A Village Protests

The Alaskan village of Kivalina and its Inuit Eskimo tribe have filed suit against fossil fuel companies for emitting greenhouse gases that have significantly altered their traditional way of life. The village’s suit names the Exxon Mobil Corporation, eight other oil companies, 14 power companies and one coal company in the suit. The Eskimo village lies on an eight-mile barrier reef and residents depend on hunting whale, seal, walrus and caribou as well as salmon fishing. But that way of life has been severely threatened as sea ice has failed to form until mid-winter, instead of October, as a result of global warming (see “Losing Winter,” cover story, January/February 2008).

Without the sea ice, the village is left unprotected from huge storms and devastating waves, and relocation costs are estimated at $400 million or more. Two nonprofits, the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and the Native American Rights Fund, filed the lawsuit in San Francisco federal court.

According to attorney Matt Pawa, “This is really the first [lawsuit] that a discretely identifiable victim of global warming has emerged.” Exxon Mobil had no comment.