Tag Archives: Newtok

America’s First ‘Climate Refugees’

20 May

Cross Posted from NPR

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Climate change is a stark reality in America’s northernmost state. Nearly 90 percent of native Alaskan villages are on the coast, where dramatic erosion and floods have become a part of daily life.

Perched on the Ninglick River on the west coast of the state, the tiny town of Newtok may be the state’s most vulnerable village. About 350 people live there, nearly all of them Yupik Eskimos. But the Ninglick is rapidly rising due to ice melt, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the highest point in the town — a school — could be underwater by 2017.

Suzanne Goldenberg, a U.S. environmental correspondent for The Guardian, spent time in Newtok and this week on the plight of its residents, whom she calls America’s first climate refugees. She told weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden that the rising river poses the greatest risk.

“The river is basically stealing the land out from underneath the village,” she says. “Every year during the storm season, that river can take away 20, 30, [even] up to 300 feet a year. … It just rips it off the land, away from the village in these terrifying storms.”

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