Another Round of Climate Change

The material presented by Kyle Whyte in the first chapter of “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene” [1]  along with his video interview [2] was illuminating for me. I had previously never considered the idea that indigenous populations have already experienced widespread change to their environments as a result of colonization. Indigenous peoples present a great example of how a population has dealt with and combated a rapid change to their local environment and there is no doubt that global society can learn a lot from their experiences. 

At this point in time, it is clear that we will (and currently are) seeing changes to our environment as a direct result of large scale fossil fuel emissions. Even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gases right now, we would still have these impacts to deal with. While it is still key that we work towards a rapid shift to a carbon neutral world, we now have to come to the reality that we will inevitably have to deal with a changing environment. Whyte’s brings up the idea that indigenous peoples hold key insights into how to deal with these changes. The premise that indigenous people are living in their “ancestors’ dystopia” is very powerful and paints striking images of what our children and future generations will need to deal with. 

The Anishinaabek of the Great Lakes region have positive, modern day traditions that not only support the preservation of the resources that remain, but also provide an insight into the importance of the pre-colonial environment to the people of the past. As our environment changes, traditions like these could provide powerful frameworks for the preservation of diminishing natural resources and for the remembrance of the environment that once existed. Society as a whole could benefit greatly from looking towards how indigenous populations, like the Anishinaabek, have dealt with massive changes to their environment. Indigenous populations have already experienced their own, regional form, of climate change, and we can look to their example on how to deal with the next round of climate change, but this time on a global scale. 

[1] Whyte, Kyle. Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. <>

[2] Croakey, director. Talking #JustClimate and Decolonising Climate Science with Professor Kyle Whyte. YouTube, YouTube, 24 Feb. 2017 <>

the dystopian society is a reality for many

In Kyle Whyte’s article “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene,” he illustrates that many indigenous peoples are already living in their tribe’s dystopian society, and have felt the effects of anthropogenic climate change since they were forced out of their land by colonists. 

A definition I found for the term dystopia is: “an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives” (Merriam-Webster). Whyte, however, illustrates that for many indigenous people a dystopian way of living is neither imagined nor fictional, but reality. For many indigenous peoples, living in a world where their primary resources (ex. Water, fish, rice) have been overharvested, polluted, depleted, and, therefore, have become inaccessible, is the dystopia of their ancestors. Whyte emphasizes that indigenous people have already felt the impact of “anthropogenic environmental change at the hands of settlers, including changes associated with deforestation, forced removal and relocation, containment on reservations, liquidation of our lands into individual private property and subsequent dispossession, and unmitigated pollution and destruction of our lands from extractive industries and commodity agriculture, among many other examples”(Whyte 3-4). Therefore, climate destabilization is just one more environmental change for indigenous people to adapt to and isn’t a new concept. 

This article is a crucial read for any caucasian individual who is concerned with climate change. White climate activists and supporters are continuously concerned about climate change, and what may happen in our dystopian futures. But we forget that, unlike the white race, indigenous peoples have had to adapt to anthropogenic environmental changes for hundreds of years. Indigenous peoples have an understanding that humans affect the environments in which they live; it is part of the cycle of life. However, whether it be because of Christianity or capitalism, white humans often do not realize this and exploit the world with naive aggression. We believe that the world is filled with endless resources, and perhaps is too large to be affected by mortals. 

Whyte explains in his interview that white environmental scientists need to not just include a single indigenous individual in a talk or seminar, but instead need to go to where indigenous people live to learn from them. Whyte says that indigenous peoples are climate scientists too, in their own way (Video). I agree with this sentiment, because western science is not the only form of science, and should never be considered supreme. Indigenous peoples have a plethora of knowledge and skills regarding climate change and adapting to new climates. Most certainly some of these skills were acquired because of brutal acts by settler society, but they are there and deserved to be heard. But, I think is important when thinking about indigenous knowledge to not look at it as something settler society can use for our personal gain, because that would be perpetuating colonialism. It is not our knowledge, but it can be listened to and appreciated. If caucasian people ever use indigenous knowledge, it needs to be properly credited to those from who it came. 

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Dystopia. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from 

Video Talking #JustClimate and decolonizing climate science with Professor Kyle Whyte. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from 

Whyte, K. (2017). Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, 222–231.