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As the twenty-first century gets into gear, it is clear that the defining characteristic of our era is that of climate insecurity. The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 14th Conference of Parties in Poznań, Poland held in December 2008 ended with a stalemate in north-south talks on how to cut carbon emissions required to slow the rate of global warming. Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned parties and humanity that we are hurtling towards a global crisis of such immense and irreversible proportions that the very future of the human race will be placed at risk as the century unfolds.

The UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was born in the shadow of the UNFCCC talks. We may now ask ourselves: How did we get to this place in history where the water is so deep and the waves are threatening to drown us, and moreover, is there a way to swim back to the shore before it is too late?

Though rural indigenous and local Africans are often cast as ‘victims’ of climate change, the African indigenous peoples’ ESD reports to UNESCO demonstrate that indigenous peoples also have the potential to be active players in policy, advocacy, adaptation and ethical elements which could be beneficial for guiding us back to the safety of the shoreline.

This summary report explores reflections and efforts from three different parts of Africa as to how oral heritage, cultural resources and traditional knowledge provide communities, nations and humans with insights into sustainable living in the shadow of global warming. Through the memory, new technologies and artful surfacing of tacit knowledge about subsistence economies the ESD case studies explore the contract between generations to sustain peaceful coexistence between humans and with the rest of the living world.