- 07 Oct 19
Alarming doc about first American town lost to climate change.
Remember Sarah Palin? Of course you do, probably against your will. The once-nominee for Vice President of the United States was from Alaska. She was also a climate change denier, calling climate change “bogus” and a conspiracy concocted by “political agenda” scientists.
If only Palin had taken a moment out of her busy schedule of watching Russia from her house to explore her own state, she could have seen the effects of climate change first-hand. Tom Burke did.
The director visited the small town of Newtok, which is set to be the first American town lost to climate change. The permafrost the town is built on is literally falling away due to rising temperatures, sea level, thaw and erosion, losing up to 75 feet of land per month. In 2015, the nearest home to water was within 100 yards of the disappearing coastline. The school will be taking in water by 2020. “It will eat us like Cookie Monster eating cookies,” one villager remarks.
Burke’s aerial shots and landscape views capture the eroding coast, but it’s his examination of the impact on this traditional Yupi’ik community that is so devastating. The already poor village no longer has running water, so people are forced to empty out buckets of human waste daily – all while ads run on TV asking Americans to donate to third-world countries. Illnesses like dysentery are common. Suicide is rampant, and with only 350 people in the community, each one is felt deeply. And the village’s campaign for infrastructure in a town nine miles away – so they can move – is a nightmare on bureaucratic and personal levels, with villagers divided on the approach.
While Burke’s film could have explored the traditions and cultural nuances of the indigenous village in more depth, Losing Alaska highlights the very real and encroaching danger of climate change, and its layered impacts. Alarming and engaging viewing.