For over twenty years, Virginia-based journalist Earl Swift has been writing about Tangier Island, a tiny slip of land in the Chesapeake Bay several miles from mainland Virginia. Most of the island’s men make their living catching blue crab, while the women run restaurants, the inn, and the grocery store. It’s one of the most isolated spots in America, and one of the most conservative. Eighty-seven percent of Tangier Island’s voters cast ballots for Trump in 2016. That voting record might seem ironic considering that the community is also one of America’s most imperiled thanks to climate change. Since 1850, Tangier has lost almost 70 percent of its land mass due to sea level rise and other environmental factors. The people of Tangier are poised to be among America’s first climate refugees. In his forthcoming book, Chesapeake Requiem: a Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, Swift describes the year he spent with the islanders to learn about why their island is sinking and what—if anything—can be done about it. He’s not hopeful for their future. With a population of just 450 and dwindling, state and federal governments haven’t made the island’s future a priority, dragging their feet on granting the funding needed to build a flood management system. The islanders seem frustrated, but not panicked. Most don’t believe that sea-level rise is a real threat and seem to think they have longer than they do. Swift figures they have another 20 to 25 years tops. His book therefore… [Read full story]
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