Kivalina & Carteret: Similarities of the Sinking Islands

By Hope Imaka – EMTV Online

Climate change is working at an even faster pace for island communities.

For the world’s first climate change refugees, notably the Carteret Islanders of Bougainville and the first for the US, villagers of Kivalina in Alaska, the decision to relocate has been an ongoing matter, but time is quickly running out for these environmental refugees.

So what do these island communities have in common?


Their Land Disappears With Their Way of Life

Both groups of islanders have had an unfortunate drastic change to their way of life.  

For the people of Carteret Islands, making of gardens can no longer be done. The increase in salinity of the soil had made it impossible to grow crops, and now leave them to depend on a diet of coconut and fish alone. There is a shipment of both store and garden goods that come to the islands twice or three times a year from the mainland.  But even that is not sufficient to get the communities by.

Seasonal storms that come through the region are getting more difficult to predict. This of course has swayed the daily balance of the community off course.

Ice in Kivalina no longer freezes from 10-8 feet thick, it sits rather thin, preventing whaling, and melts quicker which abruptly shortens the hunting season which the villagers rely on.


To Move? Or Not to Move?

Not many people have welcomed the move and abandonment of their home, but with the sea levels rising fast, this leaves no choice. For the people of Kivalina and Carteret Island, the issues yet to be settled are; where to relocate to, and how to pay for this move.

Furthermore is the bond they have towards the land; one villager on Han Island in the Carteret islands said, “Our treasures are still on the island…”

What treasure you may ask? Their traditional way of life, their family life, the simple life that they hold dearly to their hearts, the link back to their ancestors and comfort that they find in knowing they are home.


Lengthy Relocation Strategies

In 2006, $2 million was given to the governments of Bougainville to build 40 houses for Carteret Islanders. They were to be relocated to Karoola Plantation, NW Buka Island by February of 2010. However this had not eventuated, and a new relocation plan to relocate them to Tinputz has been underway.

As for the people of Kivalina, the relocation of the island’s population alone will cost in the region of $100 million. In 2008, the village attempted to sue 24 fossil fuel companies over their contribution to climate change, but in 2013 the government refused to hear Kivalina’s case.

For both communities, they share a mutual agreement that the major industrialised societies are responsible for the effects of climate change that they now experience, and must make an effort in the rebuilding of these communities. 

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