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Title: Capturing complexity: Environmental change and relocation in the North Slope Borough, Alaska
This paper explores the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors about emerging hazards, environmental change, and relocation among community groups in Utqiaġvik (Barrow) of the North Slope Borough (NSB), Alaska. This region has been experiencing accelerating erosion and warmer temperatures, permafrost thawing, more frequent and intense storm surges, and increased maritime traffic and extractive industries with ice loss, with direct or cascading effects on the mixed ethnic and indigenous communities. This paper used engagement activities (Participatory Applied Theater) and qualitative approaches (focus groups) during three consecutive summers 2016–2018 to evaluate the risk perceptions and interpretations towards coastal changes and relocation as an adaptive response in this U.S. strategic yet remote location. Each focus group session started with risk ranking activities about regional hazards to assess knowledge and perceptions of risk, followed by an interactive script reading of an Iñupiat disaster legend to facilitate discussion about risk reduction options and engagement with the survey questions. Focus groups were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative data analysis software Nvivo and a hybrid coding strategy. Results indicate that relocation is considered by some participants but is not planned for nor implemented by community groups, families, or the local government to reduce the hazard risks. However, widespread recognition of accelerated hazards and environmental changes, and the need for adaptation could lead to consideration of relocation in the future. This study provides a case of disaster risk reduction in a remote place with unique place-specific characteristics (e.g., particular forms of subsistence, corporate monopolies, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and social organizations), but also shaped by significant external influences, accompanied by a changing landscape of risk from the slow and rapid onset of environmental changes.  more » « less
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Climate risk management
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National Science Foundation
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