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Ways of Knowing: Traditional Knowledge as Key Insight for Dealing with Environmental Change/American Meteorological Society CFP

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Indigenous/Traditional Knowledges

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 July 2009 10:24 Written by Randy Peppler, posted by Rosemarie McKeon

The American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) annual meeting theme this coming January is “Weather, Climate, and Society: New Demands on Science and Services” and is a unique interdisciplinary opportunity for environmental anthropologists, cultural geographers, and Native scholars to engage with researchers and practitioners in the fields of climate and weather. The theme also reflects the title of a new journal being published by the AMS that has anthropologists and other social scientists on its editorial board. The meeting will be held in Atlanta, GA, from 17-21 January 2010.  Please see the meeting website for more information:

We are seeking participants for a pre-approved grass-roots session within the Fifth Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research. The session abstract, details, and specific instructions are included below. Please feel free to forward this information to potential interested parties!

- Heather Lazrus and Randy Peppler


Ways of Knowing: Traditional Knowledge as Key Insight for Dealing with Environmental Change

American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Fifth Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research

January 17-21, 2010, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Papers are sought for a session entitled “Ways of Knowing: Traditional Knowledge as Key Insight for Dealing with Environmental Change” to be held at the Fifth Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research. Following this year’s annual meeting theme of “Weather, Climate, and Society: New Demands on Science and Services,” this session will explore the role of “non-scientific” forms of knowledge as part of the repertoire of insight needed to deal with environmental changes, including climate change. This session builds upon a American Meteorological Society Town Hall Meeting in 2009 titled “Climate Change, Indigenous Communities in the United States, and AMS: Needs and Opportunities.”

All forms of knowledge – not just recent advances in weather and climate science – may be useful in helping to conceptualize and understand changing environmental conditions and human adaptation to them. Oral history, observation, and experience may also be contextualized within worldviews that promote particular ways of being in the world. According to the Choctaw people, “The ancient ones walked barefoot, sat and lay on the ground because it was good to touch the earth. The old Choctaw believed the Great Spirit created the earth and all the creatures that drink from her bounties and listen to her whispers. The Choctaw’s passion and kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water continues today. The earth nourishes and provides for man. Man must care for the earth and do it no harm. If the earth dies, man dies” (from a poster for American Indian Heritage Month, November 2008).

Climate change and the associated shifting patterns of weather and plant and animal life already are having a highly local and enormous impact and adaptive burden on native peoples. Those in the Arctic (e.g., recent fieldwork of Chie Sakakibara: “Cetaceousness and global warming among the Inupiat of Arctic Alaska”) and tropical islanders (e.g., recent fieldwork of Heather Lazrus: “Weathering the Waves: Climate Change, Politics, and Vulnerability in Tuvalu”) currently are significantly affected, but native peoples living close to the land anywhere may be keen to notice the effects of environmental change. Tim Ingold and Terhi Kurttila (Perceiving the environment in Finnish Lapland, Body & Society, 2000) defined traditional knowledge as that knowledge “generated in the practices of locality,” knowledge both historical and dynamic in content and unique in its locatedness. Fikret Berkes (Sacred ecologies: Traditional ecological knowledge and resource managemen! t, 1999) wrote that interest in “non-scientific” knowledge should not be “merely academic” – its lessons have practical significance for the rest of the world in addressing issues related to the environment. Raymond Pierotti and Daniel Wildcat (Traditional ecological knowledge: The third alternative (commentary), Ecological Applications, 2000) believe such knowledge can yield “unexpected” and “non-intuitive insights” on how nature works. Vine Deloria, Jr., and Daniel Wildcat (Power and place: Indian education in America, 2001) wrote that connection to place and knowledge about it remain important issues for native peoples.

Our session seeks to initiate engagement on this topic within the meteorology community and invites scholars from all disciplines working with native peoples on weather, climate, and environmental issues to present on their research. Papers on any aspect of this topic are welcome, with priority given to scholarship on place-based knowledge and narratives. Depending on the number and nature of submissions, we will host 15-minute presentations followed at the end by a 15-minute discussion session, or a panel-type discussion involving shorter 5 to 10-minute presentations from the panel and more discussion time.

Please first contact Randy Peppler ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and Heather Lazrus ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) with your intentions and preferences if you are interested in participating in this session. Abstracts then should be submitted electronically by August 3, 2009, at to the Fifth Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research in the category "Policy and Socio-Economic Research Methods and Their Applications." A $90 abstract fee includes the submission of your abstract, the posting of your extended abstract, and the uploading and recording of your presentation that will be archived on the AMS website. The abstract fee (payable by credit card or purchase order) is charged at the time of submission (refundable only if the abstract is not accepted). No funding is available to support speakers. A one-day conference registration option is possible, however. Authors of accepted presentations will be notified via e-mail by late September 2009. Instructions for formatting extended abstracts will be posted on the AMS website at a later date. Extended abstracts up to 3MB must be submitted electronically by January 13, 2010. All abstracts, extended abstracts and presentations will be available on the AMS website at no cost. For more information about the Symposium please see


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