This video reports on the challenges facing twelve coastal Alaskan villages near the Arctic Circle because of recent global warming trends. With rising temperatures sea ice has been melting earlier, storms surges have been more severe and permafrost areas have begun to thaw.
The villages are the homes of many native peoples, including Inupiat Eskimos. The people here live a traditional way of life that includes living off native species such as seals, walrus, salmon and berries.
Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have tried to stave off coastal erosion issues, many believe that eventually these villages will have to be moved inland or onto the mainland.
Such a move will be costly and there is some debate as to whether the federal government alone should bear this financial burden. One village is attempting a lawsuit against oil and gas companies, claiming they are the cause of climate change and should pay relocation costs.
“They very easily could have built it on the mainland and everybody would have been on the mainland. Shishmaref is here mainly because the government insisted we move here. Now, I think they should also remember that and maybe also give us a hand with the move. We certainly can’t do it ourselves.” - Percy Nayokpuk, Resident of Shishmaref, Alaska
“The basis of the lawsuit is attempting to find a way of bringing a tort case against the greatest carbon emitters, to hold them responsible for the changes that are taking place on our globe, on our planet. And these changes are being felt the most by people who have contributed the least amount of carbon. And those happen to be native communities living in the Arctic.” - Heather Kendall-Miller, Native American Rights Fund
“We’re always standing alone as little native people of Kivalina. Nobody don’t want to help us. Finally, they start getting our attention, but we will not be split apart to other villages. That’s one thing they got to know. We have to live as community, not splitting families to other villages.” - Lucy Adams, Resident of Kivalina, Alaska
WARM UP QUESTONS:
Can you locate the Alaskan villages of Kivalina, Shishmaref, or Newtok on a map? What do you think life is like this close to the Arctic Circle? How are these people dependent on the ice and cold to live?
What do you think is the solution for these Alaskan villages? Should they move inland? If so, who should be responsible for paying to move them? Why? What responsibility does the federal government have in finding a solution to this problem? Should oil and gas companies be responsible for moving the villages? Explain your reasoning.
Transcript of this video report
In-depth Coverage: The Global Warming Debate
NewsHour Audio Slide Show: Listen to Tom Bearden narrate a slideshow on life in Shishmaref, Alaska