Climate change plea from tribe of herders who face extinction

A A A

Olav Mathias-Eira is a reindeer-herder. So was his father. And his father's father. He is a member of the Sami community, one of the largest indigenous groups remaining in Europe, and his family have been herding reindeer in the same stretch of the Norwegian Arctic since the 1400s.

But, because of climate change, their lifestyle, unchanged for centuries, is now at risk. So Mr Mathias-Eira, 50, has travelled to Britain to issue an urgent plea in the hope that his people and livelihood can be saved.

The atmosphere in the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else in the world, putting Mr Mathias-Eira and the Sami in the front line of global climate change.

"Climate change is threatening our economy as reindeer herders," he said. "Because this is part of our traditional way of life, if the economy goes, probably the entire Sami culture would go with it.

"Everything about climate change is happening too fast, much faster than we predicted. The [weather] is so unpredictable, so unusual. It can rain in the winter when it usually didn't rain before. The actions need to be fast too. World participation is most important now, but also our voices are not heard, and that's a pity. "

Interview with reindeer-herder Olav Mathias-Eira -




The heavy winter rains and storms, previously unheard of, are making their ancient ice-roads treacherous. Because these thinning pathways are necessary to reach their reindeer, they turn herding into a life-threatening experience. Now only 10 per cent of the remaining Samis are herding reindeer, which means that a cornerstone of their traditional way of life is in jeopardy. "The reindeer [weighs] about 80kg, and it needs a good, solid ice when you are moving the herd," said Mr Mathias-Eira. "But traditional knowledge is no good any more, we just can't trust the ice."

Two of his nephews were nearly killed after falling through while herding. "It was minus-30 degrees that day, and they were more than 100km from home," he said. "It was very scary. They managed to a phone and get shelter where they could get a fire, but they were lucky." The unseasonal rain caused by climate change also means an additional layer of ice forms over the snow, so reindeer cannot reach food. Mr Mathias-Eira has about 500 reindeer, but many herders have seen up to 90 per cent of their stock starve to death.

Mr Mathias-Eira, who is married with three children, added: "To Gordon Brown I say, 'Cut the emissions, but also be aware that your ways of acting against climate change also affects indigenous people through the world'. We're paying a double price because we suffer all the climate change and also we're going to suffer all the actions Western states take to tackle it."

In another threat, wind turbines and hydroelectric dams have sprung up in reindeer herding areas that had been protected, cutting grazing and forcing the Sami off their traditional land.

The Sami live across northern Europe, in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. There are believed to be only 100,000 left.

Sami culture

*There are about 100,000 Sami remaining in northern Europe

*Sami have lived in the same northern region of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia for more than 2,500 years

*Their traditional livelihoods include fishing, trapping for fur and reinder herding

*The Sami were previously known around the world as "Lapps", or Laplanders

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism