Climate Change and Hoonah
Far northern latitudes are warming much faster than equatorial regions, and Hoonah is no exception. Models indicate that temperatures will rise, rainfall will become more variable and ocean chemistry conditions will become more hazardous for marine animals in the near future. Given the importance of traditional foods in Hoonah, threats to local and traditional resources are at the forefront of people’s minds when considering the future of the town.
HOONAH RESIDENTS RELY ON SUBSISTENCE FOODS…
In the 2020 Hoonah Foods Assessment, Hoonah residents reported harvesting 86 different types of subsistence foods, including all five species of salmon, halibut, deer, moose, and a variety of wild berries, seaweeds, plants and mushrooms. 60 percent of residents said at least a quarter of their food was from subsistence, with a sizable minority sourcing well over half of their food directly from the land and ocean. Subsistence users harvested nearly 32,000 pounds of plants, an overwhelming majority of which was wild berries and seaweed. With the costs of food and electricity ever on the rise, it’s more important than ever to protect access to traditional subsistence resources. Traditional foods are also significantly healthier than many store bought foods, rich in vitamins and minerals that may otherwise be difficult to get.
…WHICH ARE THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE.
Salmon, crabs and shellfish are all particularly vulnerable to climate change, while other species such as deer may thrive in future conditions. Tribal member Sonya Johnson recalled “I remember going out with my grandpa and there were tons of fish, and now we’re lucky to get enough to feed us for the winter,” and that scarcity is likely to get worse in future years. While Alaska currently has a lower food insecurity rate than the lower 48, rural areas are likely much more affected and given the importance of traditional foods, that rate may increase in the future.
BECAUSE OF THIS THREAT, MANY RESIDENTS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE.
A community survey in December 2022 found that just over 80 percent of community members said that climate change has been getting worse. Nearly half of the survey group said they were extremely concerned about the quality and availability of subsistence resources for their family and no one said they were not at all concerned. Many of the most visible impacts of climate change are already apparent in Hoonah; several people recalled having enough snow that they could jump off their roofs and land in deep snowbanks, now the streets are mostly clear. Other residents immediately brought up concerns about the timing and strength of salmon runs–with hotter drier summers the fish are having a harder time making it up the rivers and are doing so in smaller numbers.
THANKFULLY THE HISTORY OF HOONAH IS ONE OF ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE, LEAVING RESIDENTS WITH MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AND THEIR RESOURCES.
The Tlingit people have been adapting to climate change for thousands of years and are experts in finding new ways to thrive even in adverse and changing conditions. While climate change poses a novel and unprecedented threat to Southeast and local ways of living, Hoonah was founded as a response to climate change and the growth of glaciers in Glacier Bay and still holds those strategies for succeeding even in difficult times.
LAID OUT BELOW IS A ROADMAP FOR MOVING FORWARD AND REMEMBERING WHERE WE’VE BEEN, DESIGNED TO ADVANCE WITH THE TIMES AND ADAPT TO LOCAL NEEDS AND NEW SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES.
Climate science is constantly evolving, requiring any adaptation strategies to be flexible based on new information. While the broad strokes are widely agreed upon, exactly how the world will change will depend in large part on what actions are taken at national and international scales to curb carbon emissions. While the world is warming and our environments changing, Hoonah has a long history of adapting to changes and thriving even in times of adversity. This document is designed to help guide us while remaining flexible, to help us narrow our focus while still considering the larger picture and to be guided by both the models of climate futures as well as a historical understanding of how we got to where we are.
Highlighted in Green are solutions added from the community event