Alaskan Whaling Village In Peril Due to Climate Change

  • Published on February 26th, 2015

Aerial photograph showing a section of sea ice. The lighter blue areas are melt ponds and the darkest areas are open water, both have a lower albedo than the white sea ice. "Sea Ice MeltPonds" by United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2003/2003100216000.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sea_Ice_MeltPonds.png#mediaviewer/File:Sea_Ice_MeltPonds.png

There is no road that leads to the tiny town of  Kivalina and soon there may be no people.

This Alaskan whaling village is surrounded by ice, which due to climate change, has become far too thin to protect it from the waves that could crash across the village.

“Global warming has caused us so much problems,” said Joseph Swan, Sr., a Kivalina elder, at a town meeting last week, according to the Washington Post. Swan said that the ice “does not freeze like it used to. It used to be like 10 to 8 feet thick, way out in the ocean.”

The native Iñupiat people are on the front lines of climate change, where the melting ice threatens not just their homes but their livelihood.

The United States government said that the town may soon be unlivable and with that statement comes the question: who will foot the hundred million dollar bill that comes from moving the village?

Kivalina is not alone, there are a handful of Alaskan whaling villages that are being threatened by the ever-warming climate.

While President Obama is proposing $50.4 million to help all native American communities deal with the thinning ice, this may not even be half as much money as this single village needs to move.

But some are afraid that these villages will become overly politicized.

“Senator Murkowski acknowledges the impacts of climate change on Alaska’s coastal communities and believes that the federal government should step up its relief role, but she does not want Alaska’s rural communities used merely as political talking points,” said spokesman Matthew Felling for Alaskan Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, in an interview with the Washington Post.

More and more frequently, waves have washed over the village, which is built on a barrier island just off the coast of Alaska. Without aid, there are fears that the village will be completely washed away in the very near future.

This has been the case since 2003, when the Government Accountability office said that the village was in danger of being washed away by a storm. Since then, a rock erosion barrier has been erected, but that is only a temporary solution.

Kivalina will have to be moved soon, or it will be reclaimed by the sea.

Information sourced from an article from the Washington Post.

About the Author

is a freelance writer based out of Albany, NY. Acadia is also an intern at WAMC news in Albany and is the site director of Red, Green and Blue. Acadia was formerly the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Recorder, at Central Connecticut State University. She has freelanced for a handful of local newspapers and was a web intern at the Hartford Courant for a summer.