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Indigenous knowledge and advocacy is now seen as vital to the fight against climate change

As nations develop strategies to combat climate change, they're beginning to turn to solutions from the indigenous communities that have been on the front lines of the efforts to protect the planet.

A 2021 report from the indigenous rights organization, the ICCA, details just how much the rest of the world depends on indigenous communities for preserving planetary health.

"In Latin America and the Caribbean, Indigenous and tribal peoples manage between 330 and 380 million hectares of forest," the ICCA report said. "Those forests store more than one-eighth of all the carbon in the world’s tropical forests and house a large portion of the world’s endangered animal and plant species. Almost half (45 per cent) of the large ‘wilderness’ areas in the Amazon Basin are in Indigenous territories and several studies have found that Indigenous peoples’ territories have lower rates of deforestation and lower risk of wildfires than state protected areas."

Keolu Fox: Decoding the past to build a better future

Growing up, National Geographic Explorer Keolu Fox heard the stories of his intrepid ancestors as told by generations before. He comes from a line of voyagers who traversed oceans thousands of years ago aboard canoes fueled only by manpower and wind.

They eventually founded settlements on islands across the Pacific, including in Fox’s native Hawaii, and their characteristics as wayfinders live on not only as part of Indigenous oral history—the traits are inscribed in their DNA.

But modern-day Indigenous genomes tell a more complex story, Fox explains. The earliest settlers’ history is as much about crossing oceanic highways as it is about the troubles of resettlement and colonialism. By decoding these truths, Fox, a geneticist and Indigenous rights activist, is working to ensure Native communities are spearheading the future.

Interdisciplinary Powerhouse: Pinar Yoldas is a Perfect Fit for the Design Lab

Pinar Yoldas describes herself as an interdisciplinary designer, artist and researcher whose current research revolves around speculative biology, in which she designs and creates what could possibly be the next steps of evolution regarding human tissues, organs, and bodies. Evolution, in the eyes of Yoldas, includes the potential for humans in the future to possess modular bodies in which humans can interchange or add on additional sexual organs. 

She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Visual Arts Department at UC San Diego and a member of The Design Lab. While she earned her PhD in Visual and Media Design from Duke University, her interests and credentials don’t stop there. Yoldas also holds a MFA in Game and Interactive Media Design from UC Los Angeles; a MA in Visual Arts from Bilgi University; a MS in Information Technologies from Istanbul Technical University; and a Bachelors of Architecture with a minor is Sociology from Middle East Technical University. Combining her passions for science, art, and undoubtedly, education, Yoldas has impressively served as a bridge throughout her career between five different disciplines and serves as an inspiration for the pursuit and practical application of interdisciplinary science and art studies.

Nazima Ahmad is Putting People Over Profits by Connecting Art and Design at the Design Lab

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our communities are more important than ever. The pandemic has changed the ways in which we experience and perceive community—sometimes even causing us to feel that it has vanished. The past two years have been an uncertain time for those involved in the arts, with many creative professionals being impacted by dwindling audiences and interest. Nazima Ahmad, a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab, noticed the crumbling connection between artists and consumers and sought to find a way to mend it. Working with fellow designer Michelle Hoogenhout, the two were able to come up with City Canvas, a concept developed in collaboration with the Arts and Commission Department of the City of San Diego that won the 2020 SCALE San Diego Urban Innovation Challenge that works to make connecting with local artists easier for San Diego residents.

“Working with the city on that project was all-around trying to figure out how to promote the creative economy of San Diego,” says Ahmad of the goal of the project. Not only was the project a great success at Design Week, but it is also what led Ahmad to The Design Lab.
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