Kivalina

A Climate Change Story

For the people of Kivalina, Alaska, the price of further climate change denial could be the complete devastation of their lives and culture. Their village must be relocated to survive, but neither the fossil fuel giants nor the U.S. government are willing to take full responsibility.

In this muckraking account of the peril faced by one small village, Christine Shearer unearths the toxic legacy of corporate denial, which stretches all the way back to the turn of the twentieth century. She reveals that Big Oil has hired the same legal firm previously responsible for limiting corporate culpability in the lawsuits that sought compensation for tobacco- and asbestos-related illnesses. Then, as now with the issue of climate change, their strategy revolved around consciously manipulating the scientific consensus and suppressing damaging discoveries. As the ocean slowly engulfs Kivalina, time is running out for the island’s inhabitants.

About the author

Christine Shearer is a researcher for CoalSwarm (part of SourceWatch) and the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has previously worked at the KPFA Radio Evening News, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. Her work has appeared in academic and media publications including Race, Gender & Class, Conservation Letters, and Newsweek. She holds a PhD in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara.

Reviews

“This story is a tragedy, and not just because of what’s happening to the people of Kivalina. It’s a tragedy because it’s unnecessary, the product, as the author shows, of calculation, deception, manipulation, and greed in some of the biggest and richest companies on earth.”
—Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“Christine Shearer’s Kivalina: A Climate Change Story is a fast and bumpy ride that begins with the history of outrageous corporate deceptions through public relations and legal campaigns, continuing with building of the coal-and-oil empire to fuel progress in the United States, leading to the horrendous politics of climate crisis, and finally arriving at its destination, a ground-zero of climate refugee, Kivalina — an Inupiat community along the Chukchi Sea coast of arctic Alaska. I was angry when I turned the last page. I urge you to get a copy, read it, share the story, and join the now global climate justice movement.”
—Subhankar Banerjee, photographer, writer, activist, and author of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land

"The climate catastrophe is real and growing, and this is the story of some of its first known victims, with many millions more to follow. This is an important tale of greed and propaganda, scientific corruption, and the bill coming due for our allowing a corporate elite to control and dictate our energy and environmental policies."
—John Stauber, founder of the Center for Media and Democracy

“Melting glaciers and rising sea levels now threaten the very existence of indigenous homelands like the Arctic Inupiat community of Kivalina, Alaska. The Inupiat are not responsible for the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and they are determined not to be its victims either. They want climate justice and compensation for their relocation costs. Their story of trying to hold corporations and government accountable deserves the widest possible audience. They are fighting for our future.”
—Al Gedicks, author of Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining and Oil Corporations and professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

“With Kivalina Christine Shearer has managed to do something quite remarkable, which is to take the incredibly complex geo/economic/political process of global climate change, present it in a way that is both comprehensible and compelling and then directly link it to one of the first bellwether communities to be affected by the process. The book is beautifully written and the community of Kivalina is a harbinger of what our failure to control our technology and our greed will be bringing to coastal communities and cities across the planet.”
—Robert Gramling, co-author of Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America and professor of sociology at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette

“Kivalina, Shishmaref, Point Hope-- three of the first communities, in this case all in the Arctic of Alaska, that are casualties of global climate change. Household names? No. But they should be. Christine Shearer, in Kivalina: A Climate Change Story, presents the human and environmental evidence of frustration and devastation of one of these ancient Inupiat Eskimo villages in a detailed and compelling fashion. Citing the tobacco and asbestos examples of "profit at all costs" corporate obfuscation, she makes the case that climate change is the latest on this sorry list of the failure of our corporations and their supporters in the federal and state government to look past those profits to their dire consequences. Peter, Paul and Mary in their famous folk song, "When Will They Ever Learn," can add another verse. Christine Shearer will write it.”
—Harvard Ayers, senior author of Arctic Gardens: Voices from an Abundant Land and professor of anthropology at Appalachian State University