The residents of Kivalina, Alaska, are feeling mighty vulnerable these days.Photo: USCG PressIn Christine Shearer’s new book Kivalina: A Climate Change Story, global warming moves off the pages of science and into the lives of everyday people.
Jammed into a narrow island on the northwest coast of Alaska, the town of Kivalina is home to 400 souls, with evidence of occupation extending back over a millennium. Due to the melting of sea ice, the island now gets a regular beating from ocean storms and is rapidly disappearing. The logical solution of relocating to the mainland is estimated to cost more than the town can afford, and despite warnings in 2004 and 2009 [PDFs] by the U.S. Government Accountability Office that Kivalina, like 30 other coastal communities in Alaska, faces serious danger, there’s still no viable plan that residents can count on.
With the clock ticking, the cold Chukchi Sea seems to loom over every interaction, every conversation. Residents describe nightmares of being swept out to sea. Even more vivid are the details of actual events, such as the 2007 storm during which people struggled in pitch darkness to reassure crying children an... Read more