Climate change is most pronounced in the Arctic:

  • greater temperature increases than the rest of the planet;
  • more intense storm activity; and
  • significant ice, snow, and permafrost melt.

Native villages in Alaska are particularly vulnerable with their subsistence cultures closely attuned to the stability of regional biophysical conditions. We can all learn from them as they struggle to adapt to climate change and preserve their culture.

This website serves as a video library of two native villages in Alaska - Savoonga and Shaktoolik - on the front line of climate change.  It documents the impacts they are witnessing, describes their adaptation strategies, and provides alerts about their needs and their advice for our leaders.

Documentaries

  • A film by Laura St. Andrews on the importance of hunting to the native village of Savoonga, Alaska.

    This documentary film portrays the importance of hunting to the people of Savoonga, Alaska.  Located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, this subsistence village draws its identity and sustenance from the land that surrounds it.  Filmmaker Laura St. Andrews uses wildlife and landscape scenes interspersed with interviews of hunters from the village.  This is her debut film.

  • Shaktoolik Documentary by Mera Kenney

    This documentary film by Mera Kenney captures the perilous situation in Shaktoolik, a native village on the northwest coast of Alaska.  The village is threatened by the increasingly severe fall storms associated with a warmer Arctic. Silageetuq highlights the village's need for an evacuation road, a road to "somewhere" safe.

  • Savoonga Documentary by Jonathan Ignatowski

    A new film by Jonathan Ignatowski on the impacts of climate change on Savoonga, Alaska has just been released.  The film, entitled Aksik, explores the importance of subsistence food to the village and the difficulties climate change is causing to maintain that culture.

  • See video

    In her debut film, Joanna Patouris constructs a strong ethical and legal case for action for the security of Kiribati.  Kiribati, an island country in the South Pacific, is losing land and its ability to sustain itself to the rising seas.  Patouris ties what is happening in Kiribati to international legal principles and ethics.

  • A documentary on the impacts of climate change on Tuvalu

    Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.  In this her debut film, Maili Scott makes a strong case of action to help Tuvalu adapt to climate change.  In the film, Scott documents the main impacts of climate change affecting the country and exposes a profound ethical problem - who is responsible to pay the costs of far off impacts of climate change.  Scott finds promise in the international Loss and Damage treaty being developed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Alerts

  • Savoonga residents send messages to the world about climate change.

    Savoonga, Alaska residents send messages to the world about climate change.  They include messages of respect for Mother Nature and to come together on this problem.

  • Shaktoolik, AK residents send a message to the world about their needs in adapting to climate change

    Shaktoolik residents post a message about the severe impacts of climate change on their security, livelihoods, and culture, and talk about their immediate needs.

  • See video

    The adaptation needs in Shaktoolik are acute and imminent.  The next large storm could have significant negative, including life threatening, impacts on this village.  Residents in this video talk about their need of an evacuation route and funding for this project.  Without an evacuation road there are very few, if any, options for Shaktoolik residents to move away from the coast during a storm.  Storm intensity increases with air and ocean temperatures.

  • Savoonga residents send a message to the world

    Residents of Savoonga, Alaska send out a message to world leaders and the global community about what they are seeing on the front lines of climate change.  Savoonga is heavily dependent on subsistence hunting for food and their identity.  These activities, however, are being challenged by the rapid melt of sea ice, increase in wind and storm intensity, and the unpredictability of the weather - all factors associated with climate change.

Climate Change Impacts

  • Shaktoolik residents talk about the fear and anxiety associated with increased storm intensity.

    Shaktoolik residents talk about the fears and anxieties large storms bring to their village.  Storm intensity is increasing in Alaska with global warming and is the main threat to the security of the residents of Shaktoolik.

  • Savoonga residents talk about changes to the weather they have noticed

    Savoonga residents talk about changes to the weather they have noticed in their lifetimes.  Generally weather patters are more chaotic, unpredictable, and change rapidly.  It has been difficult to hunt of late because of the lack of stable, calm weather systems.

  • Residents talk about sea ice melt

    Savoonga residents talk about sea ice melt and the impacts that has on their hunting practices.  Sea ice has become thinner, younger, and rarer off of Savoonga.  Hunters generally hunt walrus and seals on the edge of the sea ice.  They also use the sea ice for protection from wind and waves.

  • Savoonga resident, Preston Rookook, talks about the changes to wind patterns

    Savoonga resident, Preston Rookook, talks about the changes he has witnessed to wind patterns on his island.  His comments add some more detail to the 2010 video on wind found below.

  • Savoonga residents talk about the 2010 storm

    Savoonga residents talk about the large storm that hit their village in December 2010.  The storm knocked out power affecting light, heat, communication, and health systems.

Adaptation Strategies

  • See video

    Savoonga, Alaska residents, including the mayor, talk about the difficulties they had in coping with a large storm and power outage in late 2010.  They also offer advice on how to cope with similar situations for other villages dependent on electric power.

  • Shaktoolik residents offer advice on how to adapt to climate change.

    Shaktoolik, AK residents give advice on how native villages can adapt to climate change, especially focusing on the importance of being proactive within the communities in seeking assistance and, in order to be more resilient, taking steps to ensure that cultural traditions of subsistence hunting and gathering are learned and passed on to younger generations.

  • Savoonga residents talk about the importance of sharing and the wisdom of their elders.

    Savoonga residents talk about the importance of their elders and sharing as key components to their culture and their ability to adapt to climate change.  Both elements make their communities more resilient to climate change.

  • Savoonga residents talk about the importance of subsistence culture

    Savoonga, AK residents talk about the importance their subsistence activities and place-based knowledge to their cultural preservation.  Protecting their subsistence culture is of primary importance to them and an important component for all cultures to protect, and in some cases relearn, to better adapt to face climate change - knowing how to live off the land provides more options when adapting to climate change.

  • Shaktoolik resident talks about the importance of preserving the wisdom of the elders.

    Shaktoolik resident Carole Sookiayak talks about the importance of preserving the wisdom of the elders in order to better adapt to climate change.