“Because of our drought, the sand around Cameron became super dry. Then, because of the winds, nothing was keeping it in one place. So we had a reservoir, and it dried up. Then one day it rained very hard. And I remember back when I was smaller, the rains used to be really nice—smooth and consistent. But this rain was very harsh, and a lot of water came down all of a sudden. And it caused the reservoir to fill up, which is sort of good. But then the next few days after that, it was super dry, so it weirdly resulted in dry sand on the top layer. And the lake was super muddy, almost like tar. And after the rain, wild horses came to this one little puddle. They tried to get to the puddle, and it was all like quicksand, and they didn’t see it because the topsoil blew over it, and they couldn’t get out. It resulted I think in one-hundred-twenty horses found dead in that area.”
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.”