The community of Shishmaref, located on Sarichef Island, north of the Bering Strait, took a vote last Tuesday (August 16th). They had to decide whether or not to relocate their entire village due to climate change. The lack of ice affects their capacity to collect enough meat for the winter (by hunting and fishing), as well as other traditional activities. The situation is not new, and Shishmaref is not the only case. A 2009 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that at least 31 villages in Alaska are threatened by flooding and erosion. A young local explains this with a graphic example: in his 19 years, Shishmaref has lost about 100 feet and the town has already moved 13 houses because of land erosion. As you can imagine, moving is difficult, both emotionally and financially. This was reflected on the Tuesday vote: 89 people chose to move to the mainland, while 78 voted to stay and “fight the rising tide”. There is no actual date to start moving, and government funding is desperately needed but not yet secured.

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