Usually, when people think about moving, they think about the hassle of moving a family from one neighborhood, apartment, house, or city to another neighborhood, apartment, house or city. They don’t think about what it would take to move an entire town.
But thanks to climate change, the Alaskan city of Shishmaref is having to consider exactly that problem. The community of 500 people is located on an island North of the Bering Strait, and has voted to move the entire town from the rapidly eroding island back to one of six potential sites on the mainland.
This isn’t the first time the community has voted to relocate. A vote back in 2002 stated the overwhelming desire of the community to move and resulted in the formation of a relocation committee. But, as the New York Times reports, efforts to move were put on hold thanks to logistical holdups, and reservations in the town about the selected relocation sites. Now, with the shoreline still rapidly eroding, the community has voted to try again.
This isn’t even the first time that a village in Alaska has voted to relocate due to climate change. As The Atlantic beautifully describes in a 2015 story, the Alaskan village of Newtok voted in 1996 to move from their current precarious position, a site with melting permafrost and eroding shorelines. 20 years later, the move still hasn’t happened fully, though some buildings have been constructed. The delay is due to logistical and bureaucratic hurdles, and a price tag of moving that will cost well over $100 million, a sum that Alaska is trying to raise with federal help. Whether or not Shishmaref and Newtok finally move, only time will tell. But one thing is sure. They won’t be alone. 31 other Alaskan villages are also threatened by climate change.
Villages in Alaska aren’t the only ones contemplating relocation because of climate change. Earlier this year, a Native American community in Louisiana received a grant to help them move their community further inland, away from the encroaching seas, and the entire nation of the Maldives is exploring their options for relocating their country as its land slips beneath the waves.