue to cooperate in the service of truth, freedom, dialogue, justice, and peace, drawing, respectively, from the patrimony of their ancient wisdom and the fruits of their scientific research.

“The Church," he said, "is with you, an ally of the indigenous peoples and their wisdom, and an ally of science in striving to make our world one of ever greater fraternity and social friendship.”--Vatican News

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