MO

Alaska

An Alaskan town where there is no room left for new properties or even graves has its days numbered as a result of climate change. The barrier reef surrounding Kivalina, a coastal village located on an island that separates the Chukchi Sea, is getting smaller with every storm, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The town of 403 residents, located 83 miles above the Arctic Circle, where beaches are disappearing and ice is melting, could be underwater by 2025, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

This is not due to rising sea levels but because the island has eroded - it is six to ten feet above sea level, which continues rising. The island used to be more than 400 feet above sea level.

Once protected from early winter storms by a natural barrier of sea ice, Kivalina has been ravaged in recent decades by erosion because climate warming prevents ice from forming until later in the winter.

A defensive wall was built along the beach in 2008, however, it could not prevent an emergency evacuation in 2011 following an enormous storm.

Since Kivalina’s days are numbered, money has not been invested in it to improve residents’ lives, according to The Los Angeles Times. Kivalina residents have moved bodies from the village graveyard to prevent them from washing away.

Currently, 80 per cent of residents do not have toilets and rely on homemade ones, they have to carry water from tanks in town, costing 25 cents for five gallons, and the school of 154 students is overcrowded. Most residents want the town relocated but there is uncertainty surrounding where to and who would pay for it. ‘It’s where I grew up, where everybody I know is,’ said 13-year-old Kivalina resident, Shelby Adams, who loves her island home. ‘We need to relocate because the ocean is slowly eating away our island.’

The Inupiat who reside in Kivalina get most of their food from the land and sea, and the increasingly warm weather has left an abundance of cloudberries and low-bush blackberries, Kivalina tribal resident, Millie Hawley, told The Los Angeles Times.

However, it has also threatened some of the food staples, like seal and caribou, that Alaska natives depend on, but Hawley said hunting caribou has become unpredictable over the years.

‘Usually we get 80 to 100 seals for the whole community,’ Hawley said. ‘This year, we were looking to get eight. The community now has to go without dried meat and oil.’