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What is needed for fair and equitable management of retreat?

What is needed for fair and equitable management of retreat?

Christine French
|July 1, 2021

The Inupiaq village of Shishmaref is located on a small island in Alaska. Here, the impact of climate change poses a threat to all aspects of daily life. photo: Bering Land Bridge National Reserve

The Inuit people of Alaska recently coined a brand new term usteq to describe the catastrophic combination of permafrost melting, flooding, and erosion that could lead to the complete collapse of the land. For the nearly 600 residents of Shishmaref, an Inupit Eskimo village on a barrier island in the Chukchi Sea, usteq poses a threat to every aspect of daily life: housing, food security, public infrastructure, and culturally important landmarks. In 2016, the community voted for third The relocation took 43 years, but the lack of financial support from the state and federal governments continued to hinder this effort.

The global climate crisis has replaced million Of people in the United States, there are many million The next few decades will face greater risks due to floods, Sea-level rise, Wildfires, droughts and other extreme weather events and disasters. Many of the most vulnerable are disadvantaged groups, ethnic minorities or indigenous communities that have been historically displaced. Land rights in the United States and around the world are related to the long-term legacy of racial and economic injustice, which makes forced relocation not only the biggest human rights challenge in the climate crisis, but also one of the most worrying human rights challenges.

From June 22nd to 25th, researchers, policymakers, community leaders and artists from all over the world gathered to draw a fair and just approach to climate-related relocation and adaptation to risky communities during the Columbia Climate School meeting set,”When is the retreat managed?Resilience, relocation and climate justice. “The panel members agreed that social justice solutions need to consider at least the historical drivers of climate change risks, put people above property, and give communities at risk the right to self-determination.

“We are trying to change the script to really consider the needs of the family rather than the value of the property,” said Eric Wilson, deputy director of land use and construction at the New York City Office of Climate Adaptation. “How can we continue to accumulate intergenerational wealth, especially in communities where wealth is extracted through red lines, forced displacement, predatory mortgages, gentrification, etc.?”

In the United States and Canada, the history of injustices affecting the land rights of blacks, natives, and other minorities is long and cruel, and to a large extent remains unresolved. As well-documented, when the early American colonies expanded westward, tribal nations and indigenous communities moved from their traditional lands to places more susceptible to environmental changes, and were related to culture, kinship, and ancestral cemeteries. Separation from a self-sufficient economic system-almost catastrophic for the displaced.Then the U.S. government often weakened the land treaties it signed with indigenous communities, and today still does not recognize the autonomy of many tribes.

Since the early days of liberation, the black community has also been systematically deprived of land rights. At that time, 40 acres of land and a mule were provided to newly released slaves. This promise has never been fulfilled. Seneca Village was home to the largest African-American landowner community in New York before the Civil War. It was occupied by land expropriation and razed to the ground in the 1850s, creating a lush green space for the city’s wealthy residents: Central Park . These are just some comprehensive early examples. Recently, black and Brown communities have been displaced due to the effects of predatory mortgages, red lines and gentrification, and increased environmental pollution burdens.


Management retreat is a semester This usually describes the purposeful transfer of people and buildings from a disappearing coastline to safer ground, rather than trying to prevent storms and erosion through structural engineering repairs (such as storm walls, stilt houses, or natural coastline restoration projects).

But for some communities with fragile climates today, the language of “managed retreat” is itself a loaded gun because it implies a threat to autonomy. “People and communities don’t want to be managed, they want agents,” Aranzazu Lascurain, assistant university director of the Southeastern Climate Adaptation Science Center at North Carolina State University, said in a panel discussion entitled “Relocation, not just a new address.” This is the theme echoed by other speakers.

Due to the catastrophic floods in 2011, the aboriginal residents of Lake St. Martin were forcibly transferred to an abandoned military base nearby by the Canadian government. The Canadian government ignored their request to relocate to a more culturally suitable and cheaper location. The water diversion infrastructure built without the advice of the tribe caused minor flooding of farmland and houses every year. When their homes were flooded in 2011, the community was already in poverty. In 2021, most of the tribe moved back to the village on the shore of Lake Saint Martin, ten years after they moved. A class action lawsuit against the Manitoba government’s handling of the disaster brought a meager income: $90.

