Video: Climate change swallows an Alaskan school

Video: Climate change swallows an Alaskan school

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso 

Earlier this year, in April, we published an article about the adaptive capacity of Arctic communities. At the centre of that story was the little village of Newtok in Alaska, a Yu’pik tribal community on the shores of the Ningliq River. The community’s land is threatened by the river itself. As it carries more and more water from increasing ice and snow melt, it slowly and steadily erodes the river bank. To make matters worse, the ground on which the school is built upon is sinking because rising temperatures are thawing the permafrost underneath.

Newtok, as it turns out, could also be the country’s first community forced to close their tiny village school because of climate change. Every year the river has been creeping closer to the school and the building might not survive beyond the year 2018.

The school is obviously important because of its educational purpose for the children of Newtok. However, it is also a communal building where children and adults alike practice sports, play music, and enjoy movie nights. It is also the only building in Newtok that has indoor plumbing including flush toilets and showers. And when other areas of the village flood, the school serves as refuge.

The community of Newtok is trying to relocate to Mertarvik to escape the dangers of erosion and melting permafrost. However, there won’t be a school in Mertarvik anytime soon because the community needs at least 25 students on-site to access funding in order to build a new school. This is a problem because not everyone can move at the same time and a new school is unlikely to magically appear the minute 25 students are at the new village. The solution will probably involve home-schooling and portable classrooms. But the disruption to the children’s education and the community itself will be noticeable for a long time.

Watch the video below, produced by The 74, to hear the community’s and the educators’ take on the situation of Newtok and its school, and read the full story at by clicking here.

Cover photo by tpsdave/Pixabay (Public Domain)

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