Thursday, August 18, 2016


If people are still taking things easy about global warming, hopefully they’ll change their minds when they hear about the village of Shishmaref, Alaska.

CNN reports that Shishmaref, a tiny fishing village of the Inuit-Inupiat tribe on the barrier island of Sarichef close to the Arctic Cricle, has put to a vote on Tuesday August 16 whether or not to abandon their village, also their ancestral home, in order to escape the gradual erosion of the land area by seawater as the surrounding ice melts steadily in the face of global warming.

The less than 200 registered voters of Shishmaref all showed up to a man at the village council meeting to make their choice heard. And the results were rather close. According to Shishmaref council secretary Donna Barr, 89 voted to formally move their settlement to the mainland of Alaska while 78 chose to stay on the island and live as much as they can before it disappears completely.

There’s quite some time left before the choice of moving becomes imminent, but the vote was important because when it finally comes, the villagers will be looking at both an expenditure of epic proportions and a massive toll on their emotions and memories of home. Barr says their community in Shishmaref was there for as long as they can remember, as attested by artifacts they have dug up from the ground that date back five centuries. As for the cost, she estimates that they would have needed $180 million in funds to execute the move, if it were 15 years ago. Barr is certain it would be so much higher now, and expresses the relief that they may not even see the relocation happening in their lifetimes yet.

Sarichef Island, where Shishmaref stands, is on the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Strait separating North America and Asia, and 123 miles from the Alaskan city of Nome. Normally reachable by boat and plane, snowmobiles can also travel there if the ice is thick enough. But the residents have spent decades observing the earth’s rising temperatures melt both the ice and permafrost, allowing the sea to eat away at the landmass, causing several houses to fall into the water when their foundations have eroded away, through the passing of years.

The US Government Accountability Office states that aside from Shishmaref, 31 other Alaskan villages are under the same threat because of global warming. Federal funding is being set aside to help them relocate, but not all the settlements may receive it.

"The problem we've been facing for the last 40 years is there is no money from the federal or state government," Barr remarks of their dire situation. Global warming will not care, however.

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