News from the BRISK project: international Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change
In the framework of the COP22 2016 at Marrakesh (Morocco), an international Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Climate Change is organised by UNESCO and MNHN (November 02 - 03, 2016)
How Sami and Evenk reindeer herders conceive extreme events
Marie ROUÉ, Alexandra LAVRILLIER, Samuel ROTURIER and Semen GABYSHEV
From climatologists’ perspective, or the IPCC’s, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, extreme events first have to be assessed, recorded, and their intensity measured, to establish a series of data leading to a level of confidence. Then comes the notion of complex system, linked to their unpredictability, which was stressed by both climate scientific experts and local knowledge holders, the difficulty of adaptation facing uncertainty, and the need for an ethical reflection on the responsibilities in the causes. Our communication will analyze the knowledge and conceptions of extreme events held by reindeer herders (Sami from northern Sweden and Evenk from eastern Siberia), to understand the similarities and differences with the ones of climatologists. Indeed, understanding these events is critical for the herders in order to build their resilience. We will also consider the importance of global changes in the development of adaptation strategies.
Understanding the physics of the snow cover has always been determining for Sami and Evenk reindeer herders, today more than ever. But what the herders observe and analyse, more than an accounting or the causes of the event, are the consequences. And what they observe, more than the acuity of a particular event, is the succession of events which, cumulated or repeated, can put them in a disastrous situation. They observe a process in which, for example, extreme winds, recorded by climatologists as an extreme event, will not be considered as such by the herders because they have no consequence. In contrast a series of variations cold/warm spell, even if each event does not reach a high intensity, can determine the establishing of an ice crust on the snow, preventing the reindeer to access their food. This sequence, or rather this process, will then be described as extreme event, or its equivalent, a catastrophic year for reindeer herding.
For the Evenk today, the ultimate extreme event are wolves, which can eat up to 30 heads of reindeer in two days. As they are depending a lot on climatic conditions affecting the quality and depth the of snow necessary to Evenk herding, results also from the ban of “regulating” predators’ populations as it was the case during the Soviet period. For the Sami, the extreme event is a winter during which the pasture is not accessible anymore and where they have to feed their animals instead of letting they graze freely. In both cases, the herder’s adaptive capacity is therefore limited.
For the herders it is only the intensity which defines the extreme event, or the place and time where it happens, or the accumulation and repetition of more “minor” events. To facilitate the dialogue between different knowledge systems (local and scientific) we will propose a typology of extreme events from the point of view of herders.