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Ice Loss May Force Alaskan Iñupiat Town to Relocate

The 400 Iñupiat residents of Kivalina, Alaska may soon have to make the wrenching decision to relocate inland or down the coast, as declining sea ice makes their traditional whale hunt too dangerous and leaves less protection for the barrier island where their town is located.

“For generations, the Iñupiat people of the region have hunted gigantic bowhead whales from camps atop the sea ice that stretches out from the town’s icy shore,” the Post reports. “The question now facing the town, the state of Alaska, and the nation is whether to move the people of Kivalina to a safer location nearby, either inland or further down the coast—and who would pay upwards of a hundred million dollars to do it.”

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U.S. President Barack Obama recently proposed a $50.4 million fund to help Native American communities adapt to climate change, “yet that is less than half of what’s estimated to be needed to relocate Kivalina alone,” Mooney writes.

“Global warming has caused us so much problems,” said Elder Joseph Swan, Sr. The ice “does not freeze like it used to. It used to be eight to 10 feet thick, way out in the ocean.”

“We have a whole bunch of infrastructure that we need to move, that the government should be moving themselves,” added town councillor Colleen Swan. “I would like to live without having to worry about having to evacuate, or having to run.”