NARF Tackles Climate Change
It’s hard not to be dramatic about how climate change is impacting indigenous people because, well, it’s dramatic. The effects of climate change are most pronounced in the Arctic, where annual temperatures have increased at almost twice the rate of that of the rest of the world over the past few decades, affecting every aspect of life in many Native communities. Impacts include melting sea ice, rising oceans, rising water temperatures, increased storm severity, thawing permafrost, increased insect infestations, animals at risk, and dying forests. These changes are having serious effects on the health and safety of rural Alaskans.
Many rural villages lack a community-wide piped water system that is able to deal with human waste so villagers must still rely on honey buckets. This means that residents must empty buckets of sewage into lagoons that are now frequently compromised. Drinking water systems in many villages are also being compromised, which has lead to long-term water shortages and, consequently, serious public health concerns; Alaska villages that lack piped water and sewer have documented increases in skin, intestinal, and respiratory infections. In addition, because of the erosion and sinking of melting permafrost, some Alaska villages are experiencing a shortage or complete lack of buildable land, which means severe overcrowding in existing houses.
Kivalina and Newtok are two villages that are in imminent danger from flooding and erosion and must relocate. Kivalina is a traditional Iñupiat village of roughly 400 people located on the Northwest coast of Alaska on a barrier island between the Chukchi Sea and the Kivalina and Wulik Rivers. NARF represents the City of Kivalina and the Native Village of Kivalina, a federally recognized Tribe, in a suit on behalf of all tribal members against defendant oil, electric power, and coal companies due to the defendant companies’ contributions to climate change.
Newtok is a traditional Yup’ik village of over 300 people located on the Ninglick River near the Bering Sea. The village is located within the boundaries of the twenty-six-million acre Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, an area that is home to some of the most ecologically valuable waterfowl habitat in North America. NARF assists the Native Village of Newtok on its efforts to collaborate with State and Federal agencies to strategize the Village’s relocation.
Please support NARF in their work on behalf of Kivalina and Newtok, and in all our work on behalf of Native tribes.