Friday, April 20, 2018

America’s first climate change refugees are preparing to leave an island that will disappear under the sea in the next few years

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, Louisiana — America comes to an end here. Connected to the marshes and moss-laced bayous of southern Louisiana by two miles of narrow causeway, waters lapping high on each side, Isle de Jean Charles takes you as far into the Gulf of Mexico as you can go without falling in. But the dolour in the salt air is not just about loneliness and separation. It’s about impending demise.
This used to be a forest of oak and cypress trees.
Don’t call it a death sentence – the intention is the opposite – but state officials in late March made the announcement that had been a long time coming. Some on the island, nearly all members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian tribe, met it with relief; others with hostility.

Marking the kick-off of what will be the first climate resettlement of its kind in the entire United States, land had been chosen an hour’s drive to the north for a whole new town to be thrown up. No one will force them exactly, but the intention is clear: to evacuate those still living on the island to the new site, where at present nothing but sugar cane stands, before it is too late.


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