The Marshall Islands has been fighting for justice for a long, long time. Before colonialism, the Marshall Islands had a lot of natural resources. The United States did 67 nuclear tests and tested the first hydrogen bomb there. Several of those bombs vaporized islands right off the map. There have been islanders who were unable to return home because of radiation. And now, on top of that, the Marshall Islands is on the front lines of climate change. It is a very narrow, flat, small set of islands. It’s in danger of being one of the first countries to go underwater. There are no mountains or anything. There’s literally nowhere to escape to if there is a flood, or a hurricane. Ocean acidification and the rising sea levels are causing erosion, making the islands significantly smaller. King tides are flooding the land. Ocean acidification is making fishing—a huge part of Marshallese culture—challenging. On top of that, when the waters come rushing in, they wash away cemeteries where our grandparents and other ancestors are buried. Our people are tied to the land and our ancestors are on that land.
“In the Arctic, the effects of climate change are much more pronounced than in Minnesota because the further north you go, the more advanced the impacts are. There’s a number of reasons why it plays out that way, but it all culminates at the North Pole, which is truly ground zero for climate change. The impacts of climate change at the pole provide data to model the impacts that are likely to be felt further south here in the decade ahead. It’s very much in-your-face visible when you’re in the Arctic.
I worry for my kids and grandkids because I know that the Boundary Waters are destined for dramatic change, and we’ve got to wrap our heads and hearts around that. We have to reconcile the things that can be done to adapt and realign to accommodate that. In the long-term, the heartbreaking element for me is that changes are occurring with sufficient speed such that, as much as I’ve enjoyed my career in Arctic adventure travel and operating a dogsledding operation in the Boundary Waters, I would never encourage my children to follow in my footsteps and do the same. I don’t think this will be a viable career a decade or two from now, or maybe even sooner.”