Decolonising Research for Transformative Climate Adaptation

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Shi and Moser, in their study, “Transformative climate adaptation in the United States: Trends and prospects”, discussed how communities, especially cities, can initiate climate adaption without federal leadership. Their study was published on the site on 25th June 2021.

The study also comes with an editorial titled “Decolonize climate adaptation research” by Bronen and Cochran.

The editorial highlights the harmful effects of colonisation on indigenous communities, such as government-forced relocations against their will.

Protection of human rights principles and the right to self-determination, which includes giving them the right to choose when or how relocation will occur while protecting their culture, values, and heritage, are ways of ensuring that this horrific experience is not repeated.

When responding to climate-forced displacement, “the racial and economic inequities, legacies of colonisation and slavery” should be addressed. Colonisation continues when indigenous tribes don’t have representations.

“Decolonization is the restoration of cultural practices, spirituality, and values that were taken away or abandoned through colonization and that are important for survival, well-being, and subsistence lifestyles. Decolonization advances and empowers Indigenous Peoples and stops perpetuating their subjugation and exploitation.” (Bronen and Cochran, 2021).

Decolonisation can be applied when researching indigenous communities, lands, or areas that affect their lives and future, especially when it comes to climate adaptation.

The editorial highlights the importance of indigenous people spearheading research and working alongside non-indigenous experts in the field.

Indigenous-led research can be a powerful avenue where indigenous communities can influence and lead climate adaptation in their communities. Indigenous-led research with the inclusion of human rights protection can prevent the adverse effects of government-forced relocations.

The editorial mentions that communities should control the “narrative about how the climate crises affect” and “lead research efforts, defining the questions and methodologies”.

In reaction to the editorial, Scoop Sci-Tech published comments from experts.

One of the respondents is Dr Dan Hikuroa, Senior Lecturer, Te Wānanga o Waipapa, Waipapa Taumata Rau – School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland. 

Hikuroa says that he was encouraged by the editorial and introduced the term “indigenising” in the place of decolonisation. He says that indigenising focus on “aligning space, structures and systems with indigenous ways of knowing and being, whereas decolonising is more about acknowledging and addressing settler-colonial power.”

“In Aotearoa New Zealand, that knowledge is Mātauranga Māori – inclusive of knowledge, culture, values and worldview. As we explore how different coastal systems behave in different ways, and how these are considered in climate-induced adaptation planning, weaving Mātauranga Māori with science will be critical to our success”.

Dr Naomi Simmonds, a Kahui member for the Deep South National Science Challenge, commented on the Maori people’s unique relationship with the land, water, and environment. Some of them are working hard to bring climate justice to the conversation. She says that western ideologies dominate the current climate conversations, a colonialist and capitalist mindset that has resulted in climate change in the first place.

According to Simmonds, decolonising climate change should start by “recognising the claims to land and water rights and often to human rights that are denied Indigenous peoples and listening to the people who talk with the land.”

Simmonds advocates for recognising Maori’s ways and knowledge to transform their communities and for the government to give space for their stories, wisdom, and voices to be heard.

Source Citation:

Transformative climate adaptation in the United States: Trends and prospects. Review. (25 June 2021). Science. Retrieved from

Shi, L. et Moser, S.. (2021). Transformative climate adaptation in the United States: Trends and prospects. Science372(6549), eabc8054. doi:10.1126/science.abc8054

Bronen, Robin & Cochran, Patricia. (2021). Decolonize climate adaptation research.

Call to Decolonise Climate Adaptation Research – Expert Reaction (2021, June 18). Scoop. Retrieved from

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