The Alaskan village of Shishmaref has voted to relocate because global warming puts its residents at risk of being washed away — or at least that’s the simplified narrative environmentalists and the media peddle.
Shishmaref, a small town of nearly 600 people just north of the Bering Strait, has become a poster child for global warming. It’s threatened by erosion and storm surge due to shrinking Arctic sea ice, and on Tuesday, its residents voted to relocate — they just don’t know where they’re going or how they’ll pay for it.
Shishmaref’s story, however, is much more complicated than news headlines suggest. A look back at the settlement’s history shows life there has always been precarious and always been at the mercy of nature.
“Within the next two decades, the whole island will erode away completely,” Esau Sinnok, a Shishmaref native and environmentalist, wrote to the U.S. Interior Department in 2015.
“To put this in perspective: I was born in 1997, and since then, Shishmaref has lost about 100 feet,” he wrote in his highly publicized essay. “In the past 15 years, we had to move 13 houses – including my dear grandma Edna’s house – from one end of the island to the other because of this loss of land.”