Often, when we venture to give a voice to warnings about the exploitation of the environment, pollution that undermines our planet, the negative consequences of the greenhouse effect, we are often accused of catastrophism and exaggeration. Maybe it is true, but it is better to remain vigilant than to act as if nothing happens. Especially when the signals we are receiving are epochal, even if they are little.
The Man is the conqueror par excellence; he has civilized entire continents and dominated nature. He has always been the one who advanced, whereas nature has always been the one to draw back. Now the opposite in happening, and not thinking about would be a crime.
A village in Alaska, Shishmaref, slightly north of the Bering Strait, will be the first US community to move because of global warming. Its inhabitants, mostly Inupiat Eskimos, who voted in recent days “yes” in a referendum to find a new position for their coastal town with 650 souls: now that the sea remains frozen for less time, waves and currents consume the land. Almost a kilometer of coastline has disappeared over the last 35 years, making it necessary to move 13 houses.
Shishmaref, inhabited by fishermen and hunters of Inupiat seals, is located on the small island of Sarichef, in the Chukchi Sea. Its altitude leaves no alternatives: it is 4.9 meters above sea level. Thirteen houses on the beach have been already moved either because they had collapsed or were at risk of collapsing because of water. To stay on the island, the inhabitants would have had to pay at least $ 110 million for the consolidation works, whose outcome would have been uncertain. Moving would cost $ 180 million. In short, leaving basically costs as much as resisting in the ‘‘conquered’’ territory.
They have to move not because the fury of nature prevails, but because we create the conditions for altering the Earth’s equilibrium ourselves. By so doing, we begin to lose even the achievements – in terms of soil exploitation – we had come to think of as certain. It is not nature that rebels; it is us who exaggerate in not wanting to understand that we are not the masters of the world, that we cannot do what we want, that everything we produce will have repercussions in the long run.
A myopic and presumptuous outlook on reality, which sees the man as the center of creation as if he could manage it. He sees profits as the only goal and does not care about the future of the next generations. Alaska is a ringing alarm bell, but the risk is that it is too weak and too far away for the powerful of the earth to hear it.
The local administration has identified two possible sites on the mainland where to relocate those people: Old Pond and West Tin Creek Hills, just over 20 km from the current site. The residents of Shishmaref want to stay all together and do not want to be distributed among the neighboring villages. But now the community (which is not rich at all) will have to find the funds.
Shishmaref is the first village that has decided to move in order to avoid being engulfed by water. According to a recent American study, thirty US villages are in danger. A dozen of them have already begun to organize the relocation. In the near future, 200 villages will face the same environmental emergency.