Alaska coastline

Rising seas and erosion are putting many low-lying coastal communities in jeopardy.

“Some of the places become essentially uninhabitable after a while. Some of the islands in the South Pacific, off the Coast of Alaska, and other places … really don’t have a chance of existing 50 years from now,” says Andrew Dannenberg of the University of Washington.

He says the risks are forcing some small communities to relocate, which can be traumatic.

“Many of these communities are indigenous communities they have lived there for centuries,” he says. “And the idea of abandoning your land and moving is culturally and socially and mentally very difficult.”

So he says to support vulnerable people, relocation may need to include more than moving homes. To thrive, people also need jobs, schools, community centers, hospitals, and each other.

“It’s the culture and resources around you,” Dannenberg says. “It’s everything from having transportation systems, having sanitation systems, it’s having the social support of people in the community.”

Making this all part of a community’s relocation plan can be challenging, and funding is often scarce. But Dannenberg says that a holistic approach is important to people’s health and wellbeing.

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Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Health, Oceans