Isle de Jean Charles , from Go Project Films on Vimeo.

By Neha Thirani Bagri
5 June 2017

(Quartz) – The water has been inching closer to Rita Falgout’s house, lapping at the edges of her front yard. Her home is one of 29 in Isle de Jean Charles, a narrow island in the bayous of southeastern Louisiana that is slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. The island, home to members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and the United Houma Nation tribes, is reached by a lone road that passes through the marshland with water on either side. Since 1955, the island has lost 98% of its land.

“Now there’s just a little strip of land left,” Falgout, 81, tells Quartz. “That’s all we have. There’s water all around us.” She’s one of just 100 people who lives in Isle de Jean Charles. Few outside know or care what’s going on there. “I’m anxious to go,” she says.

On the other side of the U.S., a small village of approximately 350 people on the Ninglick river on the western edge of Alaska faces similar troubles ahead. In Newtok, rising seas and melting permafrost caused by climate change have meant the Ninglick is gradually eroding the land. “They see the river bearing down on them. They all accept it, they all know they have to leave,” said Joel Neimeyer, the co-chair of the Denali Commission, a federal agency tasked with coordinating government assistance for coastal resilience in Alaska. “The river is coming at 70 feet a year. You can just take out a tape measure and measure it.”

Aerial view of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana. The water around Isle de Jean Charles is slowing creeping in. Photo: Louisiana Office of Community Development

Both towns were left with an awful choice that is going to come to many who live in coastal areas across the US that are at risk of being inundated as the sea level continues to rise: Move or perish. But then they heard of an unusual, first-of-its-kind competition held by the Obama administration, which offered the chance for relocation. The National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) was organized by the federal government and aimed to help communities and states recover from previous disasters and reduce future risks. [more]

The US is relocating an entire town because of climate change. And this is just the beginning

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