Workshop for Alaska Natives and Island State Peoples to compare strategies for adapting to climate change
The primary goal of the workshop as part of a broader initiative on climate change and community-based relocation is to foster a partnership and collaboration among communities facing climate-induced relocation... More »
I work as a human rights attorney. Since 1994, I have worked with Alaska’s immigrant and refugee communities providing legal representation. In 2003, I implemented Alaska’s first refugee resettlement program. I returned to graduate school in 2007 because of my profound concern about climate change, which is transforming the Alaskan environment . These changes were evident to me as I have lived in Alaska since 1987 and pass a lot of time walking in the mountains from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the far north to the mountains in Southeast Alaska. Wanting to understand the causes of the ecological changes I witnessed propelled me to enroll in the Resilience and Adaptation Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At the same time, tribal, state and federal government officials were struggling to meet the enormous new needs of Alaskan indigneous communities faced with climate-induced ecological change that threatened the habitability and safety of these communities. Several of these communities decided that community relocation is the only adaptation strategy that will protect them but no institutional framework exists to relocate entire communities when climate-induced ecological change is the sole reason for the displacement. Using my expertise in refugee and migration issues, I decided to focus my research on the creation of a new governance framework based in human rights doctrine to ensure that communities are resilient in the face of enormous change. Our institutions are unprepared for the challenges created by climate change. My hope is that this research will help provide a road map for other communities around the world threatened because of climate change.