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February 28, 2023

Indigenous Communities, Intergenerational Knowledge, and Climate Change in Mesoamerica

Event Series: Children in a World of Challenges Workshop Series

Younger and older Ixil women protesting in Guatemala

There is increasing evidence of the critical role of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) – the body of knowledge, beliefs, traditions, practices, institutions, and worldviews developed and sustained by Indigenous peoples and local communities in interaction with their biophysical environment – for climate change adaptation. Transmitted from elders to youngsters over generations, TEK offers valuable insights, complementing scientific data with longitudinal and landscape-specific precision and detail.

Drawing on ethnographic and participatory fieldwork conducted in Mesoamerica (Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico), this workshop offered participants the opportunity to explore how TEK can be applied to gain context-specific insights on complex ecological phenomena and to address pressing environmental and social challenges. The workshop also examined various methodological approaches adapted to working with younger generations and co-generating a common understanding of young people’s efforts to adopt, adapt, and re-interpret the aspects of their communities’ TEK most directly relevant to their survival. It concluded with a discussion of the ways in which intergenerational transfer of TEK responds to changing socio-environmental conditions, and why they matter at this time of global upheaval.

This event was co-sponsored by the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues; Walsh School of Foreign Service; Center for Child and Human Development; Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service; Global Human Development Program; Global Health Institute; Environmental Justice Program; Earth Commons; Indigenous Studies Working Group; and Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University. It is part of the Children in a World of Challenges Workshop series.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Trocaire


Marisa O. Ensor

Marisa O. Ensor

Marisa O. Ensor teaches with the Program on Justice and Peace, is an affiliate faculty and former senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of International Migration, and a research fellow with the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues at Georgetown University. As a gender, children, and youth specialist with a background in the human dimensions of environmental change, disasters, conflict, displacement, security, and humanitarian action, Ensor has conducted fieldwork in over 20-conflict-affected and environmentally fragile countries and authored five books.