Friday, 15 January 2021

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20.05.2016 – “If we can’t stop the change that is coming, will we be able to change ourselves?” This question, core to the narrative of The Anthropologist, was discussed during Ciné-ONU’s post screening panel discussion on 19 May, an event which marked the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement.

Ciné-ONU screened yet another gripping documentary to an audience of over 300, this time focusing on the shocking impact of climate change on indigenous peoples. No sooner was the grand theatre of the Italian Cultural Institute plunged into darkness than we were swept on board the compelling journey of a young American teenager and her mother, an anthropologist, who together roamed the world for five years, studying the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable and hardest hit communities.

Through the protagonists’ first hand recounts and experiences, viewers dived headfirst into a series of remarkable and hair-raising discoveries that revealed the impact of global warming on indigenous groups. As a string of explorations unravelled, the audience took a front seat in considering the future of our planet, driving through the struggles of livelihoods and cultural identities in the face of encounters with the outside world, unprecedented change wrought by melting permafrost, receding glaciers and rising tides.

tide houses anthrop

Post screening, director Seth Kramer spoke alongside Christine Haffner-Sifakis, Anthropologist and Programme Management Officer at UNEP; Mark Robinson, Environment Officer with the U.S. Mission to the EU; and Mininnguaq Kleist, Head of Representation of the Greenland Representation to the EU, in a conversation led by moderator Carlos Jimenez from UNRIC.

Guest speakers congratulated Seth on the film’s positive message and unique approach to portraying climate change. As Seth explained, anthropologists rarely take centre stage in environmental documentaries. Whilst initiatives tend to focus on polar bears and penguins as the prime victims of climate change, indigenous communities remain invisible to Western audiences. “The Anthropologist shows just how valuable the bridge is between communities and policy makers”, he claimed. Christine added that anthropology’s social dimension to science is crucial; instead of an approach of “engineers far away from reality”, the answer must be to “take multi stakeholder dialogue to build something sustainable”.

A point stressed by Mininnguaq and Mark was the strength, resilience and awareness of the people in the film. Though we may think of indigenous communities at the forefront of global warming as victims, the film rejects such notions and instead demonstrates their ability to, in Mininnguaq’s words, “notice changes, wonder and try to adapt”. This point was key to the UN’s Fifteenth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that took place in New York this week.

Seth’s final words captured the essence of the film: “Resilience makes us unique… We wouldn’t be who we are today without challenges or our ability to repair and survive”.


UNRIC’s Related Links

-          Photos from the event 

-          Climate change adaption, UNEP

-          Proud to be Indigenous, UNRIC 

-          Division for Social Policy and Development Indigenous Peoples 

-          #IndigenousPeoples

-          #ParisAgreement


One: Panel Discussion, UNRIC

Two: The Anthropologist

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