Weather Channel on Alaska’s Climate Refugees

September 1, 2015

The President will be visiting some of the first of what will be many. Climate refugees in America.


Because the town’s days on the edge of the Chukchi Sea are numbered, no money has been invested to improve residents’ lives. Eighty percent of the homes do not have toilets. Most rely on homemade honey buckets — a receptacle lined with a garbage bag topped by a toilet seat.

Residents haul water from tanks in the middle of town, 25 cents for five gallons. The school is overcrowded. Still, the unpaved streets here ring with the laughter of children, the buzz of all-terrain vehicles, the whoosh of the wind.

“If the shore-fast ice is thin and weak, it’s not safe to make a camp,” said Timothy Schuerch, president of the Maniilaq Assn., a tribally operated health services organization with clinics in Kivalina and the other borough villages. “Whaling crews have drifted out to sea.”

The Inupiat who live in Kivalina get most of their food from the land and sea around them. The increasingly warm weather means an abundance of cloudberries and low-bush blackberries, said Millie Hawley, Kivalina tribal president, but it also threatens many of the food staples on which Alaska natives here depend.

“With the caribou, usually it’s like clockwork,” Hawley said. “Every June, we’d hunt. We haven’t done that in years. It’s unpredictable. We don’t know when we’ll see them.”

Kivalina residents hang the caribou’s hindquarters outside of their homes to age. The frozen meat is eaten raw, dipped in seal oil, which is also harvested in June. Trout is eaten the same way. The Inupiat also depend on seal for meat.

“Usually we get 80 to 100 seals for the whole community,” Hawley said. “This year, we were looking to get eight. The community now has to go without dried meat and oil.”


One Response to “Weather Channel on Alaska’s Climate Refugees”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    NBC News has been reporting on this issue also. It’s a serious issue when it costs $100 million to relocate a village of 400 or 500 souls—-a cost of ~$200,000 to $250,000 for each man, woman, and child. It probably wouldn’t cost any more to resettle them in Seattle.

    Kivalina is a poster child among the villages, but the situation has been bad for a while and is getting worse quickly as Alaska warms so drastically. A short and sweet rundown with many good links:

    Click to access AlaskaRelocation_04-13-11.pdf

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: