By Dan Clendenin
Technically-speaking, the tiny village-island of Kivalina — just two square miles of land, situated 130 miles above the Arctic Circle, is part of Alaska, and therefore very much part of the United States. In the 2010 census, its population was 374 people in about 70 households, down from 377 in 2000. Kivalina is populated by the Inupiaq Eskimo tribe. Their ancient way of life faces many pressures in the modern world, but their real crisis is that the water is overtaking the land. By some estimates, coastal erosion and rising sea levels mean that Kivalina will be completely submerged by the year 2025. When one woman says that “they just can’t leave us here,” you wonder whether she’s asking a question or declaring a fact. Already there are federal, state, and local studies about the alternatives for their compulsory relocation. The costs are projected at $100 million. This is a powerful story of the collision between ethnographic history and environmental catastrophe. I learned about this movie from the PBS series “America ReFramed.”
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