Saturday, April 19, 2008

More small signs of our impending doom..Alaska

One day some years back whilst trekking in the mountains above Mackay, QLD, we were caught in a storm.

How is this relevant? Simply, it started out as a rather pleasent sunny day. The clouds gathered, a little gloomy, still no cause for concern.

It began to rain, as it allways does...the water in which we were "canyoning" changed colour, we scrambled out rather hastily, and in a somewhat undignified fashion, to be met with in a very short period of time...a great and evil rushing torrent of water carrying all before it..

Ladies and gentleblokes, all the small warnings are simply a sign of what is to come, unless we are to change our ways.

Which, while we dither and debate, are not...

So read again another real life event, and tremble in anticipation as to what is to come..

Otherwise a bottle of strong alcohol allways works...

Erosion and global warming are threatening not just the traditional way of life of isolated communities but their very existence, writes Antoinette de Jong.
Photo above is of Shishmaref slowly being eaten by the sea.....

At Sarichef Island's northern edge, Raymond Weyouanna is checking whether his sled dogs have proper shelter. The tide is rising steadily and a fine spray breezes over as the Chuckchi Sea washes across the sandy beach.
A crackling local newscast has issued a storm warning for the Alaskan west coast: "High surf between Wednesday 10am and Thursday 4am."
For the Inupiaq people of Shishmaref, the island's only village, there is an extra warning: "Beach erosion is expected. Buildings and properties should be secured."
Mr Weyouanna takes these warnings very seriously. During an autumn storm in 1997, he fled his home in the middle of the night together with his wife and children. "Someone came pounding on our door at 3am. I first thought it was a drunkard and I was ready to roar!" he said. Afterwards, he was grateful. The waves were coming in so strongly they ate away the coastline beneath his house. The family grabbed some belongings and left. The house toppled and was swallowed by the sea.

Erosion has been damaging the village's north-west coast for decades. At Shishmaref, about 30 kilometres below the Arctic Circle, the permafrost is thawing, causing the soil to become unstable. During autumn and winter, the pack ice buffer forms too late to protect the island, as it used to, from storms that are increasing in strength and frequency because of global warming.
It is clear the 600 islanders will have to find a new place to live. The US Army Corps of Engineers warned in 2004 such a move would have to take place within 10-15 years. Some villagers fear it might be as little as five years before the island becomes unfit for around-the-year settlement.
Shishmaref is not the only Alaskan community already facing the consequences of climate change.
The US General Accounting Office said in 2003: "Flooding and erosion affects 184 out of 213 of Alaskan native villages to some extent."
Of these, it determined four, among them Shishmaref, to be "in imminent danger".
Villagers arrive in the Shishmaref community hall for a public meeting of the Erosion and Relocation Coalition, formed from the island's governing bodies.
The villagers draw up lists with pros and cons of all locations they could move to when Shishmaref is no longer habitable. Singeak is close to where the caribou pass when they migrate but there are no salmon and no eider ducks anywhere near. The settlement of Hot Springs has lots of blueberries but it's in the middle of the Bering Strait National Preserve and cannot be reached by road, so everything they need would have to be flown in.

Very likely the choice will be either Tin Creek or West Tin Creek, both on the mainland. Still, it remains unclear if the relocation of the entire village will ever take place.
The Army Corps of Engineers calculated the cost at up to $US200 million ($213 million), but it is unclear where the money should come from.
In 2004, villager Luci Eningowuk flew to Anchorage to testify before a Senate committee that had come to meet her. "Every year we agonise that the next storm will be the one that wipes us out," she said.
Shishmaref's official unemployment rate is 15.2 per cent, but almost 50 per cent of the islanders depend on subsistence hunting of seals.
Hunters and fishermen complain the changing climate has made it more difficult to earn a living.
Tony Weyouanna says: "We have to keep going further to find animals."

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