According to the Washington Post, Joel Clement, the former top climate policy official at the Department of the Interior filed a complaint and a whistle blower disclosure form with the Office of the Special Counsel. He says the Trump administration is threatening public health and safety by trying to silence scientists like him. Clement believes he was retaliated against for speaking out about the dangers that climate poses to Alaska Native communities.
At Model Forest Policy Program we have a high level of interest in this story.
In the past few years we have worked with six Alaskan Native villages along the coastline in the Norton Sound region through our Climate Solutions University program.
During this time we have learned from them about the challenges of Arctic life for people and the wildlife they depend upon. In turn, we have helped them learn about how to adapt their life to the drastic changes coming from shifting climate conditions in the Arctic, where it is warming twice as fast as anywhere else in the world.
We’ve been working with villages there to document climate change risks and identify priorities and implementation strategies needed to move forward.
Earlier this summer, Climate Solutions University curriculum leaders Dr. Gwen Griffith and Deb Kleinman traveled to Nome, Alaska to co-lead a climate adaptation and implementation workshop for the native villages.
The purpose was to facilitate the transition of the tribes from adaptation planning to implementing their action priorities. Through a series of presentations and small group conversations, the villages began creating a work plan to move forward with their most important projects.
Griffith & Kleinman met with tribal leaders from the native villages of Golovin, Elim, Koyuk, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, and Shishmaref. The village of Teller is also a participant in the program but was unable to attend the workshop.
According to Kleinman, “The importance of meeting in person to understand context is critical. One must get into the villages to understand their unique situations. The Alaskan native villages are some of the most vulnerable to climate change. The people’s lives are so intertwined to the landscape and environment. Some of the villages are actually at risk of falling into the sea, displacing residents.”
Kleinman continued, “Their remote location greatly reduces their capacity to respond to a natural or human disaster. If an emergency happened, there are not enough hospital beds to adequately respond. These communities know what is happening and their largest climate vulnerabilities. What they need are resources to address their issues.”
Griffith added, “We were able to see first-hand how remote and vulnerable these villages are to the rapid loss of sea ice, eroding shorelines, and frequent floods. One night we spent in Golovin, one villager stayed up all night as their flood warning system because of stormy weather.
That storm would not have been a threat a few decades ago but now coastal flooding has become a regular occurrence. Our program is committed to helping the villages get the technical assistance and resources they need to adapt to these changes without losing their natural heritage and cultural traditions that have kept them in harmony with the land and the sea for thousands of years.”
Model Forest Policy Program looks forward to continuing our work with the tribes, and tracking their progress as their implement their adaptation priorities!
Where does your community need support as it adapts to climate change? Email Josh@mfpp.org to discuss how we can partner with you on an adaptation project.