Climate change threatens culture on Alaska Island
The Alaska Native village of Shishmaref, near the Bering Strait, is home to about 600 Inupiat, or Eskimo, people. But the land is rapidly shrinking. “I see a big difference around this island where we as humans will try our best to save it but, it’s not going to be enough,” said Alfred Ningeulook, a lifelong Shishmaref resident. And Molly Snell, another lifelong resident and young mom, said that she fears the right storm could take out their whole island and that climate change has left them. Jason Gleck, a Glaciologist at Alaska Pacific University, would agree with them both, “Alaska villages are susceptible to sea level rise because most of them are located not only along rivers but along the coastal areas,” he said. “With climate change and a warming climate, sea ice is being impacted. A lack of sea ice is going to mean that there’s no longer any protection from the fall, winter storms that come in.” Due to these increased storms, which produces continued coastal erosion , the close-knit island community has voted twice to relocate. First in 2002 and again in 2016. But due to the high cost of relocating the whole village and wanting to preserve their traditions like subsistence hunting and gathering, they have decided to stay.