Reimagining Relocation in a Regulatory Void: The Inadequacy of Existing us Federal and State Regulatory Responses to Kivalina’s Climate Displacement in the Alaskan Arctic

In: Climate Law
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  • 1 Co–Founder, Three Degrees Warmer, and Affiliate Professor, University of Washington School of Law,
  • | 2 Lecturer, University of Washington School of Law,
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Relocation requires reimagining the role of law and policy in assisting community relocation planning in predisaster contexts. For decades, the 467-person Inupiaq whaling village of Kivalina, Alaska, has navigated agency-led relocation processes and sought legal remedies to pursue relocation as a comprehensive means of addressing overcrowding, inadequate water and sanitation services, and the impacts of climate change on permafrost and coastline stability. Despite Kivalina’s highly successful efforts to create media and public awareness of its situation, no actionable relocation plans have emerged out of Kivalina’s formal engagement with traditional legal and policy avenues. This article examines three issues: (1) Kivalina’s current efforts to relocate within the context of its colonial past; (2) the limited us federal and state regulatory mechanisms available to Kivalina and other displaced Arctic tribal communities; and (3) ad hoc models that embrace the complexity of self-reliant relocation in predisaster contexts.

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