Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 517–530 | Cite as

Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility

  • Kyle Powys WhyteEmail author


Federally-recognized tribes must adapt to many ecological challenges arising from climate change, from the effects of glacier retreat on the habitats of culturally significant species to how sea leave rise forces human communities to relocate. The governmental and social institutions supporting tribes in adapting to climate change are often constrained by political obstructions, raising concerns about justice. Beyond typical uses of justice, which call attention to violations of formal rights or to considerations about the degree to which some populations may have caused anthropogenic climate change, a justice framework should guide how leaders, scientists and professionals of all heritages and who work with or for federally-recognized tribes understand what actions are morally essential for supporting tribes’ adaptation efforts. This paper motivates a shift to a forward-looking framework of justice. The framework situates justice within the systems of responsibilities that matter to tribes and many others, which range from webs of inter-species relationships to government-to-government partnerships. Justice is achieved when these systems of responsibilities operate in ways that support the continued flourishing of tribal communities.


Climate Change Impact Wild Rice Traditional Ecological Knowledge Political Order Ecological Challenge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I wish to thank the blind referees, Kristie Dotson, Becky Neher and Julie Maldonado for their dedication, time and insightful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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