Shishmaref, Alaska, a tiny island village near the Bering Strait, has voted to move. The town, inhabited by an Iñupiat community for four centuries, faces such a grave risk from climate change that its residents have opted to move elsewhere for fear that their homes will be swallowed into the sea, as Inhabitat highlights.
The entire island is only 2.8 square miles—and just one mile wide—and climate change has melted the ice that previously acted as storm protection for the village. Warmer temperatures have cut into the community’s abilities to hunt and fish on the ice and affected plant life in the area.
Already, some houses have been moved as the shoreline has eroded. "I went to school on the mainland, and when I came back, my house was gone,” Leona Goodhope, one of Shishmaref’s approximately 600 residents, said in a federal report in 2004. “They moved it to the other side of the village, or it would've fallen in.”
Residents have spent years asking the federal government for funding to help them move elsewhere, with no success. They first voted to move in 2002 but never found a location to relocate to—or money to pay for it. Fusion reports that the cost to move the village would run about $200 million, and even after this vote, the villagers will still have to figure out how to fund it. While President Obama made a budget request for $400 million to relocate Alaskan villages threatened by climate change earlier this year, the Department of the Interior currently only has $8 million [PDF] available for tribal climate change adaptation projects. So despite the latest vote, Shishmaref might not be going anywhere soon.
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