Compared to the dominant industrialized societies, Indigenous Peoples have contributed least to climate change. Still, they suffer the brunt of the immediate and direct effects of escalating climate disruption. Despite the September 2007 adoption by the UN General Assembly of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), indigenous peoples have largely been excluded from the UN climate negotiations – the embodiment of climate injustice.

At this critical time of global decision-making, indigenous voices have important knowledge and wisdom to contribute to the global discourse on climate change, which will determine global choices in shaping our collective future. From Manus islanders in Papua New Guinea working together to save their Oceanside homes, to Maasai villagers in Kenya responding to a cattle-killing drought in the open plains, Conversations with the Earth works to enable local indigenous communities to create first-hand accounts of their experience of climate change.

"We can’t wait five years," says Inupiat leader Patricia Cochran, the Chair of the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, about efforts to phase out greenhouse gas emissions. "We’re a harbinger of what is to come, what the rest of the world can expect."

Conversations with the Earth was founded in 2009 by an international indigenous-led advocacy and education organization for the rights of indigenous peoples, Land Is Life, renowned experts in participatory video, InsightShare, and award-winning photographer and expert in sustaining oral traditions, Nicolas Villaume, founder of Conversations du Monde. CWE also draws on contributions from a range of writers and editorial sources.

Today, Conversations with the Earth is a growing network of indigenous groups and communities living in critical ecosystems around the world, from the Atlantic Rainforest to Central Asia, from the Philippines to the Andes, from the Arctic to Ethiopia. As part of CWE, the indigenous communities are able to share their local stories of climate change – both impacts and response. By supporting the creation of sustainable autonomous indigenous media around the world, and by keeping in contact with communities that have participated in the creation of CWE photostories CWE fosters long-term relationships with communities, based on principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), local control and support for indigenous media capacity.

Traditional and indigenous communities depend on a healthy relationship with the Land and therefore possess a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and practical experience in adapting to long-term changes in their environment. And yet indigenous communities are extremely vulnerable to the current unprecedented rate of global climate change, with its large-scale external disruptions to the web of life. This threat to traditional communities is a threat to the entire human family. Proposed or implemented responses to the common challenges of climate change will fall short, unless they are grounded in a recognition of the territorial, land, and resource rights of indigenous peoples. The traditional ecological knowledge, wisdom and practices of indigenous peoples comprise the global biocultural heritage that must inform and guide climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies at global, regional and local scales.

Premiering as a major multimedia exhibitions at the National Museum of Denmark and the Klimaforum, in Copenhagen (December 2009), CWE highlighted indigenous stories of climate change as delegates gathered for the watershed UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 15th Conference of the Parties meeting (COP15). The CWE Copenhagen exhibit brought together audio documentaries, participatory videos, photo essays, informative captions, published articles, and an interactive website into a powerful multi-sensory series of narrative portraits. The museum exhibit worked to support in-person presentations by over 20 representatives of 12 indigenous communities from the CWE network whose stories were told in the museum galleries and at the Klimaforum. The CWE exhibit in Copenhagen was an open invitation to the world to engage in a conversation about the real impacts of climate change on marginalized communities, as well as an opportunity for local communities collaborating with CWE to grow together in a global network of sharing, reflection, action and support. To carry forward the momentum generated in Copenhagen in 2009, CWE has continued to grow its network by launching a series of CWE mobile exhibit presentations at critical locations around the world; organizing participatory media trainings; creating new photostories with impacted communities; and, enhancing indigenous communities’ capacity to connect with each other and the rest of the world through global gatherings and retreats. CWE continues to firstly mobilize around the key issue of climate change but is also expanding its focus to include local food systems, food sovereignty and sacred sites.

  • Land is Life was founded at the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples on Territories, Environment and Development in May of 1992. The mission of Land is Life is to support indigenous communities in their efforts to secure rights at the local and national levels, and move forward a process of dialogue and strategic action that would bring about the international legal recognition of indigenous peoples rights to self-determination and collective ownership of lands, resources and knowledge. Visit website
  • InsightShare is a leading organisation in the use of participatory video as an experiential tool for individuals and groups to grow in self-confidence and trust, building skills to act for change. InsightShare’s methods value local knowledge and help people develop greater control over the decisions affecting their lives by building bridges between communities and decision-makers. Visit website
  • Founded in Paris in 2004 by french photographer Nicolas Villaume, the association Conversations du Monde primary focuses on promoting oral tradition and cultural awareness using the emotional power of combined arts (photography, videos, digital voice recordings and internet…) to create quality multimedia exhibitions for grass roots communities to leading international museums and education organisations. View site