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© 2023 Ash Adams
KIVALINA, ALASKA - November 4, 2016: Breanna Adams, 13, holds her nephew Esun Stone, 2, out the window to get some fresh air and sunshine on a sunny winter day. Breanna wears a mask from Halloween, just for fun, she said./ASH ADAMS Background on the project: Kivalina is one of several Alaska Native villages experiencing effects of climate change that make the village’s current location unsustainable. Scientists estimate that the 400-person Arctic village that is only accessible by boat or plane has a decade or less before it will be uninhabitable, as the permafrost is melting and storms and the sea eat away at its coastline. Kivalina is estimated to be underwater by 2025.
Already, the village has experienced serious changes to food supplies as a result of the Arctic's rapid warming. It is difficult to hunt for whale due to changes in the ice, and tomcod runs have been inconsistent. The ice is freezing later in the year and breaking up earlier.
The village has already selected a new location 8 miles away where it will move, but this comes at a high cost, and it is uncertain how this will be funded. While the village will be uninhabitable in the near future, Kivalina still has not yet been declared a federal disaster area and therefore cannot access funds that would be made available through FEMA through this designation. This seems partially a result of inexperience; it takes time for government to develop protocols for effectively dealing with situations like these, and although climate change isn’t exactly new, Kivalina and two other Alaska Native villages, Shishmaref and Newtok, are the first in the Alaskan Arctic that need to urgently relocate.
This is compounded by the fact that Kivalina isn’t a place that makes money. Most of the people in Kivalina do not operate within a cash economy as there are not many jobs in Kivalina. The people live rural lives that straddle something of their traditional culture and the industrialized culture of t