Published on Truthout, 30 October 2017.
Utqiaġvik is one of several Indigenous villages along Alaska’s north coast that have existed for thousands of years: Estimates vary, but people settled in them between 1,500 and 4,000 years ago. Now, anthropogenic climate disruption is threatening to demolish them.
Less than two months after I left Utqiaġvik, residents experienced coastal flooding in and around the town, as parts of the berm were breached by waves. This kind of erosion and where it will inevitably lead is a central problem for that village, among many others. In talking with a friend who is working with more than 30 other Native villages along rivers and coastlines of Alaska that are susceptible to thawing permafrost and increasingly severe Arctic storms, I learned that they will all have to be relocated. Until they relocate, the plight of these future US climate refugees will only intensify and worsen. In addition to the endangerment of residents’ homes and sustenance, their culture and religious practices, which are deeply connected to the land and seas where they currently live, are threatened. And there will be no funding from the Trump administration to assist them in their survival.
We can no longer simply speak about what is happening to the planet in the future tense. And keep in mind that currently, we are “only” at 1.1°C above pre-industrial baseline temperatures.
Read the full story on Truthout.