This remote Alaskan village could disappear under water within 10 years - here's what life is like there

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Flickr/i threw a guitar at him.

Kivalina is a remote Alaskan village that needs to be relocated due to climate change.

Located 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 1,000 miles northwest of Anchorage, the remote Alaskan village of Kivalina is literally melting under the weight of climate change.

The barrier island has been disappearing under water over the last decade, as the warming ocean causes sea levels to rise and powerful storm surges to eat away at the beach. The US Army Corps of Engineers has said Kivalina will no longer be habitable within 10 years.Advertisement

The future for residents is uncertain. President Barack Obama recommended a budget of $400 million to relocate Alaskan villages like Kivalina in 2016, but Congress has not approved it. 

These photos from the Associated Press and photographers Corey Arnold, Zoë White, and Vlad Sokhin, who shared their beautiful images to Instagram, offer a glimpse of life in Kivalina. 

Villagers say it's too late to save Kivalina. But life goes on.

 

Source: Men's Journal

With a new administration in the White House, the future of Kivalina is uncertain.

 

"There's no government agency that has the responsibility to relocate a community, nor the funding to do it," Robin Bronen, a research scientist and director of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, a human rights group, told the Washington Post in 2015.

"It means that for communities like Kivalina, they don't know what steps they need to take to get which government agencies involved," Bronen added.

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In 2015, President Obama became the first sitting US president to visit a community north of the Arctic Circle, during a tour of Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough.

In 2015, President Obama became the first sitting US president to visit a community north of the Arctic Circle, during a tour of Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough.

Months after his visit, in which he flew over Kivalina, Obama presented a budget proposal that would allocate $400 million to cover relocation expenses for vulnerable Alaskan communities.

The 44th president's trip brought attention to the threat of climate change, but it did little to bring actual change to Kivalina. Congress has yet to approve a budget for relocation expenses.

But the village's days on the edge of the Arctic Ocean are numbered.

But the village's days on the edge of the Arctic Ocean are numbered.

Sea-level rise is predicted to displace 13 million Americans living in coastal regions by the year 2100. Kivalina may have as few as 10 years left, the US Army Corps of Engineers has warned.

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The circumstances create a close-knit community that teaches cooperation and vigilance. Those values are essential when residents face some of the harshest conditions on Earth.

 

Source: Men's Journal

Extended families of up to 17 members crowd into the island's 85 single-family homes.

 

Source: Los Angeles Times and Washington Post

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Some homes have internet and television, but there's more fun to be had outdoors.

 

There are no restaurants, coffee shops, fitness centers, or doctor's offices within a hundred miles of Kivalina, but residents have modern conveniences like smartphones.

 

 

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A level of self-sufficiency keeps the cost of living down. People who earn an income in Kivalina work either at the Native Store or a zinc mine about 50 miles outside of town.

 

Source: Men's Journal

Westernized foods can be bought from the Native Store, the only grocer in town. A cargo plane delivers packaged foods, candy, and Pepsi from Anchorage each week.

 

The high cost of shipping drives up food prices, which means cash and food stamps don't stretch very far at the Native Store. A quart of shelf-stable whole milk costs $4.19. A five-pound bag of all-purpose flour runs $8.75. And a box of Entenmann's glaze doughnuts is $10.45.

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With wildlife habitats disappearing under water, villagers struggle to put food on the table.

 

Source: Yale Environment 360

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, according to a 2014 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

 

Source: Washington Post and Huffington Post

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But the people of Kivalina haven't caught a bowhead whale in over 21 years. The sea ice is melting earlier and earlier in the season, which makes it unsafe for villagers to traverse.

 

Source: Men's Journal

Hunting the bowhead whale — a 60-ton animal whose meat, skin, and blubber can feed a village for more than two months — provides one of the most cherished traditions.

 

Every spring, the bowhead whales migrate north of the Arctic Circle after months of freezing temperatures make the waters inhospitable. A group of Kivalina villagers travel across the sea for miles and set up camp near a crack or channel in the melting ice. They sit for days or weeks with harpoon guns loaded, waiting for a whale to come up for air, according to Men's Journal.

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Much of the food comes from whatever they kill: caribou, seal, fish, and beluga whales.

 

Source: Los Angeles Times and Alaska Dispatch News

There is no running water. Residents fill empty garbage bins with water at the town pump.

 

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Snowmobiles, or "snow machines," are the preferred mode of transportation. They move over tundras and ice faster than a sled-dog team, but the vehicles often break down.

 

Source: Men's Journal

Life is simple but challenging in an Eskimo whaling village.

 

Saki Knafo, a reporter who spent three weeks in Kivalina on assignment for Men's Journal, said that, to outsiders, the village might seem "like Mad Max but with snowmobiles."

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Sea walls made up of rocks and sand bags protect the villagers from pummeling waves.

 

The village, which has a population of about 450, sits on a slip of permanently frozen earth off the coast of Alaska, flanked by a lagoon on one side and the Arctic Ocean on the other.

The village, which has a population of about 450, sits on a slip of permanently frozen earth off the coast of Alaska, flanked by a lagoon on one side and the Arctic Ocean on the other.

Source: Men's Journal

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There are no roads to Kivalina, and within 10 years, there could be no coming or going at all. The barrier island is at risk of severe flooding and erosion caused by climate change.

Kivalina is no ordinary small town.

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