[Jerry Wongittilin, Sr., St. Lawrence Island, 2000]. The Arctic is changing rapidly. The combination of sea level rise, ice extent decline, earlier melting and later appearance, warming permafrost and more has begun to destroy the land and the culture of those who live there. If the Arctic is the early warning for the earth, Shishmaref may be the poster child for the Arctic.
This small village on a sandspit facing the Arctic ocean is disappearing to erosion, losing 23 feet of shoreline per year since 2001. The cost of moving the village of ~600 people would approach 200 million. Adaptation is expensive. This is described in Science
While the erosion and structural damage are plainly visible, village elders described how the rising seas are putting their culture at risk, too. The Inupiaq people have lived here for some 4,000 years, subsisting on the bounty of nearby seas, rivers, and fields, but now animal and bird migration patterns are changing. Even the ice is different.
When Mayor Stanley Tocktoo was a boy, the mid-winter ice was mainly blue, which meant it was thick and solid. "Nowadays," he said, "we go out a couple of miles, you have this creamy-looking ice and dark-looking ice, which is very thin and unstable."
While village leaders are working on an ambitious—and expensive—effort to relocate the entire community to the mainland nearby, Shishmaref schoolchildren as young as five are learning about the shift in the climate that will change their lives.
"I don't believe there's an age that they're too young to study climate change," said science teacher Ken Stenek. "These kids are our future. They're our future leaders. And as this community prepares to relocate, these kids are the ones that are going to be a major part of that."As part of its February 15-19 National Meeting in San Francisco AAAS will feature a session on Communicating and Learning About Global Climate Change for teachers and students on the 18th. A central part of this half day session will be a video describing the situation of this village, its people, the Arctic and Arctic dwelling peoples.