News of Joel Clement’s resignation from the Department of the Interior is distressing, as was the earlier news that he felt he had to file a whistleblower complaint when he was transferred from his position as director of the Office of Policy Analysis to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Until this recent reassignment, Clement was an important voice raising awareness of the significant and immediate impacts that anthropogenic climate changes are having on indigenous Alaskan communities. Diminishing sea ice, rising sea levels, warming oceans and a host of other changes are disproportionately impacting these small, coastal communities where subsistence hunting continues to be an essential part of the economy. The sea ice cover, an important platform for hunting, is diminishing and has become unpredictable, creating dangerous situations for hunters.

Coastal villages are literally losing ground, their shores washing away as storms and high seas lash coastlines no longer protected by sea ice. Entire communities are being forced to relocate – at tremendous expense – although it is not clear how relocations will be financed. As the communities wash away, so too are historic and prehistoric heritage sites that contain invaluable records of cultural resilience.

These problems are not unique to Alaska – the entire circumpolar region is warming more quickly that the rest of the world and people living there are being forced to cope. They are at the forefront of climate change, but Maine and the rest of the world are not far behind. The public and policymakers in the government have the right and the responsibility to be informed about these issues by knowledgeable advisers. We can only hope that Joel Clement, who has been a thoughtful and important voice for the American people, will find new ways to continue this important work.

Genevieve LeMoine,

curator, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College.

Susan Kaplan

director, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, Bowdoin College


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