Buzz words like climate change and global warming can at first seem very vague, and maybe we even think – that doesn’t apply to where I live….But when we start seeing hurricanes of unprecedented size wreak havoc on communities in other parts of the world, it becomes a bit more real.  Communities in Alaska paint the picture even more clearly, and closer to home.

Take for instance, the community of Newtok, where the Ninglick River is eating away at the shoreline.  Engineers estimate the village is losing 70 feet of land per year.


An Inupiaq Eskimo village, Kivalina is situated on a barrier island in the Chukchi Sea, about 80 miles north of the Arctic circle. Last October, the state declared a disaster after the main water line to the village was destroyed by a storm. The village was forced to close the school and impose water rationing.

Maybe you need an example even closer to home?  Jasmine Gil, originally from Bethel, is studying the effects of wildfires on permafrost with the Polaris Project, 50 miles north of Bethel.  “Gil and about a dozen recent graduates from across the nation have traveled north of Bethel to Kuka Creek to study the massive 2015 wildfire’s effects on the permafrost below. By one estimate, twice as much carbon is stored in permafrost as in the atmosphere. Wildfires could release that carbon, creating dramatic, and possibly, drastic effects on the planet.”

Recently, GTC staff members met with residents in the Middle Kuskokwim to record traditional ecological knowledge.  Several themes became apparent during those talks, including talk about how much colder the winters used to be, and how much more snow there was years ago.  Berries are changing, birds are changing….

What can we do?  The Native Village of Georgetown has a unique opportunity to use the information available, pair it with local knowledge and prepare for the future – rather than try to fix the past.  Instead of dealing with moving a village, we can take what we know and design a village fit to stand up to the changing climate.

Join us on September 9th at 1 PM at the Alaska Pacific University, for our vulnerability assessment workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to give participants the opportunity to share collective knowledge, learn about climate  projections, and consult with experts about impacts to our area. Results will be prepared into a report and other outreach materials intended to help us prepare for the future, along with the communities in our area.

For more information, contact Kate Schaberg at or by phone at (907) 717-5292.