In the town of Newtok, Alaska, descendents of the earliest Americans are about to become homeless. They were previously convinced by the government of the folly of their formerly nomadic ways. Thanks to global warming, the permafrost is melting and their town is sinking into fetid mud. This New York Times article discusses the plight of “the first climate refugees in the United States.”
Studies say Newtok could be washed away within a decade. Along with the villages of Shishmaref and Kivalina farther to the north, it has been the hardest hit of about 180 Alaska villages that suffer some degree of erosion.
Some villages plan to hunker down behind sea walls built or planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, at least for now. Others, like Newtok, have no choice but to abandon their patch of tundra. The corps has estimated that to move Newtok could cost $130 million because of its remoteness, climate and topography. That comes to almost $413,000 for each of the 315 residents.
Not that anyone is offering to pay.