Adapting to Climate Change in Unalakleet, Alaska
Aronson, Rachel Sara
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Climate change is affecting western Alaskan communities in many negative ways: infrastructure damage, loss of safe water sources, loss of the subsistence way of life, more danger from hunting and fishing near uncertain ice, and possibly more infectious disease. Climate change threatens coastal communities with more negative impacts than they have the capacity to absorb, and some may be forced to relocate. However, emergency plans for these communities have not considered how climate changes or relocation will affect members of place-based cultures. This study attempts to fill that gap in knowledge. Using a snowball sampling approach, I conducted semistructured interviews with key informants in Unalakleet, AK. The results were interpreted using grounded theory analysis and in the context of theories of how identity in place-based cultures arises from the sense of place. Results were grounded with a second trip to Unalakleet. My findings suggest that climate change and other environmental changes have large effects on residents of Unalakleet. However, some of these changes have more extreme cultural effects than expected and in some cases opposite effects to those predicted. This research suggests that local autonomy and guidance must be blended with state and federal efforts in order to respond appropriately to climate change in Unalakleet.
- Marine affairs