Indigenous cosmologies of energy for a sustainable energy future

29 September 2022

Nature Energy

Antonella Mazzone, Denizia Kawany Fulkaxò Cruz, Scorah Tumwebaze, Manari Ushigua, Philipp A. Trotter, Andrea Espinoza Carvajal, Roberto Schaeffer & Radhika Khosla

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Energy development in Indigenous lands has been historically controversial from socio–ecological and ethical perspectives. Energy-development projects often privilege the knowledge of a narrow group, while, simultaneously, Indigenous knowledge and alternative epistemologies have been understudied in academic energy-access discourses and largely ignored in the planning and implementation of energy interventions. Here university-affiliated academics teamed up with Indigenous scholars and leaders to examine Indigenous perspectives in energy research and practice. We identify three core issues embedded in existing energy-development initiatives: an inconsistent use of the term ‘Indigenous’; a lack of inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and alternative epistemologies in energy-development projects; and a prevalence of inadequate methodological attempts to include such Indigenous knowledge. To enable more symmetric and people-centric sustainable energy interventions, we propose and illustrate a ‘cosmologies of energy’ approach that focuses on learning from Indigenous oral narratives to unpack Indigenous people’s lived experiences, alternative perspectives and associated practices of energy.