Climate Change Is Causing Food And Mental Health Crisis For These Indigenous People

Climate Change Is Causing Food And Mental Health Crisis For These Indigenous People

Frozen lake near Jokkmokk, Sweden.

Frozen lake near Jokkmokk, Sweden.
Frozen lake near Jokkmokk, Sweden.

By Daisy Brickhill 

One of the key findings of the most recent United Nations 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 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.

should do. But if we all stop chasing something far away, and just start to be, I think it would be a good start.”
To survive in the changing climate, Sámi herders are purchasing supplementary feed to sustain reindeer through winter.

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.

The Sámi have fought hard to protect their rights. Today 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.

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