“As it stands now, my current home may not exist 10 years from now,” declares Millie Hawley, president of the tribal council of the small Alaskan town of Kivalina. The Washington Post reports that Hawley used these blunt words before introducing President Barack Obama on Sept. 2, 2015, at a speech during his visit to Kotzebue, located approximately 75 miles southeast of Kivalina.
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Kivalina is home to approximately 400 people, according to the Washington Post, but may soon no longer be habitable at all. “Waves sweep across the entire island at times, from one side clear across the other,” explained the U.S. president, whose plane flew over the town -- photographed by Obama himself below -- “And for many of those Alaskans, it’s no longer a question of if they’re going to relocate, but when.”


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The cost of financing a complete relocation of Kivalina would go into the nine-digit figures at $100 million, of which the federal government has only been able to grant 2 percent, the Washington Post revealed. A situation where it seems it might almost be too late for anyone to change the course of events, much to the dismay of the locals: Diane Ramoth, vice chair of the tribal council for Selawik, another nearby village in a similar case, has said that “this is a very, very dire situation that we’re in if our United States government is going to allow our communities to no longer exist,” according to the Washington Post.

The rise of water levels responsible for Kivalina and Selawik's potential annihilation has many possible causes, but the most widely known is ice melting, specifically in the Arctic Ocean. One glacier in particular, Jakobshavn -- which can be seen from the outskirts of Ilulissat, Greenland, according to Matthew Walls -- “could contribute more to sea level rise than any other single feature in the Northern Hemisphere,” NASA says. Ian Joughin, glaciologist at the University of Washington, told NASA that the ice front on Jakobshavn loses nearly 2,000 feet in surface every year.

This melting phenomenon leading to the ice front's gradual withdrawal was caught on film by Matthew Walls, who happened to be on location in late August, according to 9news.com.au. In the video below, the photographer has to temporarily stop filming the dramatic breakup of the Jakobshavn glacier in order to climb to safety, avoiding the small tidal wave that is created by the massive chunk of ice's fall into the ocean.

Obama wishes to slow down this process as much as possible, and that is what he intends to discuss at the United Nations summit in December, according to the New York Times. “This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” the president said. “We’re not acting fast enough.”

A valiant resolution, but one that could come across as somewhat hypocritical, judging by the presence of environmental protesters at Obama's Aug. 31 speech in Anchorage, as the New York Times reported: The president has recently given the green light to a Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling project in the Arctic Ocean, just weeks before his Alaskan visit and environmentally concerned speech. The New York Times says presidential candidate Hillary Clinton opposed the attempts to excavate for oil in the Arctic Ocean: “I think we should not risk the potential catastrophes that could come about from accidents in looking for more oil in one of the few remaining pristine regions of the world.”

To this day, the residents of Kivalina still await some form of salvation – a salvation they most likely know will not come in time.