People of Kivalina Fight ‘Refugee’ Status

This blog post was written by 350.org intern Meagan Tokunaga. Meagan is a freshman at Pomona College and has been working on the fossil fuel subsidies campaign this summer. Learn more about Meagan and her work here.

The Iñupiaq community of Kivalina, Alaska is determined not to join the millions of climate refugees already on the planet. Kivalina sits atop a barrier island, surrounded by a freshwater lagoon to the East and the Chukchi Sea to the West. Climate change is pushing back the formation of sea ice later into the fall every year, leaving Kivalina to be washed away with seasonal storms. The extreme weather patterns, exacerbated by climate change, threaten the indigenous people with floods and wavering hunting conditions. To make matters worse, Shell Oil will begin oil exploration in the Arctic within the month, which will alter food sources and migration patterns of the bowhead whale (an animal with cultural and spiritual significance to the Iñupiaq). 
 
As the US government fails to support any environmental relocation projects, the Iñupiaq have turned to the Episcopal Church. Rev. Enoch Adams Jr. and village elder Austin Swan Sr. will represent Kivalina at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 5 through July 12. They will propose their resolution, “Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation” to ask for the Church’s commitment to the transition to a sustainable future. 
 

350 organizer and Kivalina ally Rev. P Joshua Griffin writes in the Episcopal News Service, “The resolution calls on the Episcopal Church to resist not only offshore oil extraction, but all forms of increasingly unconventional and destructive fossil fuel development: strip-mining for coal in Appalachia and the Intermountain West, tar-sands oil development in Canada and Utah and “fracking” for methane gas throughout the U.S. For indigenous cultures throughout the world there is a direct link between the violence of colonial racism and an endlessly expanding fossil fuel economy.” Rev. Griffin is trying to spread awareness on the issue, especially to voting bishops and deputies. 
 
350 is sending hope and support to the people of Kivalina and to climate refugees everywhere. The Iñupiaq community is on the frontline; connecting the dots between climate change, extreme weather, and environmental justice.
 
The Episcopal Digital Network has created a series of videos about Kivalina here

 

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