The scale of human impact on the
global environment has been marked and measured in precise detail, with
sometimes not so precisely placed accountability. Temperatures are slowly
increasing globally, and science has established the correlation between an increase
in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and an increase in ambient temperature; yet,
despite markers throughout recent history that identify the anthropogenic pollutants
arising from industry and technology that contribute to atmospheric carbon
dioxide levels, the distribution of the carbon dioxide budget is hotly debated.
Climatic changes in the global environment have always had broad impacts, and
sometimes mass extinctions have resulted, but with the current crises having the
distinction of being a human generated impact it suggests potentiality for a
moderated outcome (Mulder and Coppolillo 2005: 3). This is not to say the planet
will be left unscarred from the impact, and it remains to be seen whether or
not human accountability initiates change quickly enough to mitigate the
resulting effects of climate change.

The
idea that human activity might effect the planet’s climate was first introduced
over a century ago, but it is only in the past sixty years that concerns about the
impact of human generated global climate change on the planet’s environment have
been vigorously debated, first in the scientific community, then in public
venues with the rise of environmentalism in the 1970s. After decades of intense
research on an international scale, including studies of prehistoric climates, computer
models and quantitative data confirm that increased levels of carbon dioxide contribute
to increased temperatures on the planet. But, models differ, and opinions vary
on whether those temperatures fall into a manageable or catastrophic range
despite the adverse effects of global warming already visible in some regions.
Historically, it has be recognized that natural resource-dependent indigenous
populations have been the most vulnerable to activities that negatively impact
the environment, and it has been acknowledged they inhabit some of the most
climatically vulnerable ecosystems on the planet, yet, until recently, climate
change dialog has failed to include the international indigenous voice,
compounding the dilemma associated with climate change. When the indigenous
communities were invited into the conversation, it became obvious their generations
deep knowledge of their ethno-botanical environments, also known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK),
could contribute significantly to conservation policy regarding the ecosystem
management of their lands threatened with the impact of climate change.