Kivalina: A Climate Change Story

Kivalina: A Climate Change Story

by Christine Shearer

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For the people of Kivalina, Alaska, the price of further climate change denial could be the complete devastation of their lives and culture. Their village must be relocated to survive, and neither the fossil fuel giants nor the U.S. government are willing to take full responsibility.
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For the people of Kivalina, Alaska, the price of further climate change denial could be the complete devastation of their lives and culture. Their village must be relocated to survive, and neither the fossil fuel giants nor the U.S. government are willing to take full responsibility.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shearer, a journalist and academic educated in sociology, tells a moving, infuriating, ominous story of a remote Alaskan Native community's struggle to relocate its village, Kivalina, which is being lost to flooding and erosion due to climate change–induced melting permafrost and retreating sea ice. Kivalina's residents originally moved to this narrow island in the early 20th century, when the U.S. government ordered them to settle permanently on the island or face imprisonment. The villagers, who "are able to survive in the harsh Arctic region through an understanding of and close connection to the cycles and rhythms of the land," first noticed erosion of the island in the 1950s, voted to relocate in 1992, and chose a new site by 1998. Their attempts to relocate were frustrated by U.S. agencies who contradicted their knowledge of the area, so the community filed a climate change lawsuit. Shearer provides an impressively concise and comprehensive history of the growth of corporate power in America; its influence on, entwinement with, and corruption of government; corporate obfuscation of industrial hazards, culminating in the fossil fuel industry's frighteningly successful campaign to prevent regulatory action on increasingly confirmed global warming; and the cultural disconnect between Native Alaskans and American agencies whose clumsy, often patronizing management of Kivalina's dire situation has only exacerbated the community's problem. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“This story is a tragedy, and not just because of what’s happening to the people of Kivalina. It’s a tragedy because it’s unnecessary, the product, as the author shows, of calculation, deception, manipulation, and greed on the part of some of the biggest and richest companies on earth.”

—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“I watched the lights of the oil fields grow in intensity and proximity, although they were many miles away. The flaring of the gas became a harbinger of hard nights on call, due to increases in respiratory illness among our people. Compounding this were changes to the land and water around us, affecting the animals and their [habits].… This book provides an understanding of the obstacles I have been facing while working on the basic issues of promoting and protecting the health, culture, and traditions of our people.”

—Rosemary Ahtuanguaruak, board member of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, founding member of REDOIL (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands), and community health practitioner

“Shearer pulls no punches in this extraordinary account of one Alaskan village’s confrontation with the violence of climate change. Villagers sued fossil fuel companies for endangering their homeland and lying about it, underscoring the importance of sound science, traditional knowledge, and accurate information as critical ingredients for sustaining the climate justice movement. Shearer also considers the history of the Product Defense Industry, through which she links the politics of energy to a host of other sectors whose supporters have made it their business to manufacture doubt and misrepresentation about the risks associated with oil, coal, asbestos, lead, and tobacco. The casualties are adding up and they include public health, ecosystems, and our democracy. So where is the hope in all of this? It lies in the simple fact that the people of Kivalina fought back and struggled for a
better world for themselves and for all of us.”

—David Naguib Pellow, member of the board of directors of Greenpeace USA, author of Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice, and Don Martindale Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota

“Christine Shearer’s Kivalina: A Climate Change Story is a fast and bumpy ride that begins with the history of outrageous corporate deceptions through public relations and legal campaigns, continuing with building of the coal-and-oil empire to fuel progress in the United States, leading to the horrendous politics of climate crisis, and finally arriving at its destination, a ground-zero of climate
refugee, Kivalina—an Inupiat community along the Chukchi Sea coast of arctic Alaska. I was angry when I turned the last page. I urge you to get a copy, read it, share the story, and join the now global climate justice movement.”

—Subhankar Banerjee, writer, activist, and photographer of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land

“The climate catastrophe is real and growing, and this is the story of some of its first known victims, with many millions more to follow. This is an important tale of greed and propaganda, scientific corruption, and the bill coming due for our allowing a corporate elite to control and dictate our energy
and environmental policies.”

—John Stauber, founder of the Center for Media and Democracy

“With Kivalina Christine Shearer has managed to do something quite remarkable, which is to take the incredibly complex geo/economic/political process of global climate change, present it in a way that is both comprehensible and compelling and then directly link it to one of the first bellwether communities to be affected by the process. The book is beautifully written and the community of Kivalina is a harbinger of what our failure to control our technology and our greed will be bringing to coastal communities and cities across the planet."

—Robert Gramling, coauthor of Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America and professor of sociology at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette

“Kivalina, Shishmaref, Point Hope—three of the first communities, in this case all in the Arctic of Alaska, that are casualties of global climate change. Household names? No. But they should be. Christine Shearer, in Kivalina: A Climate Change Story, presents the human and environmental evidence of frustration and devastation of one of these ancient Inupiat Eskimo villages in a detailed and compelling fashion. Citing the tobacco and asbestos examples of “profit at all costs” corporate obfuscation, she makes the case that climate change is the latest on this sorry list of the failure of our corporations and their supporters in the federal and state government to look past
those profits to their dire consequences. Peter, Paul, and Mary in their famous folk song, “When Will They Ever Learn,” can add another verse. Christine Shearer will write it.”

—Harvard Ayers, senior author of Arctic Gardens: Voices from an Abundant Land and professor emeritus of anthropology at Appalachian State University

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Product Details

Haymarket Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm (part of SourceWatch) and the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has previously worked at the KPFA Radio Evening News, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. Her work has appeared in academic and media publications including Race, Gender & Class, Conservation Letters, and Newsweek. She holds a PhD in sociology from UC Santa Barbara.

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