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Climate Change and the Colonizer Mentality

Authors: Sarra Tekola*, Arizona State University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Global Change, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: climate justice, environmental justice, oppression, indigenous, Western mentality, colonizer, colonized, just transition, green future
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The colonizer mentality term draws from the term the colonial mentality, a concept derived from David & Okazaki (2006) to describe the inferiority complex that those who were colonized have from centuries of colonization. This paper argues the trauma of colonization goes both ways, the colonized and colonizer suffers from the trauma of colonization. The colonizer mentality is the flipside of the colonial mentality, it is a superiority complex that Western society is suffering from. My hypothesis is that tenets of Western culture including individualism, entitlement, control, and competition come from colonialism. I hypothesize that it has created a sort of “colonizer mentality” that makes us act in short-term, self-centered manners, that focus on growth and immediate gain which affects our ability to care for those more vulnerable than us, including minorities and the planet. I think since climate change is a collective action problem and Western culture is individualistic society, that until we change the colonial attributes listed above we will be unable to address climate change in a manner that takes into account the needs of future generations and all people in the planet. I will use an argumentative literature review to make the case that we need to address the root causes of climate change, which are rooted in colonialism and make up the power structures that prevent climate action today. I will also collate the terms used in different fields for the colonizer mentality ranging from geography and political ecology to psychology and indigenous studies.

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