Sarah Kamal, co-founder and master’s candidate of the University of British Columbia’s Climate Immigration and Refugee Program, said in a panel discussion that the case highlighted some common patterns in the Canadian government’s response to climate-related disasters and relocation. “Migration as an adaptation.” These models include temporary methods, the government’s unequal response to indigenous and non-indigenous disasters (a survey shows that non-indigenous groups receive financial assistance faster), and failure to listen to indigenous people’s Opinions and the higher costs associated with these failures.Any effort to help communities relocate should prioritize indigenous and local Knowledge system, As well as local culture, relationships and language, Kamal said, otherwise they risk failure.

Some communities, including members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and Pointe-au-Chien Indian tribes living in Jean Charles Island, Louisiana, stated that they have no intention of relocating because they have deep cultural ties to the land and self-determination. “We have been here since ancient times and we intend to stay,” said Shirell Parfait-Dardar, chief of Jean Charles Island, even though most of her tribal community has chosen to relocate.

A slide showing land loss in Louisiana from 1984 to 2014.

A slide showing land loss in Louisiana from 1984 to 2014.

Some coastal tribes are taking measures, not relocation or as a temporary method Restore their coastline And marshes or innovative ways to protect housing and food security. Rosina Philippe, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the First People’s Nature Conservation Committee Lowland Center, Said her tribal community is constructing fruit tree forests in the plateau area to avoid flooding. This is from Hawaiian communityAnd consider transitioning to a houseboat.

If local adaptation is not an option, many communities will seek to relocate as a group to a place where they can retain their cultural identity, such as neighboring tribal lands. “If moving means you can no longer maintain the culture, it is not conducive to moving,” Philip said.

Man is better than property

Nowadays, Buyout It is the main form of assistance provided to communities in need of relocation, but many communities at risk have structural barriers to success. On the one hand, the acquisition application process requires a certain bureaucratic mind. Elizabeth Marino of Oregon State University said at a conference titled “Climate Change, Displacement, Colonialism” that given the limited funding, it’s difficult to get a relocation grant if you don’t know how to “play with the system” .And contradiction. “

Another major obstacle to the successful acquisition of fragile communities is the issue of valuation. Coastal properties in cities are often very valuable, but in some rural areas, such as Alaska Native communities, they are usually cheap, which makes it difficult to cover new living arrangements based on fair market value buyouts. In Alaska, the fair market value may be hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than the cost of building new housing elsewhere in the local tribal territory.

One solution proposed by the team members is to eliminate cost matching or Cost Allocation Most FEMA funding requirements. FEMA’s disaster mitigation assistance program usually requires 25% Cost matching, Which means that the community must provide $1 in funding for every $3 in aid provided by FEMA.

Retention of land ownership is a policy innovation that has been successfully used to aid the acquisition process in Louisiana so far.When 37 of the 42 families of Isle de Jean Charles were offered Resettlement 40 miles north of the original community, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed them to retain their original ownership of the land. They are not allowed to live, sell or rent on the land, but their property requirements include mineral rights.

This alleviates the concerns of many island residents that they will lose contact with the land passed down by the family, and they suspect that the motivation for the relocation plan is not out of interest in their safety, but out of interest in redevelopment of the property. For entertainment and oil and gas development.

The sign says a lot of for sale, Indian Ridge Waterfront Community

In her speech, Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar shared a picture showing the conflicting policies of resettling the indigenous population and encouraging redevelopment on the same land.

In fact, these concerns are not unfounded. Marla Nelson of the Department of Planning and Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans said that the conflict between the relocation and reconstruction of planning and policy objectives of different state agencies is a major obstacle to successful adaptation. Nelson has been working on a multi-year research project in the Diocese of Terrebonne, Louisiana, where people are facing an existential threat from rising water levels.

Nelson’s work found that although local governments have begun to reduce services to long-term residents-closing schools and businesses-the coastal master plan also emphasizes the recreational development of these communities, as well as efforts to maintain their characteristics as working coasts for oil and gas. Industries such as natural gas.

This tension is a real obstacle to successful dialogue about managing retreats and buyouts, but policy flexibility can allow for innovations such as retention of land ownership. Nelson said: “When working with these communities, we need more flexibility to be able to relocate in a way that puts them in a better position and allows them to grasp what they value.”

Ultimately, a successful retreat requires the unanimous agreement of the group members to place people before property. “The reason the relocation is so difficult is that the property is so sacred and inviolable,” Elizabeth Marino said. Instead, people must be the priority.

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