This is climate change: Alaskan villagers struggle as island is chewed up by the sea

By:  Maria L. La Ganga

Kivalina, Alaska, in 2007. The barrier reef Kivalina calls home gets smaller and smaller with every storm. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)Kivalina, Alaska, in 2007. The barrier reef Kivalina calls home gets smaller and smaller with every storm. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

This is what climate change looks like, up close and personal.

In this town of 403 residents 83 miles above the Arctic Circle, beaches are disappearing, ice is melting, temperatures are rising, and the barrier reef Kivalina calls home gets smaller and smaller with every storm.

There is no space left to build homes for the living. The dead are now flown to the mainland so the ocean won't encroach upon their graves. Most here agree that the town should be relocated; where, when and who will pay for it are the big questions. The Army Corps of Engineers figures Kivalina will be underwater in the next decade or so.

Because the town's days on the edge of the Chukchi Sea are numbered, no money has been invested to improve residents' lives. Eighty percent of the homes do not have toilets. Most rely on homemade honey buckets — a receptacle lined with a garbage bag topped by a toilet seat.

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