December 9th, 2009
The work I did in Kivalina, Alaska, for Spiegel Magazine keeps on cropping up in the news. One of the climate conference topics in Copenhagen deals with the number of “climate refugees,” estimated at 150 million, who will be forced to move, in part, because of rising sea levels. Never mind the issues of drought, its impacts on traditional farming regions, arguments and even wars over fresh water rights, etc.
CNN went to Alaska to report on a village not far from Kivalina. Sishmaref was one of the villages the people in Kivalina talked about. It too has a small population in a permanent settlement established by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs when they built a school; unfortunately, they placed it on a low island exposed the sea.
I think it’s a timely piece, especially given the conference in Copenhagen, and reminds me quite vividly of my few days in Kivalina trying to capture the essence of a culture on the verge of being swallowed by the sea. Not to be too melodramatic, but this truly is the reality both physically and metaphorically for the risk to their culture is as pressing as the erosion of their coastline.
Above is a link to the CNN article on Shishmaref, Alaska, and below is a link to a VERY loose image gallery edit of neighboring Kivalina, Alaska. Both villages are facing a warming climate and rising sea.
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