Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground: An Ethnography of Climate Change in Shishmaref, Alaska (Paperback)
With three roads and a population of just over 500 people, Shishmaref, Alaska seems like an unlikely center of the climate change debate. But the island, home to Iñupiaq Eskimos who still live off subsistence harvesting, is falling into the sea, and climate change is, at least in part, to blame. While countries sputter and stall over taking environmental action, Shishmaref is out of time.
Publications from the New York Times to Esquire have covered this disappearing village, yet few have taken the time to truly show the community and the two millennia of traditions at risk. In Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground, Elizabeth Marino brings Shishmaref into sharp focus as a place where people in a close-knit, determined community are confronting the realities of our changing planet every day. She shows how physical dangers challenge lives, while the stress and uncertainty challenge culture and identity. Marino also draws on Shishmaref’s experiences to show how disasters and the outcomes of climate change often fall heaviest on those already burdened with other social risks and often to communities who have contributed least to the problem. Stirring and sobering, Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground proves that the consequences of unchecked climate change are anything but theoretical.
About the Author
Elizabeth Marino researches circumpolar issues from her home in Cascades, Oregon. She has lived in or visited Shishmaref since 2002.
"Six hundred people in the Inuit village of Shishmaref, on a barrier island just north of the Bering Strait about 60 miles north of Nome, have been watching their village slide into the sea. Increasing storm surges have been eroding more than 23 feet from the island's shoreline each year. With a warming climate, ice no longer holds back the increasingly turbulent sea that threatens the village with destruction. Several other Native Alaskan coastal villages face the same fate. . . . This is a story worth telling and reading. Recommended."
“While journalists have publicized a great deal about Alaska Native communities, describing them with the now routine phrase, as ‘miners’ canaries’ of climate change, there have been few ethnographic accounts that capture the on-the-ground complexity of how communities in the north are responding to climate change. Elizabeth Marino’s pithy ethnography is a welcome addition to this body of literature.”
“What can we learn from the case of a tiny Inupiaq village in remote Alaska? Anthropologist Elizabeth Marino examines this question and many others in her insightful and timely Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground. Marino adeptly explores the technical, environmental, and cultural aspects of environmental change in Shishmaref. . . . Her succinct summary of the current scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change is one of the most accessible I have read, and her policy recommendations regarding how state and federal government agencies should work with communities like Shishmaref are well grounded in both fieldwork and literature.”
— Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences