Teaching Activities (Free)

‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change

Teaching Activity. By Julie Treick O’Neill and Tim Swinehart. 16 pages. Rethinking Schools.
A role play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change asks students to develop a list of demands to present to the rest of the world at a climate change meeting.

Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001 - Present
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Native American, Pacific Islander, Science, World History/Global Studies
‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change (Lesson) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Indigenous people demonstrate at the 2010 climate change summit in Cancun. Source: Keri Koch.

On the Dec. 8, 2009 broadcast of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman asked her guest, 15-year-old Mohamed Axam Maumoon, youth ambassador from the Maldives Islands to the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, for a message to young people everywhere about what climate change meant to him.

Without hesitation, Axam turned to the camera and asked, “Would you commit murder . . . even while we are begging for mercy and begging for you to stop what you’re doing, change your ways, and let our children see the future that we want to build for them?”

Climate Justice More Resources Ad | Zinn Education ProjectWhat does it mean to take Axam’s question seriously? For many of us in the wealthy and so-called “developed” countries of the world, it means learning about the very real and life-threatening ways that climate change is affecting some of the world’s poorest populations.

From the rapidly submerging islands of the Maldives, Kiribati, and Tuvalu, to the melting permafrost in native lands across the Arctic, indigenous peoples around the world are confronting some of the worst effects of the climate crisis, despite having done so little to cause it. Axam’s question prompts us to confront the injustice of a situation in which the wealthiest 20 percent of the world’s population has been responsible for more than 60 percent of global warming emissions.

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Classroom Story

Holly Hardin | Zinn Education Project

There are few lessons that I enjoy teaching more than ‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change in my science classroom. In part, because it gives tangible details and a human face to the issue, not just a story of polar bears or talk about temperature. This is missing in a lot of the science curriculum we are provided. Likewise, the voice of indigenous people in the world is something quite absent in our westernized science curriculum, which is maybe not surprising because these voices are also being left out of world decisions.  Those points are what drew me to teaching the lesson. I keep teaching it because of how my students respond. They enjoy the structure of the activity, that they have some agency and control in what happens, as they get to take on the roles and make proposals.

—Holly Hardin
Middle Science Teacher, Durham, North Carolina

Climate Justice Tell Your Story Ad | Zinn Education Project

Lesson originally published by Rethinking Schools | Zinn Education ProjectThis teaching activity was originally published by Rethinking Schools and is included in A People’s Curriculum for the Earth.

Additional Resources

Paradise Lost. PBS NOW traveled to the nation of Kiribati to see up close how climate change affects residents’ daily lives and how they are dealing with the reality that both their land and culture could disappear from the Earth. NOW also traveled to New Zealand to visit an I-Kiribati community that has already left its home, and to the Pacific Island Forum in Niue to see how the rest of the region is coping with the immediate crisis of climate change. [Producer’s description.] This film can be viewed for free online. It was used in the classroom and is recommended by the teachers who wrote “‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change.”
Island President (film) | Zinn Education Project
The Island President tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. After leading a 20-year pro-democracy movement, surviving repeated imprisonments and torture, Nasheed becomes president at 41, only to encounter the crisis of climate change. Considered the lowest lying country in the world, a rise of a mere three meters in sea level would inundate the 1,200 islands of the Maldives, rendering the country practically unlivable. [Producer’s description.]

Democracy Now! interview with Mohamed Axam Maumoon, the 15-year-old environmental ambassador from the Maldives, challenging Western viewers by asking, “Would you commit murder?”

Democracy Now! clip featuring youth activist Kari Fulton speaking at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico: “We want people to know that whether you live in the forest, whether you live in the hood, you will be impacted by false solutions.”
Coup in Maldives: Adviser to Ousted Pres. Mohamed Nasheed Speaks Out from Hiding as Arrest Sought. Democracy Now! broadcast, 2/9/2012.

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