According to the World Bank, there are approximately 476 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide in over 90 countries. They make up over 6% of the global population. As more than 50% of the world’s population live in cities, you could say that the indigenous population of the world corresponds to 12% of the cities’ population.

Indigenous Peoples of the world are a heterogeneous group of people but there are similar values regardless of where you come from. I can talk to my Sámisister in northern Norway, my Māori brother in New Zealand,  my Asháninka sister, Tabia, in Peru, and speak with my Maasai brother, Adam, in Tanzania. We will all share the same belief and respect for Mother Earth. We are all here to be good stewards of Mother Earth and to our indigenous cultural landscape.

This is a landscape where we are not spectators. We are an integrated part of that landscape, and it is mirrored into ourselves and into our hearts. The Sámi poet, Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, describes that in his poem, My Home is in My Heart: ‘All of this is my home. These fjords, rivers, lakes, the cold, the sunlight, the storms, the night and day of the fields, happiness and sorrow, sisters and brothers. All of this is my home, and I am carrying it in my heart.’

Northern Scandinavia and parts of Russia is the land we call Sápmi, the land of the Sámi people. This is a part of the Arctic. Today, the Arctic is the canary bird of climate change. Nowhere else on the planet is the impact of ongoing climate change more visible.

The Arctic polar ice is melting; the tundra is thawing. The biodiversity is decreasing. The reindeers cannot any longer feed themselves. The melted ice opens up for new business opportunities, and what was before pristine areas are now invaded by mining excavators raping our land and our hearts in the name of economic growth. The wind is captured by windmill parks that scare our reindeers from the pastures and kill the golden eagle. There are barriers to our traditional pathways split up by pipelines and built to please the people’s needs in the urban areas of the world.

Yes, I would say that sustainability in cities relates to indigenous people. The situation we see in the indigenous homelands worldwide is the result of an insatiable hunger for economic growth in the world. This hunger is dominantly found in the world’s urban areas, well represented by the four billion people living in cities.

If you want to see a global change not only in the indigenous cultural landscapes, we have to act just now. We are already very late. It will not be enough to deliver electric cars to the city dwellers. It will not be enough to build dreams to colonize parts of outer space.

We have to start a transformation of our lifestyle. We have to change our way of living and our consumption patterns. Real change must start within people, and most people in the world are living in cities. In Daring Cities, people realize that there will be suffering if you want to bring your children into a world that is not sustainable. If we do not act now, the only picture of the world as we would like to see it will be the picture we are carrying in our hearts, but a human heart is not a sustainable storage place.

 

The Daring Cities Conference is an action-oriented forum to recognize and empower courageous urban leaders tackling the climate emergency. He delivered this speech during a FSC-hosted session entitled “Indigenous Peoples for Sustainable Forestry”.

As an inspiring leader, Blom was nominated by the Saami council to be a member of the Arctic Economic Council and is also the Chair of the Protect Sápmi Foundation.