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First US climate change refugees prepare to relocate in Louisiana

Charis Chang and AP, June 12, 2017 5:50PM AP

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RISING sea levels attributed* to climate change is forcing a whole American town to relocate*, and many others may soon have to follow.

In January the US Government announced it would spend $63 million to help residents of Isle de Jean Charles in the southern state of Louisiana to move from their homes as coastal erosion threatens to sink the entire community.

The money is part of $1.3 billion the US government set aside for grants* to help communities adapt to climate change.

Currently the town can only be accessed by one road and is surrounded by marshlands along the Gulf of Mexico. Town residents have been called the first climate refugees* of the US.

Since 1955, more than 90 per cent of Isle de Jean Charles land has been lost to water inundation*. Fruit trees have died off because of the saltwater in the soil and many properties have been flooded.

“Now there’s just a little strip of land left,” 81-year-old resident Rita Falgout said.

“That’s all we have. There’s water all around us.”

The road leading into the Louisiana town. Picture: Louisiana Office of Community Development media_cameraThe road leading into the Louisiana town. Picture: Louisiana Office of Community Development

Residents, including the large population of indigenous people from the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw and United Houma Nation tribes, have until 2022 to use the government funding to move.

“We’re going to lose all our heritage, all our culture,” Chief Albert Naquin of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw told the The New York Times newspaper.

“It’s all going to be history.”

While these resident may be the first to be forced to have to move, rising waters, regular floods and hurricanes mean more will follow.

Near Isle de Jean Charles. Picture: AFP media_cameraNear Isle de Jean Charles. Picture: AFP

A 2016 study found that if sea levels rise to a worst-case scenario of 1.8m by 2100, it could mean 13.1 million Americans would have to move.

“We’re already in for a sea-level rise that will put all low-lying coastal areas out of business, and that’s using US government projections*,” Harold Wanless from the University of Miami said.

“At some point in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be leaving Miami … we’re all moving somewhere.”

US climate experts think that even US President Donald Trump’s Miami mansion resort could be threatened by rising seas.

Donald Trump’s estate in Miami. Picture: Getty Images media_cameraDonald Trump’s estate in Miami. Picture: Getty Images

South Florida roadways already flood regularly during storms or unusually high king tides, forcing cities to raise or move the roads and install expensive pumping systems.


Many other parts of the world are facing problems due to rising sea levels.

One of Venice’s famous canals. Picture: iStock media_cameraOne of Venice’s famous canals. Picture: iStock

Last year a report on climate change warned Italy’s picturesque canal city Venice could disappear underwater within a century if action was not taken.

Closer to home, a report released in 2015 by the United Nations stated Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide were the most at risk Australian cities.


attributed: said to be caused by

relocate: move

grants: money government gives to different causes who apply for it

refugees: people moving places because they are being forced

inundation: overwhelming

projections: predictions



Activity 1. Rising seas

The New Orleans Mayor said climate change is “a grave threat to coastal communities, the nation and the world.”

Outline all the effects of climate change that American towns and cities have seen already.


How can the residents of the Isle de Jean Charles attempt to preserve some of their culture and heritage before the town may be lost forever?

Time: Allow 25 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Geography

Activity 2. Climate change disaster

Research the factors that cause climate change and ways we can try and reduce our impact on the environment.

Start by having a look at:

Create a brochure outlining these measures and distribute to some friends and neighbours to spread the message.


Outline a plan for where all the residents of large American cities can relocate to if the sea levels keep on rising.

Time: Allow 60 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Science, Critical and Creative Thinking


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)

Anagram Challenge

Your challenge is to select a piece of vocabulary from the glossary and see how many smaller words you can create from shuffling and rearranging those letters.


Choose one of the following.

– Put on atwo minute timer and see how many words you create.

– Pick a vowel from the base word, this must appear in every word.

– Words must be three letters or more.

– Add a scrabble value to each letter and try and earn 100 points.

– No proper nouns, text words or plurals allowed.

Time: allow at least 15 minutes to complete the task

Curriculum links: English, Big Write and VCOP







Extra Reading in environment