DECOLONIZING YOUR NEWSFEED
Robert “Bobby” Amarok, 74, warms up next to his wood stove after knee-high floodwaters rushed into his home in Golovin, Alaska,
September 16, destroying his heater and so much more. Jenni Monet for The Nome Nugget
Robert “Bobby” Amarok could see the storm
building out his kitchen window. Through paneless glass, he looked straight out onto Golovnin Lagoon where his daughter Lisa used to swim as a girl. That was way before the village’s shoreline started slipping to slow and steady erosion.
But after the typhoon, there was nothing gradual about the massive waves that slammed into the beach. Chomped away were giant clumps of seaside sod exposing a dramatic underlayer of frozen soil. For Amarok, his daughter, and many others in Golovin, it was the first time any had laid eyes on so much permafrost. When the rain finally stopped, the now-naked icy ground
was literally sweating in the exposed elements.
The tropical storm system, Merbok, that moved into Western Alaska two weekends ago met an Arctic ecosystem that climate scientists say is very different from just a few
decades back. Air and ocean temperatures, intimately synchronized with the formation of annual sea ice, have become warmer and more disruptive compared to a similar squall that pounded the region almost fifty years prior.
Amarok remembers the Bering Sea Storm of 1974 like it was yesterday. “A big one,” he said. “But there was sea ice that time.” Then as now, he looked out his window in disbelief at floodwaters surrounding his home less than a mile from shore. “The water had never run up that high before,” Amarok, 74, said. In his mind, that’s when Golovin’s seasonal surges
started to change, if not intensify. “Almost every year, now, there’s water that comes up real high.”
Chunks of seaside sod knocked down from ex-Typhoon Merbok expose a dramatic underlayer of permafrost on the beach of Golovin, Alaska. Jenni Monet, The Nome Nugget
But coastal communities like Golovin, a
traditional Iñupiat village, have largely struggled to find relief. For all the hundreds of millions of dollars in government spending devoted to helping address the effects of a warming planet, the Government Accounting Office has found few, if any, success stories. And it’s not a new problem. Since 2009, when auditors first called attention to at least 31 imminently threatened villages in Alaska, they have since repeatedly urged Congress to pass policies to help streamline the process, making it easier to deliver solutions to the most
environmentally vulnerable. So far, lawmakers have been slow to act.
The GAO’s most recent call for climate response reform came just as Golovin was starting to pick up the pieces left in Merbok’s path. On Monday,
September 19, a new watchdog report was released, calling attention to the fiscal risks facing the federal government in reacting to extreme weather events as opposed to planning and
preparing for them. “Managing climate change is on [the GAO’s High Risk List] in part because of concerns about the increasing costs of disaster response and recovery efforts,” the report said.
Read the Article
Indigenously in collaboration with The Nome Nugget broke down some numbers and spoke with Alaska politicians about climate concerns that have lingered long after the storm: In the fastest-warming place on the planet, how seriously should we accept extreme weather as our new normal? And how best should we be preparing for
I've been reporting more than reading lately, but here are a couple of things that caught my eye on the go:
- More newsletters from The New York Times where they tallied past hurricane disasters in the aftermath of Ian similar to how we unpacked flooding figures, post-Merbek. The message is the same: climate change is costly.
- There's also this other Times newsletter highlighting the global "disconnect when it comes to the needs of developing nations experiencing climate change, and what rich nations — many of which are producing the emissions that are warming the Earth — should
- And because I wrote about how there's no climate candidate in Alaska, but should be, here it is again. The piece also mentions Mary Peltola who went on to win Don Young's seat in the U.S. House -until January
at least. First Alaska Native in Congress.
Time has flown since I took my summer hiatus at the end of June. Jesse, Indigenously's intern, stayed on board and helped me with some deep research. He's now back at Berkeley wrapping up his final year of grad school and I'm making headway on my other deadlines. I look
forward to the day when I can share with you what I've been working on.
Until then, as much as I'd love to jump back to the weekend newsletter grind, my other work takes priority right now. The goal is to deliver a a
newsletter the first Sunday of each month from now until... not sure when? Sorry, friends. It's not an easy decision for me to make.
Miss you all, and to those of you who have reached out to check-in
these past few weeks and month, I'm touched. Dawaa'e.
Til next month, friends 🌎
"Understanding the Arctic to Make a Difference"
Even before Typoon Merbek came
pounding down on the Norton Sound, Mike DeLue and Jessica Garron were already making drone imagery of the fragile ecosystem. From infrastructure assessments, flood mapping, environmental
monitoring and coastal erosion chronicling, the pilot/scientists are hoping thier research can help make recovery and relocation efforts easier for some of today's frontline coastal communities.
The project is one of many fine contributions offered by the University of Alaska's International Arctic Research Center. It's become a major source of information for my work, lately. The only
downside of the website is getting sucked into a few rabbit holes, their cache of research is so interesting and ripe for our time.
“This newsletter should be required
reading in our education system.”
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